What’s wrong with Safari for Windows

Much has been made about Safari for Windows looking like hell.

Here’s my take, as a Mac fan: it looks like hell.

Here’s what’s wrong:

(1) The Gamma on Microsoft Windows is considerably darker than on the Macintosh. To review, the gamma is essentially the exponent used to adjust the color (from 0 to 1) for display. Windows monitors use a gamma of 2.5, while Macintosh systems (which were targeted towards graphic artists) use a gamma of 1.8, which is similar to that of paper. This means that for a middle gray of 50% (0.5), the resulting luminance on Windows is 0.176 (=0.5^2.5), while on the Macintosh it is 0.287 (=0.5^1.8). The eye, like all organs on the body being sensitive to the log of the energy rather than being linear, detects 0.287 as roughly “half as bright” as 1, and perceives the 0.176 lumanence level as darker.

Now it appears Safari was ported by creating a packaged version of the Cocoa libraries to run on Windows–and it appears Apple’s engineers have not gamma corrected for Windows. This means the Safari window looks depressingly darker than the same window on the Macintosh.

(Sadly this would be an easy fix: a 256-byte array mapping from Mac RGB levels to Windows would help make the window ligher and more ‘natural.’)

(2) Because it is darker, Apple’s carefully tuned font anti-aliasing technology, which they also ported to Windows, looks like hell: the letters look heavy and unnecessarily bolded.

(3) Because Safari uses essentially Cocoa on Windows, it doesn’t do a few things correctly–like allowing resizing of a window by grabbing any edge or corner. Instead, Safari only allows resizing the window by grabbing the lower left corner. The result is a window that doesn’t behave like any other window on the screen.

Oh, and to address Joel’s concern about the initial startup time of Safari: on the Macintosh, when I installed the 3.0 beta, I experienced a nearly two minute delay before Safari started for the first time. I suspect Safari was doing a hell of a lot of book-keeping behind the scenes–which apparently needed to be done only once. So like Safari on Windows, the first time you start up the beta, it takes for freakin’ ever to start. The second time–just a few seconds, as usual.

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