Apple today announced that Safari 4 is out of beta, calling it "the world's fastest and most innovative browser".

In speed terms, Safari 4's new Nitro engine runs JavaScript up to 4.5 times faster than Safari 3, making it nearly eight times faster than Internet Explorer 8 and over four times faster than Firefox 3.

It's zippier with pure HTML too, according to Apple CEO Phil Schiller, loading pages more than three times faster than IE 8 and three times faster than Firefox.

Future-proofed features

The new Safari has been optimised for the latest dynamic web pages, which means it plays well with HTML 5 support for offline features and supports CSS Effects. It should be the first browser to pass the Web Standards Project's Acid3 test, featuring an alphabet soup of web technologies.

Safari brings an iTunes-style Cover Flow interface to navigate web history or bookmarks, plus Top Sites, a visual preview of frequently visited and favourite pages. Other new features include auto-completing fields and a zoom function.

Safari will also run as a 64-bit application in Snow Leopard, getting another 50 per cent speed boost on Javascript pages, and suffering less crashes by running plug-in apps as a separate process.

Safari 4 is available now for Mac and Windows, from www.apple.com/safari.