Q: When is a simple question not a simple question? A: When you need to get the answer out of Apple's website.

My simple question was this: what is the latest version of Safari? It sounds like a stupid question really, but bear with me here (and keep in mind I didn't happen to have a Mac handy).

My starting point: Friends who use Macs inform me that there are different versions according to which dot-point version of OSX a person is using. I know it's at least up to 1.2; and I've seen people talking about "Safari 2.0" so I'm pretty sure that exists.

So, needing an official source for the definite answer, I hit the Apple site. Being a geek, I make an educated guess at a URL.

http://www.apple.com/safari/ redirects to http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/safari/, which is all marketing fluff with one mention of 1.2 which I'm then told is out of date.

Having dealt with Apple Australia before, I try http://www.apple.com/au/safari/. I discover this loads with broken images and doesn't appear to have version advice anyway.

Somewhere along the line I try http://www.apple.com/safari/download/ ...well, at least I can confirm v1.2. But, like I said, our resident Machead has already assured me 1.2 is not the current version. Confusion reigns. Perhaps the only way to get the latest version is to install 1.2 and patch/update/whatever it's called on OSX. I still don't have the info I need, so onwards...

http://www.apple.com/support/safari/ lists versions of OSX but does not specify which version of Safari they contain. Even the update pages themselves are vague - eg. http://www.apple.com/support/downloads/macosxupdate1045.html just says it includes fixes ... [for] Safari rendering of web pages. The detailed information page (http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=303179) still doesn't mention versions.

At this point I give up on Apple and try a straight up Google search for "safari versions". The first two results we've already seen; the fourth is a beautiful moment in nomenclature: Safari Experts: About Web Browsers (yes, a company that does Safaris has a page about browsers).

I try the third result, 'Safari Developer FAQ' (developer.apple.com/internet/safari/faq.html). It appears to be far too detailed, but out of idle curiosity I happen to click on a question about Safari user-agent strings. Then I notice this: As the list of historical build version information for Safari and WebKit indicates, both version numbers may contain a minor version and possibly a sub-version number as well.

Could it be? I click historical build version information and discover a page with the title "Historical User Agent strings"; and the heading "Safari and WebKit Version Information". I hardly dare hope, yet here is detailed information on versions. For the record: the latest version(s) are 1.3.2 on OS 10.3.9 and 2.0.3 on OS 10.4.5.

That wasn't hard at all! :-]

So what's the moral to the story? Well, first off, dealing with Apple's website gives me a headache - not to mention you shouldn't bother with the website, just go straight to Google. Second, websites need to state information which may seem horribly obvious to the author; because that information may not be obvious or available to the user.

If Safari is managed via OS patches, that's fine - but Apple needs to put that information on the Safari product and download pages. It doesn't have to be front and centre, it just has to be mentioned somewhere; after all I did find the (inaccurate) 1.2 version info way down the bottom of the product page.

Apple is a repeat offender on this one. They seem to assume at all times that you already have detailed knowledge about the product they're talking about (and, in the case of hardware, that you already own at least one). They assume you know their exact terminology for things; for example you don't "update the name attribute" or "change the volume label" on an ipod, in fact you're looking for the article "naming your ipod". As if it's a kitten.

The main Safari product page does not actually state the latest version number, despite talking about Tiger. Nor does it mention the fact that it's an entire version ahead on OS 10.4 compared with OS 10.3. If you don't happen to know your Tigers from your Panthers, there's no reason you'd suspect that people with OS 10.3 can't just upgrade to the latest Safari - but that's the deal, apparently.

So next time you're writing some documentation, remember to state the obvious. You might keep someone from needing a couple of paracetamol and a lie down.