Let me start with the fact that I am a huge Firefox fan (currently in version 3.6.8). I’ve got my Firefox totally tweaked out (Grapple Crisp, 1Password, Google Toolbar, Stylish, you know the drill). That said, I have recently started test-driving the new Safari 5 web browser from Apple and find I am giving it some serious consideration for the first time. This is not odd behavior for me either though. I am always looking for the best browsing experience on my Mac and am always trying different browsers (like running Chrome, Opera, Camino, Shiira, Flock, Chromium, Stainless, Wyzo, Flare, Cruz, Omniweb, and Arrora). I’ve chosen to reignite my on-again/off-again love affair with Safari now because of something called Safari Extensions.
The 5.0 Safari release in June of this year might have looked like just another Software Update but anyone running a the ultra-slick Adium HUD skin probably knows it included some heavy duty underpinnings (I’m talking about the WebKit rendering engine). It turns out that Apple also sneaked something called Safari extensions into release 5. Then, with update 5.0.1, Apple enabled extensions as the default setting. Now the added support for extensions is opening the door to a huge new world of web browsing. Well, at least it brings Safari much closer to Firefox in the capabilities game–which is saying a lot in my book.
Just check out Widgets Bar and add it to your Safari 5.x list of enabled extensions if you want a little taste of what is now possible. Or try the Facebook Cleaner if you don’t like all the annoying ads on the right side of your profile page. There is even a sexy Clean MacTheme extension that paints the whole site with a stainless steel look not unlike a Stylish userstyle. Of course you can always go way down the plug-in road with Safari 5 as before. One of the all time great Safari add-ons (not so much an extension) is the Glims plug-in. Like they say it just plain makes Safari suable and you get a new preferences panel that let’s you configure a smorgasbord of new capabilities from page thumbnails to multiple search engines to full screen browsing to cute little favicons on your tabs if you wan them. There is also SafariStand for 5.x that will give you things like colorized source code or a handy thumbnail sidebar but installation is a bit trickier than your average extension (it uses SIMBL and you have to copy a bundle file). You might want to keep an eye on new extensions with a feed like this Safari Extensions Tumblr and you’ll find that PimpMySafari.com is one of the great jumping off points for plug-ins if you are going to try and make the switch.
Sadly, I am not yet sure if the new Safari 5 is being widely accepted in the Mac community. I know it’s not a statistically viable sampling but my website analytics show Safari popularity slipping from 12% before the 5.x release to 8% afterward. Overall the Wiki says Safari is still the 4th most popular browser with a 5% market share (about half that of Chrome with a 9% share and following way behind Firefox with 30% and IE with a whopping 50%). I may not be ready to kick my Firefox to the curb just yet but Safari 5.x is a big step in the right direction at least. Spend 10 minutes in the Safari Extensions Gallery and you will start to see what I am talking about.
Safari has finally opened the door to the development community and the future is looking bright for the underdog Mac browser. There is still no Google Toolbar out there for Safari so I will not be making the “default browser” switch today but I am keeping a very close watch. If one or two more puzzle pieces fall into place I may actually move off of my beloved Firefox and trade up for a pith helmet. Truth be told, a part of me wants Safari to improve just so so I can honestly run that icon on my dock. It may be the all-time single greatest icon ever made for the Mac. Thanks for reading my Tips & Tricks section here on iconpaper.org, that’s all for now. Cheers!