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The Unheard Word

One woman's slightly skewed views

Extending Safari

In my ongoing search for the elusive “perfect browser”, I have been back and forth a bit lately. I’ve gone from Safari 2.0 (a very fast and elegant browser), to Firefox (for the zillionth time), to Flock, back to Firefox, over to Camino, and am now back with Safari. Here’s a bit of an explanation why.

Safari is without doubt the fastest browser I’ve tried on my Mac. It has an elegant interface and doesn’t share the memory leaks of Firefox on OSX, and has good standards support. (Safari 2 now passes the Acid2 test and to my knowledge is still the only browser currently to do so.)

The beauty of Firefox

But Safari does lack some of Firefox’s features (let’s face it, it’s the extensions that make Firefox such a great browser), such as Chris Pederick’s wonderful Web Developer Toolbar. Safari does have WebDevAdditions but it lacks the live CSS editing function of the Firefox extension, which is extremely useful. However, it’s a trade-off, as WebDevAdditions allows the page’s text to be edited directly in the browser window.

Firefox also has some other extensions I love, notably (amongst others I have installed and use regularly when in Firefox):

  • Session Saver (enables the user to close Firefox and then have all tabs restored on re-opening)
  • MiniT(drag+indicator) (enables drag-and-drop to change the order of tabs)
  • Tab Mix Plus (too many extra functions to mention but very handy)
  • Tab X (displays a close button on each tab)

But, aside from the Web Developers Toolbar, the extension I love more than anything is HTML Validator, which uses a button in the status bar to show if the current web page uses valid X/HTML — or not. It will also display errors and attempt to “clean” the page if required. When I first found out about it, I installed it and went to all my sites including this blog site to have a look, and was horrified to discover that between WordPress and my blog editor, unbeknown to me some XHTML warnings had snuck in. (I had validated the site before launch, so was not expecting it to have changed.) That’s when I decided I couldn’t afford to be without it. (And it was verrrrrrrry interesting to visit other sites and see how few actually validated!)

Moving right along

Then the preview version of Flock was released. I installed it and loved it, but since it is a fork of Firefox and appears to share that browser’s memory leak on Mac OSX, and since I can’t import my bookmarks yet (that feature will be available soon according to the Flock website), and since HTML Validator was not yet available for Flock, and nor was Session Saver (it is really hard to go back to having tabs disappear when closing the browser, after getting used to them being saved!) I decided to go back to Firefox “for now”. When the new beta of Camino was announced, I decided I would toddle along and try that too. Camino is a really nice browser but felt to me like a dumbed-down — though far more elegant — version of Firefox. Same high system memory usage, less functionality.

I should add that, in the past, I have attempted to use Opera 8.5 as my default browser, and while I find Opera to be an excellent browser generally with very useful web developer support, little things annoyed me like Command+T opening the “Add bookmark” dialog instead of a new tab as I’ve become accustomed to in other browsers, and even the menu uses different terminology… it’s “New Page” instead of “New Tab”… Such unexpected behaviour slows down my workflow and adds unnecessary annoyance, and frankly I don’t see any need to form new habits with these things when it’s the only browser to do this.

I did have OmniWeb set as my default browser for many months and love its extra features. But it too, like Firefox, tended to hog memory.

Re-discovering Safari plug-ins

Then… I rediscovered some third-party extensions for Safari. Of particular interest was Saft which includes the ability to save tabs when closing the window, amongst a lot of other good stuff. To name but a few:


  • Drag-and-drop tabs
  • Ad-blocking
  • Image and plug-in blocking
  • Save open browser windows when quitting (and reload them on re-opening of course)
  • Enable Debug menu (mine was already enabled and in itself offers some nifty tricks)
  • Undo closed tab support
  • Customisable shortcuts to web pages
  • Block HTML refreshing
  • Growl support
  • Many more… see the very long features list on the Saft home page.
  • This plug-in alone covers most of my favourite Firefox extensions, and more. Naturally, me being me, I went ahead and installed it. (Hi, my name is Vicki and I am a softwareholic.)

    For good measure, I also installed SafariStand. This nifty plug-in fills in the gaps in Saft (hard though it was to believe, at first, that Saft had any gaps to fill), including a sidebar (thumbnail tabs — think OmniWeb — the thumbnail tabs were my favourite OmniWeb feature and this is an awesome addition to Safari) and syntax colouring of viewed source. It also doubles up on a couple of Saft’s features but, generally speaking, it complements Saft very well.

    Then I went ahead and installed SafariButtons, which adds a New Tab button to the toolbar. (Who would have thought it would be too much trouble for Apple to include that in Safari by default?)


    I use iGetter as a download manager (can’t get broadband here, blah, so I definitely need a download manager) and I soon realised I had a “small” problem. Safari was no longer passing downloads to iGetter. It was attempting to download them in a browser window — not even in Safari’s own download manager. I’ll spare you the story of my frustration, torment and despair, but I finally found a little snippet in a forum that referred to a problem and solution with Saft and SpeedDownload (incidentally the download manager that I used before switching to iGetter) which just happened to apply to iGetter too. Saft has an option that turns off animated images — which I had selected. And using this feature somehow affects Safari’s ability to talk to download managers. Weird. Anyway, many hours after first detecting the issue (and many hours into the wee hours of the morning) the issue was solved. I can live without animated images turned off but I can’t live without a download manager!

    I’ve also read of conflicts between PithHelmet and other plug-ins, but it never appealed enough to me to install it anyway.

    An extending Safari resource

    Pimp My Safari is a really useful site that links to a big range of Safari plug-ins and bookmarklets but the essential ones for me are WebDevAdditions, Saft and SafariStand, and those three are playing together nicely, along with SafariButtons.

    The bookmarklets on PMS are really worth a look because they cover many functions provided by various Firefox extensions.

    Worth it?

    Incidentally, Saft is not freeware, and not everyone will agree that the main advantage to me of using Safari (that it’s lean and mean on my tired old iMac) is worth the sacrifice of a few dollars for features that are available for free when using Firefox. For me, it’s well worth it, because continually closing and re-opening Firefox to speed it up and to regain some system memory is — er — annoying, to say the least. 🙂

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    3 Responses to “Extending Safari”

    1. Howie Says:

      Hey.. Long time no post! This blog is rather technical.. I am starting to yawn!! break out! Enjoy!! and what happened to the other ½ of your head? I’d like to see the whole image! lol
      have a nice day y’all…

    2. Vicki Says:

      Dear Howie,

      If you want the other half of my head, you know where to find it. LOL. (By the way, what you see here is my better half. Ho ho ho.)

      You’re right, and my blog has evolved into something more technical than in its beginnings, but that’s what works for me. I intend this to be a professional blog more than a personal one (though I hope it never becomes sterile and will always have my “voice”).


    3. RXB Says:

      Saft is awful, for me, and I uninstalled it. To make a long story short, when I had windows of different sizes open, Saft would save windows at the size of the smaller window, and then, each time I would click a link anywhere in cases where I did want a separate window, the new window would pop up at the wrong size.

      When I enlarged the window, then closed it, Saft ought to have “remembered” to re-open it at the correct size, but it did not. It’s great that it works for you, but for me, it’s good riddance, and on to find a tab saver for Safari that doesn’t ruin my entire Web browsing experience.

      By the way, I am amazed that Firefox on the Mac works so well for you. I find that it displays Web sites terribly. Perhaps I am simply not savvy or patient enough to find the extension that would solve the problem, but my question is, why should I have to be?