Apple’s Safari 5 for Mac and Windows is here. It’s familiar, lean, clean, and fast. Oh, and it’s ready for extensions. What are extensions? Why should Safari users care?
Software developers can create Apple blessed and approved extensions—think of them as add on utilities that perform any number of functions—that run in a secure sandbox. That’s not the case with Adobe’s Flash, which runs as a plugin, and when it crashes it can cause a browser to become non-responsive.
Apple Blesses And Controls Extensions
To get the extra tasty goodness of all that a few hundred extension tools can bring, Apple create a Safari Developer Program—an official way to create extensions and, presumably to gain approval from Apple (extensions need to be signed by Apple before they’ll run in Safari).
Safari 5 comes with a new tool called Extension Builder that developers use to build, package, and install extensions. How Apple exercises control has yet to be determined though it appears as if they can be downloaded from the web and installed.
There are thousands of extensions available for Mozilla’s Firefox, many hundreds of similar, though seemingly less capable extensions for Google’s Chrome, though it may be a few weeks before Mac and PC users see the first Safari extensions.
For Safari 5 users, the growing extensions library will enable more functionality to be built-in to the browsing experience. These are likely to include automatic alerts, special bookmark management and synchronization, more RSS news feed management than currently exists with Safari.
Additionally, if the Firefox add on extensions are a guide, Safari extensions will allow more interactivity with social networking sites, as well as tools that may replace or emulate Dashboard Widgets—currency converters, stock market information, auto form fill tools, and much more.
One year from now the extensions for Safari are likely to number in the hundreds.
Elsewhere In Safari 5
DNS Precaching in Safari 5 matches a similar features in Google’s Chrome browser. This feature lets the browser preload a DNS request, ostensibly speeding up the page load process.
If you’re a reader then you’ll love Safari’s new Reader. It detects a web page that contains an article and provides you with a Reader button. Click the button and all the web page clutter disappears leaving only the article.
Reader also stitches together multiple page articles in the background so when you click the Reader button a single, and very long, page is displayed.
If you’re a standards buff then take solace in the fact that Safari 5 features even more HTML5 goodness, including Geolocation, draggable attributes, a forms validator, as well as other tools only available previously in the nightly WebKit builds. That includes my favorite—full screen video playback.
Safari 5 only runs on Leopard or Snow Leopard for Mac users, and XP, Vista, and 7, for Windows PC users.
Apple’s latest browser version is fast, though it’s difficult to see that it’s faster than Google’s Chrome (built on the same WebKit engine), but notably faster than Firefox, at least according to some tests by Daily Tech.
If you’d like to check out the Extensions Menu in Safari 5, open Preferences, select the Advanced icon, click the Show Develop Menu In Menu Bar at the bottom. Then, select the Enable Extensions from the newly display Develop menu in the Safari Menubar.
Safari 5 is faster, more stable, more secure, and with extensions and HTML 5 support, more capable. May the browser wars continue.
UPDATE – After barely a day of availability, Safari Extensions becomes one of the first web sites devoted to, well, Safari extensions.