For all of Apple’s trendsetting ways, and there are plenty, sometimes our Cupertino Mac maker misses the boat.
It took decades to get an official two-button mouse. It took five years to figure out that users want extensions in Safari. Mozilla’s Firefox has thousands. Apple’s Safari has a few hundred after only a few weeks. I’m still trying to find decent extensions that are worthy of use and don’t clog up Safari’s pipes.
Adding Extensions To Safari With A Click
To say that Apple is the curator of Mac and iPhone software is to say that Pixar has had a string of movie hits (11 straight, by my count). Apple loves to develop and manage how we use our Macs and iPhones.
So it is with the newly available browser extensions for Safari.
They’re available everywhere on the interwebs, the Safari Extensions Gallery is the official home of certified, digitally signed, secure, one-click-installation extensions for the favorite Mac browser.
The extensions you find in SEG are sanctioned by Apple and install directly into Safari without having to restart either your Mac or Safari. They just work. Scan the list of extensions, find one you want to try, click the Install Now button.
Typical Apple. It just works.
What Value Extensions?
There’s probably a good reason for the easy installation process. Many of the extensions fall into the Dashboard Widget usefulness category (with less usefulness and less eye candy). In other words, so far, they don’t do much, and there’s not much from which to choose.
I like the MLB.com toolbar other than it sucks up plenty of Safari screen real estate. We’re getting into the heat of the pennant races so it’s nice to know that while I’m slaving over a hot keyboard late at night I can find out what’s happening to which teams. I’m betting we’ll see an NFL toolbar extension by fall.
Safari extensions are available in the typical categories from SEG, too. News, Shopping, Productivity, Social Networking, Developer and a few more. There’s also a fair balance. The New York Times has two extensions, while Fox News has only one.
So far, Safari extensions don’t measure up to the quality and functionality of Dashboard Widgets. The disadvantage of Widgets being that you have to leave what you’re doing to view a Widget, and extensions are built-in to Safari. I’m not sure I understand the economic model of either. Most Widgets and extensions are free, but a few daring developer souls ask for donations. Check our BackTrack, CustomSearch, HoverZoom, Translate, and WebWatch from SideTree.
Among the many dozens of extensions I’ve installed, I’ve noticed a problem with purpose. For example, the cute HoverBubble creates a floating bubble which displays a URL from a web page. It’s interesting, but I ask myself, “Why?”
An early favorite was Daring Fireball Comments, which added a commenting features to the popular Daring Fireball site. It’s slick and works great. The actual comments are less valuable, though. If you use the LastPass password manager for Mac or PCs, you’ll be happy to use the LastPass extension for Safari.
I like Microsoft’s Bing extension which lets you highlight text and search from within a Safari page. I don’t know what that’s useful, though. It’s not like there was too much effort to use the search field in Safari. There’s a Rotten Tomatoes extension. I don’t know how that’s better than a bookmark to the Rotten Tomatoes web site. There’s over half a dozen Twitter tools, none of which do as much as a Twitter app, and not much more than the Twitter web page—in Safari.
There’s all kinds of bookmarking extensions, too, though Safari’s bookmarking feature isn’t a complex function. I like the Safari Webbla extension. There’s Mafuyu which adds a keyboard shortcut to Google search results. I was worried that I didn’t have enough keyboard shortcuts to remember. There’s half a dozen RSS Tools to complement Safari’s RSS reader. Developers get some less-than-useful extensions, too, including the Alexa Traffic Stats extension because you want to know what our ranking is today.
Cupertino, we have a problem. Barely a month into Safari 5 and official Safari Browser Extensions, there is a growing list of extensions (as expected) and a relative dearth of extensions with usefulness beyond interesting. Also, I’ve noticed that after installing a dozen extensions Safari begins to drag in performance. Buttons become slow to respond, browser windows won’t open or close quickly, and switching between tabs takes seconds instead of instants.
Of course, it’s always nice to know that with Comic Sans Be Gone that whenever I visit a web site with the Comic Sans font, it will automatically be replaced with Helvetica.