Mozilla’s famous and stellar web browser, Firefox, is notorious for its high levels of extensibility. By contrast, Internet Explorer has a strong reputation for being quite closed and proprietary. Apple’s web browser, Safari, is somewhere between these two. Unlike Firefox users, many Mac users aren’t quite aware how many plugin choices they have for their favorite browser.
In this article, I’ll take a look at the top three plugins that every Safari user should have. The first plugin adds some functionality that Apple should have included in the first place. The second plugin lets you download Youtube videos quickly and conveniently from the browser. Finally, the last plugin almost works like magic - letting you create new functionality on sites just though a couple of clicks.
SafariStand gives you a plethora of little goodies that Apple shamelessly hasn’t gotten around to implementing. While there isn’t one jaw dropping feature that makes this plugin spectacular, it’s impressive how many little tweaks that you can do. Perhaps the most useful addition is the sidebar. This lets you have a graphical view (instead of just the tabs) of all the sites that you have open. If you’re doing research, for example, this is absolutely vital as you might have many tabs open with similar names. Seeing the contents of the site however, lets you discern very quickly which tab you’re interested in.
In addition, SafariStand also includes a Quick Search option. Editable in the SafariStand settings, this awesome feature lets you assign a short-hand format that you type into the address bar for any web site. So, for example, I find that I use Wikipedia a lot. As such, I’ve set it up so that if I want to find information on, say, Los Angeles, I can just type “w Los Angeles” (where “w” is my short form for Wikipedia). If I wanted to find the same info on Google, I would type “g Los Angeles”. Finally, if I wanted to see what Yahoo found, I could type in the address bar, “y Los Angeles”. This comes in very handy for searching multiple sources of information.
Videobox ($15.00, free 15 day demo) is an application that lets you download Youtube videos. What’s unique about Videobox, however, is that it can also convert Youtube videos just as easily. Simply browse the the video that you want to download and then go to Window -> Videobox Queue. You should see the video in the list. Press the download button and then tell Videobox what file format to use. Youtube videos can be converted to all kinds of formats including ones that are suited for the iPhone, iPod, or AppleTV. All this is handled quite seamlessly through Videobox, which makes downloading Youtube videos a pleasure.
I’d just like to take this time and note that some users might be aware that there are completely free ways to do this - including downloading the video through the Activity window and then using a 3rd party FLV converter. However, in my experience, none of these are quite as quick and easy as Videobox. Plus, if you’re a Youtube addict, for the sake of $15 (most FLV converters will run you at least that) it’s probably worth it.
Last, but certainly not least, is GreaseKit, which brings the awesome functionality of GreaseMonkey to the Safari web browser. Originally developed for Firefox, GreaseMonkey has evolved into an absolutely astounding platform that can greatly enhance your browsing experience. GreaseKit works by letting users install scripts. These scripts can then change the way web sites are displayed, such as automatically showing the thumbs-down comments on Youtube, enhancing the Google search results page, and even allowing you to download videos from Youtube and other sites. One of my favorite places to get scripts is userscripts.org. They have a tremendous amount of downloads that, when combined with GreaseKit, will enhance virtually any site you currently visit.
These are just a few of my favorite plugins, but it’s certainly by no means complete. I’ve decided to focus on plugins that almost every one can use, but that’s not to say that Safari doesn’t have its share of specialized plugins. There are ones that are targeted at developers and ones that enhance popular services such as Flickr. While Firefox is certainly known for its extensibility, this article has been intended to demonstrate that Safari can be just as customizable. Indeed, with some of these mods installed and Safari’s rendering speed, it’s not hard to see that Safari could one day be a true contender for the top browser spot!