Monday, 31 December 2007

A Brief Safari

I used Safari briefly when I first got my MacBook and also had a dabble with Camino. However I was used to Firefox from my PC days and, more importantly, had been finding FireFTP (an FTP plug-in for Firefox) very useful so I switched back to Firefox. In recent times however I've been using Webmin when I need to upload/download files to/from my servers and haven't used FireFTP in quite a long time. In fact I've shut down the FTP service on my servers as mentioned previously. I've also noticed lately that of the various pieces of software that I use, Firefox is the one that's most likely to lock up such that I have to force it to quit. (Audacity comes in second - but I don't use it nearly as much - and GIMP just bombs out occasionally when I'm rotating images). Given that Apple also claims that Safari 3 is faster than the fox I thought that maybe it was time to give it another try.

Issue number 1 was how to move all my bookmarks from Firefox to Safari but this turns out to be relatively simple. Safari's File menu has an Import Bookmarks option and although I had to search around a bit to find this out, all you need to do is navigate to Firefox's bookmarks file at
~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/xxxxxx.default/bookmarks.html
and the job is pretty much done. At the same time I deleted most of the US biased crap that Safari had loaded by default. Grrr.

Issue number 2 was the lack of a "New Tab" button. Apple-T works as a short-cut but when I'm browsing then my hands are more likely to be on the mouse than the keyboard so the lack of a button is, to my mind, a real oversight on Apple's part.

Issue number 3: If you click on a link then under 'normal' circumstances it will open in the current window/tab. You can configure Safari such that holding down the Apple key when you click will open it as a new tab. However if the web site's author has set the link to open in a new 'window' using the target tag, that's exactly what Safari will do: open a new window. Firefox gives you the ability to force such links to open as a new tab. Safari doesn't so unless you happened to be pressing the Apple key at the same time, you end up with a new window. Grrr.

Issue number 4 is the Google search box up there on the toolbar. Now while Firefox merely defaults to but allows you to use other search engines, Safari doesn't give you any choice at all! According to what I've read on the web, this is all about money. It hadn't occurred to me before but it's fairly obvious when you think about it that sooner or later, anybody manufacturing a half decent browser with access to several search engines is going to be offered a few quid by one of them to have theirs at the top of the list.

Now while whatever arrangement Apple and Google have come to is, I'm sure, all very nice for them, it's a bit of a bummer for us. As a matter of fact I do use Google most of the time but I like to use Google.CO.UK not Google.COM and the current set up won't even let me change that. I also use Wikipedia fairly regularly and while it generally comes up with a high rank on most Google searches, that isn't really the point. Putting and Wikipedia links on the bookmarks bar is probably the easiest option however, as the Customise Toolbar option presents the URL box and Search mechanism as a single entity you're pretty much forced to leave it there as a constant reminder that it's there for Google's benefit and bollocks to the rest of us. Grr.

I began to look for other options and found details of a couple of hacks (which may or may not work with version 3) for changing the search engine, and also for converting the New Bookmark button into a New Tab option, however both involved messing with the Safari code in ways that didn't appeal. Over on macupdate I found AcidSearch 0.7b4 and Safari Enhancer 3.3.1 which looked promising. The latter even offers a new tab button but on closer inspection I realised that neither of them supports version 3 of Safari. Doh!

By this point I was getting a little cheesed off with the whole thing and had pretty much decided that I was going to switch back to Firefox. Along the way however I had noticed Inquisitor 3. I hadn't paid much attention as it describes itself as "Spotlight for the Web", thus making it sound far in excess of what I was looking for. However I had already begun to draft this blog entry (so that in 6 weeks time I could remind myself why I was still using Firefox), and I figured I'd give Inquisitor a quick try for the sake of completeness.

My initial impressions of were good and if the search is your only major gripe about Safari then I suggest you check it out. However it still isn't as quick 'n' easy as the one on Firefox.


1. I like the error console on Firefox which has proved extremely useful on a number of occasions for solving problems with Javascript (Safari doesn't appear to have one).

2. The "View Source" option on Firefox has a nicer display. Not something I use a lot but it comes in handy.

3. I also like the Firefox option to switch off styling and get some idea of what a page looks like to a bot or a text reader.

Okay, so maybe I'm being a bit petty now, but add those niggles to my earlier gripes and it probably won't come as any great surprise when I tell you that the Safari icon is no longer in my dock and that I'm finishing off this post in Firefox.

I guess I could try Internet Explorer instead.

Ha ha.
Ha ha ha.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

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