Vincent Danen introduces a handy, free plugin for the Safari Web browser that adds features Safari lacks and makes it much more useful.
Safari is the most widely used browser on OS X, likely because it comes with the operating system; the same reason that Internet Explorer is still so widely used on Windows. As with Internet Explorer on Windows, there are other alternative browsers than Safari on the Mac. Arguably, some of these browsers are better -- not necessarily over-all, but by providing functionality that one would consider essential.
For instance, Firefox runs well on OS X, and almost all of the plugins and extensions available for Firefox on other platforms are available to the Mac version. This makes Firefox a compelling browser to use. Unfortunately, it's quite visually unappealing on OS X and looks like the odd man out compared to almost every other Mac application. Filling the spot of a Gecko-based, but Mac-looking, browser is Camino, which is very similar to Firefox in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, the consistent UI look that Camino brings is made less appealing than Firefox due to the lack of support for Firefox's extensions.
While Firefox has a lot more extras, Safari 4 is a compelling browser. It is fast, has a slick and consistent UI for OS X, and is quite stable. There is, however, definitely room for improvement and that's where the free Safari plugin called Glims comes in.
Glims has some basic features that Safari really should have had. Being able to undo accidental closing of a tab, auto-closing the download window, and re-opening all open windows and tabs when starting are all pretty much necessities in a modern browser.
Beyond the basics, Glims offers a number of other nice features. It can show thumbnails of pages found in Google or Yahoo! search results, and you can add any kind of search engine to the search field that you like. The search bar gets an overhaul with auto-complete features and pull down suggestions, which can make searching even faster; the suggestions are similar to what Apple provides, but Glims allows you to determine the search suggestion sources.
Finally, you can also set keywords to trigger searches, which means you can set "amz" as the keyword to amazon and type "amz python programming" in the URL field to pull up Amazon's search results for "python programming."
Another nice feature is that favicons are displayed in tabs, which can help to distinguish certain sites when you have a window full of tabs that makes the titles largely illegible.The biggest benefit of Glims, besides giving us basics that Apple should have, is the enhancements to the search bar and the URL bar keyword searching. You can add your own search engines/criteria here as well, as you can see in the example in Figure A. I have to look at MITRE's CVE pages quite often and rather than going to the site and typing in the CVE name, I created a search engine entry, with the keyword "cve" so I can now type quickly in an open window with the focus on the URL bar, type "cve 2009-1234" and have the MITRE site open on the page for CVE-2009-1234.
Glims is stable, and it's free, and while it doesn't provide all of the potential to Safari that extensions do to Firefox, it sure makes Safari much more pleasant and useful.Get enterprise Mac tips and features delivered to your inbox by susbscribing to TechRepublic's Macs in Business newsletter, which delivers each Thursday. Automatically sign up today!
Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.