Business users invest time selecting the Macs they buy. They pore over specifications. They study configurations. They even agonize selecting the best carrying cases. Most business users likely spend more time, too, sampling free iTunes than they do tweaking Safari, potentially one of the most frequently used applications.

Take just a few minutes now to review these simple steps. They can begin paying dividends for you and your business users the very next time Apple’s default Web browser is opened.

Confirm the most current version

Years of consulting have taught me to take nothing for granted. Frequently technology professionals find themselves troubleshooting errors and issues that can be corrected by downloading and installing a more current version of the software or a performance patch or update.

Confirm the Safari version your system is running by opening the Web browser, clicking Safari from the menu bar and selecting About Safari. A window will appear listing the currently installed version (version 5.1.2 was the most current as of early December 2011). Search for potential new versions or updates by clicking the Apple icon from the menu bar and clicking Software Update. Follow the prompts to check for and load any new updates.

Customize the toolbar

Safari’s default configuration loads a Spartan toolbar. Work it to your liking.

Customize the toolbar to meet you or your users’ specific requirements. Simplify access to commonly used or favorite actions. With Safari open, click View then select Customize Toolbar. The toolbar window will appear; drag action icons to the Safari toolbar, then position them according to your preferences. You can choose a variety of icons to add to the toolbar to make it easier to view Top Sites, open new tabs, go to Mail, access the print menu, and more.

Load necessary extensions

Web browsers fail to reach their full potential without carefully selected extensions or add-ons being loaded and enabled. Click Safari, then Safari Extensions to review a laundry list of third-party extensions that can be added to the browser to provide additional functionality.

The Twitter extension may prove valuable to a staff member responsible for powering the organization’s social media communications. Weather extensions may assist those employees needing to schedule outdoor service calls or manage weather-related events. Others may benefit from loading Gmail, mapping, Bing or link-checking extensions.

Manage extensions

Browser extensions are a two-edged sword. While properly vetted extensions can save time, add efficiencies and even enhance security, loading too many or ill-advised extensions can slow system performance or, potentially, introduce incompatibilities. Mac users should regularly review installed Safari extensions to ensure superfluous and unnecessary or no longer required extensions are removed.

Manage installed Safari extensions by opening the Web browser and selecting Preferences from the Safari menu. Click the Extensions tab. If Extensions are enabled, installed options will appear. Remove unneeded extensions using the supplied Uninstall button for the respective extensions.

Tweak performance settings

Safari, unless configured otherwise, retains a record of sites visited over time. Open Safari Preferences following the steps from the previous section, but select the General tab. Adjust retention settings to match your preference using the provided drop-down menu. Provided options include retaining history items for one day, one week, one month, or one-year. However, you can also enter a specific period using the manual option.

Review security and privacy settings

Keep cookies and cached Web site content longer and pages will load more quickly and you’ll spend less time repeatedly entering the same name, email, address and similar information. Wait too long, though, and cached content and cookies can add up, consume precious disk space or even complicate Web browsing when cookies become corrupt.

Access Safari’s Preferences as in the previous couple steps, but choose the Security and Privacy tabs to customize settings as desired. Disabling Web plug-ins, Java and JavaScript within the Security tab can speed performance in some cases, or even eliminate incompatibilities in others. But change default settings carefully, as disabling plug-ins or scripts can render some sites inaccessible or unusable.

Jettison cookie and cached Web data by choosing the Privacy tab and clicking the Remove All Website Data button. You can also change cookie settings — blocking from third parties and advertisers, always or never — and limit website access to location services using supplied radio buttons.

Call a reset

Occasionally users configure settings in a way that adversely impacts Safari performance. When you need to return to original settings just open the browser, click Safari, and choose Reset Safari. If you wish to just empty the cache to discard information stored from visited sites (such as may be required if a visited site doesn’t appear to be displaying the most current information), you can click the Empty Cache option.

Leverage shortcuts

When working within Safari, many users prove dependent upon the mouse and repeatedly traverse the display to access the File menu to open new browser windows and tabs. That’s inefficient.

Master Safari shortcuts to speed up and simplify navigation:

  • Hold the Apple/Command key when clicking a link to open the link in a new Window.
  • Hold the Apple/Command key and the Shift keys together when clicking a link to open the link in a new tab and switch to that tab.
  • Press the Apple/Command and Option keys at the same time when clicking a link to open the link in a new window
  • Simultaneously press the Apple/Command, Option and Shift keys when clicking a link to open the link in a new window and switch to that window.

Other Safari shortcuts that frequently come in handy are:

  • Simultaneously pressing the Apple/Command and N keys to open a new window or the Apple/Command and T keys to open a new tab.
  • Pressing the Apple/Command key while holding the W key closes a tab.
  • Pressing the Apple/Command, Up arrow and W keys closes a Window.
  • Close Safari by simultaneously pressing the Apple/Command and Q keys.