How to manage site-specific settings in Safari

Apple's Safari browser gives you control over site-specific settings, all from within a single, convenient window.

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Safari might not be the best in breed for browsers, but when you're working on a newer MacBook, already hindered by poor battery life, the only browser that doesn't make a mockery of your untethered power source is Apple's own. Fortunately, Safari isn't all that bad. In fact, the Apple browser does have some pretty nifty tricks up its sleeve. One trick isn't unique to Safari, but the way it's managed is.

Individual site permissions is a feature all browsers, worth their weight in code, offer. Most browsers make this feature very easy to access--and Safari follows suit with that, by allowing users to reach site settings from the address bar. However, Safari also offers up a very hand tool that enables users to control a site's access to such things as:

  • Reader
  • Content blockers
  • Auto-play
  • Page Zoom
  • Camera
  • Location
  • Notifications
  • Plug-ins (any installed)

With this tool, you can configure (or reconfigure) the permissions given to any site. For example, you can set an automatic page zoom level, whether a site has access to auto-play, and more. I want to show you how to use this tool, so you can gain better control over your Safari browsing experience. I'll be demonstrating on Safari version 11.1 via macOS High Sierra.

SEE: Boost your Mac productivity with these 10 techniques (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Finding the tool

The web-site settings tool isn't hidden. If you open up the browser and go to Safari | Preferences, you'll find a Websites tab. Click on that tab to reveal the manager (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

The site-specific settings manager.

Using the tool

The first thing you'll notice is that you cannot manually add a site from this tool. Instead, what this tool allows you to do is manage the sites you've already added. Or, even easier, if you browse to a site, and then open the tool, you'll find it listed in the Currently Open Websites (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Currently open websites.

With the Currently Open Websites, you automatically have access to configuring reader, auto-play, page zoom, camera, location, and plugins. The one caveat is that, in order to configure content blockers, a site must have already been added, by double-clicking/tapping the address bar, selecting, Settings for This Website, and enabling content blockers (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Enabling content blockers for a site.

Once you've configured one of your Currently Open Websites (for any feature) it will then remain configured. You can then go back to Preferences | Websites and either change the configuration option or remove the site. To remove the site, click on the feature you enabled, select the site, and then click Remove (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

Removing a site from a configuration option.


"What about plugins," you ask? Simple. The Currently Open Websites (or if you've already given a site permission to a plugin, via double-click/tap from the address bar) can be configured for any plugin that is enabled. You can enable/disable plugins from this same window. For example, if you have Adobe Flash Player disabled (Figure E), the Currently Open Websites will not register.

Figure E

Figure E

Disabled Flash Player.

This also makes for the quick and easy means to enable/disable plugins on the fly. If you go to a site that needs Flash Player, open up Preferences | Websites, enable the plugin, close Preferences, use the site, close the site, open Preferences | Websites, and disable the plugin. That way, instead of just disabling the site for the plugin, you ensure no sites will have access to the insecure feature. It's a bit of a hassle, but when you need to temporarily enable a plugin, such as Flash Player, it certainly beats installing it, using it, and removing it (only to have to repeat the process later).

Simple control over Safari

With this feature, you gain a bit more control over how Safari interacts with sites and plugins. The Apple browser doesn't have to be seen as completely incapable of doing the job you need. With a quick peek under the Preferences hood, you'll find this browser can actually function well (so you don't have to use Firefox and drain your battery).

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