Saturday, November 26, 2011

5 Tips to better use Safari on Windows

I’ve been using Safari as my default browser (on Windows 7) for exactly a month and frankly, I’ve got a lot of good things to say about it. Before we get started with the article, you should remember that the Safari browser for Windows gets a step-motherly treatment when compared to the mac version. Many extensions aren’t compatible with the Windows version (XMarks is one offender that comes to mind right now) and at times, the browser doesn’t really play well with pages that are heavy with flash content. Despite all this I loved the browser for certain features like reading list, reader, the sexy font rendering (I know you can get it on Windows but since Google Chrome runs on a sandbox it doesn’t really work), the clean UI; although a bit clunky.

#1. Get Some Extensions

Many of us don’t really delve deep into this browser, but if you spend some time with Safari’s extension gallery, you’d notice that it has a decent number of well-developed extensions which work like they’re advertised. Here are my favourites.

  1. LastPass
  2. Shortly (for quick URL shortening)
  3. WOT
  4. Google Reader Tools
  5. mailto: (gives you flexible options for the mailto: links)
  6. rapportive
  7. Button Bar
  8. Facebook Photo Zoom

From that list, I absolutely loved Shortly, Button Bar and Google Reader Tools. Shortly for example provides you with almost any feature that you can expect for a URL shortener and it makes me wonder if it’s just a browser extension. Just take some time to look at all the extensions that they have got to offer and I’m pretty sure that you’ll like some of them.

#2. Manage Bookmarks

Bookmarks

When it comes to bookmark sync, Safari is absolutely PATHETIC. XMarks doesn’t work with the Windows version and Apple hasn’t really provided a solution that lets you sync your browser data (like Google has). Nevertheless, you can sync bookmarks with the help of Dropbox. Just create a symbolic link for

C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Apple Computer

assuming that C is where you have your Windows installation. Fire up CMD as an administrator and enter these commands.

cd "C:\Users\<username>\Dropbox"

mklink /d “Safari_data” “C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Apple Computer”

<username> is to be replaced with your actual user name.

I recommend that you set up the symbolic link before importing the bookmarks. Also, do this on all the PCs on which you’ll be using Safari and you should be able to sync without any problems. If you’ve doubts feel free to leave a comment.

If you are switching to Safari from another browser, you can find the bookmark import/export tools under File from the menu (can be made visible by pressing Alt).

#3. Make The Fonts Look Better

fonts

If you like the Apple Style font rendering on your Windows PC, you’ll notice that it isn’t available as soon as you install Safari since you’ll have to change a snretting to get to it. Read this article that I’ve written earlier for step-by-step instructions.

#4. Open Links in New Tabs

By default, Safari opens all your links in new Windows and it is annoying for those of us who are used to tabbed browsing (and Apple needs to change this, like right now). If you’d like to have normal tab behaviour like on other browsers, here’s what you have to do.

Tabs

  • Open Preferences (Ctrl+,)
  • Go to the Tabs section and choose Automatically like highlighted in the screenshot above. This will open almost everything in a new tab except for pop-ups (like the Tweet Button, etc.).

#5. Make Use of Reading List & Reader

reading list

Reading List isn’t the best app in it’s category but it works flawlessly and I’ve been making ample use of it for the past month. Apple should definitely spice it up by providing a syncing feature between Safari Reading list for iPhone, iPad and your Mac or PC. The reader option which is essentially like Readability or Evernote Clearly works fine too.

With this blog post, I’m not promoting Safari or even saying that it’s the best browser. Like many claim, I simply don’t think that it’s that bad while it certainly has a great scope for improvement. If you use Safari already, share some tips below and enlighten us!