Apple recently improved its available developer tools and boosted app discoverability in order to encourage more Safari extensions to be available to Mac users than before. This small collection of extensions may give your work or research productivity a useful boost.
What has Apple changed?
As announced at WWDC 2020, Apple broadened the range of available Safari Extensions in macOS Big Sur, principally with the introduction of the WebExtension API and a new tool that helps developers quickly bring their existing extensions from Chrome, Firefox, or Edge to Apple’s browser. This has led to a trickle of new extensions coming to the platform.
Discoverability is important when it comes to software. To help, Apple’s added a new extensions category to the Mac app store, including short stories and top download charts for both free and fee-based extensions — the idea being that extensions have been made easier to create and to publicize than they were before.
These improvements were among a raft of enhancements to Safari, loosely based around speed, privacy and personalization.
How to install and use Safari extensions
To explore and install extensions, either visit Safari > Safari Extensions in Safari’s menu bar, or explore the Safari Extensions section within Categories at the Mac App Store. You can click to install these just as you do any Mac app. Some also download an accompanying app, and some will require you to register in order to use the extension.
Enable and disable extensions in Safari Preferences and access them using the relevant extension icon, situated to the left of the Safari search bar.
Here are some useful extensions to help you get more done.
Grammarly for Safari
Free-to-use tool Grammarly is such a useful companion if your job involves writing of any kind. Its built-in AI and natural language processing tools will check what you write, as you write, helping to make work within Safari more refined by providing you with grammatical and style advice and spelling alerts. Your reports, emails and social media posts will become just that bit better as a result. You can also toggle it off when you don’t want to use it.
Grammarly: Basic features are free. In-app purchases unlock additional functionality.
I use this extension to suspend tabs I’m not actively using when researching topics. It solves that problem in which some websites use up a host of background resources even when in the background, slowing my browser up. Tab Suspender will automatically suspend activity in these tabs, which means I can leave them open in the background with less of a performance hit. Developer Bruno Magalhaes claims you’ll see memory and CPU usage drop by 60%.
The result? I can keep multiple tabs open with no performance hit. The extension also has some handy settings which means it gets out of the way when I don’t need it.
Tab Suspender: Free (in-app purchases).
I like Notebook in part because its maker, Zoho Corporation, offers such a wide range of products to help boost enterprise productivity. There are other extensions that provide similar services, such as Bear, Evernote and InstaPaper, all of which are also good.
Notebook lets you capture page screenshots, create notes, make voice memos, create filters and search through what you’ve filed so far. There are some unique features, such as the capacity to create recipe cards, TouchBar and Dark Mode support, and more.
Notebook is free, works well, and has the advantage of using Zoho’s own servers rather than being reliant on iCloud, which helps keep personal and enterprise life separate.
RSS Button for Safari
Apple doesn’t support RSS in Safari. I guess it wants us all to pay for News. I think it should get over itself and put an RSS reader inside Safari. While we wait, you can use the RSS Button for Safari extension to discover and subscribe to RSS, Atom, and JSON feeds from within Safari to most desktop or online RSS news readers. That’s what it does, it does it well, and it means you’ll never miss that important item from your chosen collection of personal or professional sites.
RSS Button for Safari: $0.99.
I’m a fan of the GDPR. I believe privacy is becoming more important as the world becomes more closely connected and think it’s important for everyone to be provided with the kind of transparency provided by this regulation. The problem is the vast differences in how sites apply the warnings required by the GDPR — those huge cookie banners get in the way, and it gets dull clicking the “minimum cookies” button repeatedly.
Minimal Consent automates this. It answers the cookie banner, only accepts essential cookies, and (in conjunction with Apple’s own privacy tools in the browser and the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension, which I also recommend) saves you time and protects your privacy as you use the web.
Minimal Consent: Free.
With over 35 million users, the award-winning Todoist app is in use at a plethora of big companies. It’s a task management tool that works across multiple platforms and carries a plethora of useful scheduling, prioritizing and collaboration features. The Premium ($3/month) version even brings a little gamification to help you stay focused by awarding you points for completing tasks — kind of like the Fitness app for task management. It also integrates with a host of popular apps such as Dropbox, Trello, Slack, Gmail, and IFTTT, and it works on pretty much every platform. The Todoist extension means it also works in Safari.
Todoist: Free for basic features, fee for more.
Use these extensions in conjunction with your choice of password tracker and intermittent malware detection, and you should be able to stay organized, research, take notes, and write a little more effectively.