Now that widespread connectivity means you’re rarely without a web connection, the Internet has become a huge part of the way in which we use our computers. Out of the box, your Mac is a powerful machine for making the most of everything the Internet has to offer, but there are a few tweaks, plugins and applications that can make it go a little bit further.
Today I’ll be taking a look at 35 different plugins and applications that will help improve your web browsing experience. Both Safari and Firefox will be covered, along with a few tools relating to networking, search, bookmarking, and – of course – taking a break from the Internet!
Safari on Speed
Safari is undoubtedly the most popular browser on the Mac, and also a fairly difficult application to extend. It lacks a ‘add-ons’ system and directory in the same vein as Firefox, though does still have several useful plugins available. Here are a selection that can significantly improve your ‘browsing experience’ (though don’t run them all at once – it’s a recipe for a very slow browser!)
Click to Flash – Click to Flash is a plugin for disabling Flash on every webpage by default, providing a simple placeholder instead. If you’d like the Flash content to display, just click the placeholder. You can also right-click and add a site to your white-list, always automatically displaying Flash content in the future.
1Password – A Safari plugin which can help enormously with password storage, and remains incredibly secure. It allows you to store multiple logins for a site, set a ‘master password’ to unlock all your saved details, and will automatically fill and submit login forms for you.
Glims – Glims offers a wide ‘cocktail’ of different features to Safari and can improve many different aspects of the user interface. After using it for a few weeks, you may wonder how you ever managed without it.
Safari 140 – A basic plugin to Safari, which will auto-fill a new tweet with the current URL (automatically shortened, of course). After setting it up with your Twitter login credentials, it can save a huge amount of time. Safari 140 won’t replace a dedicated desktop client, however — it’s purely for posting quick links.
Safari AdBlock – A simple, free plugin that aims to strip advertisements from websites as you browse. It works surprisingly well and can lead to a far less cluttered web experience.
CosmoPod – Able to download video content, and with one click the plugin can download the file, convert it to an iTunes/iPod compatible format, and place it in your iTunes library. Everything integrates with the Safari interface for a seamless downloading experience.
SafariCookies – Safari Cookies is the only cookie manager built to integrate directly into Safari, for minimum disruption to your browsing experience. It makes it simple to accept only certain cookies, automatically remove cookies, and more.
Keywurl – This app adds simple way of performing searches in Safari by letting you type short keywords as queries. Type a keyword and a query in the address bar, and it will be expanded into a predefined search. An incredible time-saver.
TabExpose – A Safari add-on that enables you to view all open tabs in Safari the same way Exposé displays all open windows on your Desktop. A beta is available for Snow Leopard.
Word Browser Plugin – Displays a preview of Word, Rich Text Format, OpenDocument and OpenXML documents inside the Safari browser window. Saves you needing to launch the monolith that is Microsoft Word!
Fully Functional Firefox
Although there are thousands of Firefox add-ons available, I’ve hand picked a few that I find to be particularly useful. Your needs may vary, but I hope that one or two will appeal.
Ubiquity – A revolutionary new technology from Mozilla that allows you to ‘command’ the web rather than surf it. You can use natural language to translate to and from most languages, add maps to your email, edit any page, twitter, check your calendar, search, email your friends, and much more. Revolutionary.
Feedly – A magazine-like start page for Firefox, offering a fast (and great looking) way to read your favorite sites and services.
FoxTab – Bring Safari’s ‘Top Site’ functionality across to Firefox, so you can see a list of your favourite sites in an impressive 3D ‘wall’. Unlike in Safari, a variety of different 3D views are available to switch between.
Flashblock – Similar to Click to Flash on OS X, Flashblock hides any Flash content from displaying until you explicitly tell it to do so. A great way to avoid distraction, and speed up your browser.
URL Fixer – A plugin that corrects typos in address bar URLs. For example, if you type google.con, it will correct it to google.com (asking first, if you enable confirmation).
CustomizeGoogle – Quickly enhance Google search results by adding extra information and removing unwanted information (like ads and spam). An impressive range of customisation options are included.
Searching and Finding Information
Cooliris – A 3D Wall that speeds up search on Google Images, YouTube, Flickr, and more. A really rich way to view photos from Facebook, Picasa, and even your computer. Funky!
Google Quick Search Box – Google Quick Search Box is an open source search box that allows you to search data on your computer and across the web. Very handy for initiating a search directly from your desktop.
QuickSilver – No longer in active development, but still a great tool for searching from your desktop. A huge range of plugins are available to extend functionality further.
XMarks – A fairly powerful search and bookmarking tool, that is capable of keeping your favourites in sync between different browsers and different computers.
DeliciousSafari – This app allows you to use and create Delicious bookmarks from the Safari web browser. It sits in the menu bar, and offers a simple interface to the powerful online bookmarking app.
Cocoalicious – Cocoalicious is a del.icio.us client for Mac OS X. It acts as a desktop interface to your del.icio.us bookmarks, and comes with a handy bookmarklet for saving new sites.
Postr – Essentially a ‘social bookmarking bridge’, Postr makes it easy to post links from an application such as NetNewsWire to a variety of different online bookmarking websites.
Pukka – A full featured client for Delicious and other compatible social bookmarking services. It’s lightweight, works great with multiple accounts, and features fast, offline search. It also offers Growl notifications, and integrates with various RSS readers for posting.
Networking & Wireless
AirRadar – Designed to scan for open wireless networks and tag them as favourites or filter them out. View detailed network information, graph network signal strength, and automatically join the best open network in range.
APGrapher – A freeware app that searches for and displays nearby wireless (AirPort/WiFi) access points along with information about their percent availability, maximum signal strength, and last contact time.
NetworkLocation – Set up ‘locations’ to represent the different environments in your life. When you visit a particular location, the app can change system settings or set things in motion; launch applications or scripts, connect to servers, toggle Airport and Bluetooth power etc.
Broadband Tuner – If you have a really fast broadband connection, this utility may help to speed things up on your Mac. No guarantee, though, and it’s not recommended for Airport connections. Could be worth experimenting with!
Hotspot Shield – A security-enhancing app, that protects your web session with HTTPS encryption, hides your IP address, bypasses firewalls/censorship, and protects you at Wi-Fi hotspots. Really useful when using public internet, or for accessing foreign video content.
Taking a Break
Occasionally, it can be a good thing to step away from the Internet and take a break. Here are a few handy utilities for adding an element of enforcement to the ‘break’ you’re meant to be taking…
Freedom – Disables wireless and ethernet networking for up to three hours at a time. Freedom will free you from the distractions of the internet, allowing you time to code, write, or create.
Concentrate – Block certain websites at certain times, to ensure you aren’t tempted to check Facebook rather than work on an important document. Remove the urge!
Fluid – A fantastic way to turn your favourite websites and web applications into their own individual desktop applications (through a ‘site specific browser’).
Gmail Browser – A dedicated browser for using Google Apps, aimed at keeping it distinct from your other web browsing activities.
I hope you’ve found a few applications that will help you with day-to-day browsing, and that you can benefit from a slightly improved Internet experience!
I’m aware that I have only scratched the surface of what’s available, so please do share your own personal favourites in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and learn about a few new applications I haven’t come across before.