5 ways to start using Safari extensions

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Somewhat lost in the shuffle of this week’s iPhone 4 announcement was Apple’s release of Safari 5, the latest and greatest version of its web browser for Macintosh and Windows-based computers. One of Safari 5′s new features is one I’ve been wanting for awhile, called extensions. Extensions extend the functionality of the browser via downloadable add-on modules. With extensions you can customize how your browser and even individual websites work for you. They’re similar to plug-ins, which have been around since the 1990s, but are much easier for developers to create. Instead of having to write programming code in heavy duty languages like C++, developers can create extensions using standard tools for website creation–that is, HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

Extensions have been around for awhile in other browsers like Firefox and Chrome, so I’m glad to see that Apple has brought Safari up to speed. After you’ve downloaded Safari 5 (go to the Software Update control panel), you’ll need to follow a couple of steps to get extensions set up–see Mashable’s instructions on getting them up and running on your computer. Once you’ve done that, here are five extensions to show off the kinds of things you can do with this new functionality.

1. Shut Up

On many newspaper and blog sites, the rants, raves, and opinions of uninformed anonymous commenters can take over an article quickly and easily. As I’ve said from the early days, the best thing about the Internet is it gives everyone a voice. The worst thing about the Internet is it gives everyone a voice. If you’d prefer to not get everybody’s respective two cents, check out the Shut Up extension. It does a great job of hiding the comments sections on many web pages (including this one). You can toggle Shut Up off and on if you do want to read a conversation or add your thoughts.

2. Feedly

If RSS readers like NetNewsWire or Google Reader aren’t your thing, check out Feedly. Feedly takes your feeds from a Google Reader account and displays them in a friendly, magazine-style format. This extension gives you one-click access to your Feedly page, and more convenient access to RSS content.

3. GoMBoX

Do you use Google Image Search to find images? The GoMBoX extension modifies the behavior of the search results, so instead of having to click through each image to view it, you can view images in a nice slideshow format. Find the one you like, then click it to save it to your computer.

4. Weather

This is a simple extension, but a useful one: Weather displays the temperature and weather of a location of your choice in a Safari toolbar.

5. Gmail Checker

Last but not least: If you’re a Gmail user, the Gmail Checker extension keeps you from having to compulsively load up your inbox. A small button will notify you of new, unread messages waiting for you. Click the button to get to your inbox.

Looking for more extensions?

Check out the Safari Extensions Tumble Blog for announcements of newly available or updated extensions for Safari 5.

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Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.