Safari 6 gains some nifty features
Share button is a big hit in Safari.
Special to The Seattle Times
I was recently trying a demo of Time Sink, a utility by Many Tricks (www.manytricks.com) that keeps track of how much time you spend in each application on your Mac, and was surprised to see Safari at the top of the list.
Since I look up information on the Web so frequently — and keep up with news, Facebook and others — I don't even think of Safari as a separate app. It's just the Web.
Under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Safari has gained some nifty features that I found myself using immediately (some obvious, some not). This version, Safari 6, is also available for users of OS X 10.7 Lion, but not earlier systems. Also, Safari 6 is available only on the Mac; the Windows version is stuck at Version 5.
• Unified Smart Search field. Instead of splitting the address bar and the search field into two separate areas, Safari now offers one unified field that handles both types of requests. It's more convenient and less confusing: now I just type whatever I want into the field, and if the syntax doesn't match an "example.com" format, Safari treats the text as a Google search.
It seems like a tiny change, but now I no longer need an extra keypress to get to the search field. (In Lion and earlier, I would normally type Command-L to activate the address bar, then hit the Tab key to advance to the search field.) Given how often I perform searches, my hands are already thanking me.
In fact, I've so thoroughly adjusted to the single field that I get frustrated when using Safari on my iPad or iPhone, which retains the search field. Worse: when opening a new blank page, the search field is enabled first automatically. (Apple's preview of Safari under iOS 6, which is expected to be released within a month or two, still shows the split fields, unfortunately.)
• iCloud tabs. Speaking of iOS 6, I'm looking forward to taking advantage of this other new Safari feature. Currently, if you have two or more Macs running Mountain Lion, you can view the pages open on any machine. If you use a Mac at work and want to read a page that's open on your Mac at home (even if that machine is asleep), you can access it by clicking the Show iCloud Tabs button in the toolbar.
When iOS 6 ships, you'll be able to do the same on an iOS device. Start reading at home and pick up where you left off on an iPad during your bus commute. Or, open several tabs on your Mac while looking something up, and access them on another device to continue your research.
Somewhat related, the Reading List feature finally gets the key functionality it's been missing: when you save a Web page to your Reading List, it's available for reading later, even if the Mac doesn't have an Internet connection. I still prefer the Instapaper service and iOS app over Reading List, but it's a good option for casual readers who aren't interested in venturing far from the Mac's built-in applications.
• Share button. Although the new Share button is a systemwide feature in Mountain Lion, I'm getting the most use out of it in Safari. When you land on a Web page you want to share with others, click this button in the toolbar to view options: Add to Reading List, Add Bookmark, Email this Page, Message, and Twitter.
Those are a handful of new Safari features that I'm noticing are already affecting how I spend much of my time on the computer. Other additions include:
• Tab View that lets you swipe between previews of open pages (although you still get to see just one at a time, making the feature only slightly useful).
• Do Not Track option in the Privacy settings for sites that support the feature.
• Fixing "feature" that was always a bug to me: pressing the Delete key no longer takes you back to a previous page.
Jeff Carlson and Glenn Fleishman write the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. More Practical Mac columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.