The One Frustrating and Needless Omission that Makes Safari Suck


I’ve been a Chrome browser user for a long time.  It’s a great browser, but my love for all things Apple occasionally leads me to attempt the switch to Safari.  There’s a lot to like about Safari- it’s fast, and it is deeply implemented in the OS X environment, via Reading List, iCloud, etc.

So recently I gave it another try.  I spent some time setting up Safari on my Macs,  installing my must-have extensions and getting the very customizable menu bar just the way I like it.  And I used it exclusively for a week.

While any new app is a bit of an adjustment, it is now clear that I could easily make the switch to Safari, except for one extremely frustrating, completely unnecessary flaw that makes an otherwise elegant and well-designed piece of software HORRIBLE AND UNUSABLE.

Before we get to that, let’s talk about what this post should be.  A generally favorable review of Safari, with a few mild frustrations that, if fixed, would make it perfect.  For example, I wish there was a way to make bookmarks and favorites open in new tabs.  This should be configurable, on an overall or site-by-site basis.  But it’s not.  You can force sites that want to open in a new window to open in a new tab, but you can’t set the browser to open your bookmarks, favorites or other links in a new tab.  Sure, a setting that caused every single link to open in a new tab would result in tab overkill.  But the option to have certain links (perhaps via an option to check a box on the edit bookmark screen) or categories (such as favorites- the ones I most want to open in new tabs) would be simple to implement and would be a great feature for power users.  I find the LastPass extension in Safari to be more kludgy than its Chrome counterpart.  There are other things that could be a little better.

But I can live with all that.

magnifyingglassWhat I simply cannot, should not and will not live with is THE INABILITY TO SET CUSTOM ZOOM LEVELS FOR THE SITES I VISIT.  Safari has native zoom in and zoom out buttons.  And they work fine.  But I DO NOT WANT to have to click them EVERY SINGLE TIME I VISIT A SITE.  A font-size and zoom level that works on a lower resolution or smaller screen is tiny on a 27″ iMac, and I can’t imagine it’s going to be any better on the beautiful new Retina iMacs.  Chrome lets you select and retain zoom levels, without doing ANYTHING.  Why in the name of Bobby-Elvis and his missing eyeball can’t Safari do this?

Someone is going to point out that you can set minimum font size in Safari, via the preferences.  Sure, but have you tried it?  Some sites look fine, but many become a jumbled mess.  Need to see what I’m talking about?  Set a largeish minimum font size and go to Feedly.  A horrible, unnecessary mess.

Yes, I looked for an extension.  There is one, but it doesn’t work on any of my Macs running the current version of Safari and Yosemite.  Yes, there may be complicated workarounds that let you impose custom CSS functions, but those break as many things as they fix.


But since I don’t have them, it’s back to Chrome for me.

If Feedly Won’t Share to Facebook, Check Your Chrome Extensions

I mentioned the other day in my post about moving to Feedly, that I was unable to share to Facebook via the Feedly desktop app.


Later, I resolved to figure out the problem and fix it.  Without going into all the nerdy details, it turns out there was a conflict with one of my Chrome extensions.  Specifically DoNotTrackMe.

Disable the extension via Settings>Extensions
Disable the extension via Settings>Extensions

Once I disabled that extension, I was able to share to Facebook via Feedly.


Hopefully this will save others who run into this issue a little time.

How to Make Chrome Even Better with Extensions

It’s no secret that I think Google Chrome is, by far, the best web browser.  Ever.   I could write a dissertation on how much I love it.  In fact, it’s so good that I believe the forthcoming Chrome OS is going to change the way we work online.

One of the beauties of Chrome is its functional minimalism.  Unlike most applications, there isn’t even a hint of bloat in Chrome.  It lies at the hard corner of sleek and powerful.  The Chrome experience immediately upon installation is fantastic, and just about anyone could have a great experience without installing any extensions- or add-ons- at all.

There are, however, a few extensions that I use and recommend to make it perfect.

Here, in no particular order, are the Chrome extensions I use, with a rating (1-5) of how essential they are to my online experience.

AdBlock.  I will go out of my way to avoid the clutter of ads.  The continuing malware problem is another reason to block as many online ads as possible.  The combination of AdBlock and AdBlock Plus (see below) results in a completely ad-free experience.  Essential Factor: 4.

Adblock Plus.  This is the recent Chrome port of the ad blocking app I have used for years.  I tried to use it alone, but found that it did not block certain message board ads, which are known to occasionally carry malware.  So I went with a combination.  Eventually, I’d like to settle on a single ad-blocking solution, but for now I’m choosing redundancy over screen bloat and possible malware.  Essential Factor: 4.  Like just about everyone else, I use to shorten the links I share on Twitter (Follow me) and elsewhere.  I like being able to see the actual link destination as well as stats on the links I share.  While helpful, this one is not terribly essential.  If I had to uninstall one of my extensions, it would be this one.  Essential Factor: 2.

Google Calendar Checker.  I long ago moved my calendar and my contacts  from Outlook to Google Apps.  I like the ability to see when my next appointment is, and the ability to hover over the icon for pop-up details.  Essential Factor: 3.

Google Dictionary.  This is the first extension I installed and the one I would recommend first.  A single click on any word on a web site will result in a pop-up definition or Wikipedia summary.  This is a must-have extension.  Essential Factor: 5.

Google Mail Checker.  Since I use Gmail, via Google Apps, as my email app, this must-have extension notifies me of new mail.  Essential Factor: 5.

Google News.  This extension wasn’t made by Google, but it sure looks like it was.  A simple click on the icon renders a tabbed, customized news display.  Very nice.  Essential Factor: 3.

Google Voice.  Being pretty-much all-in with Google Apps, I use Google Voice for my voice mail and to make an increasing number of phone calls right from Chrome.  This extension lets me know when I have new messages, texts, etc.  Essential Factor: 3.

iReader.  Much like ads, I hate all the clutter that most media sites append to their web pages, making them look like the TV screen in Idiocracy.


iReader will render the articles you want, in an elegant, scrollable display, complete with powerful, but unobtrusive, sharing features at the bottom.  Essential Factor: 4.

NPR.  I like to get my audio news updates as well as some music via NPR.  This extension lets me quickly access content from the NPR site (even while browsing other sites), as well as  music from great stations like UNCW.  Essential Factor: 3.

PriceBlink.  Since I do most of my shopping online, this extension, which tells you if there is a better online deal on the item you’re looking at, is a real money-saver.  Essential Factor: 4.

RSS Subscription Extension.  This Google created extension detects RSS feeds on the page you are reading and displays an RSS icon in the Omnibox, allowing you to click on it to preview the feed content and subscribe.  Essential Factor: 2.

WOT.   Web of Trust is a safe browsing tool, which warns you about risky sites that cheat customers, deliver malware or send spam.  Essential Factor: 3.

That’s 13 extensions, which, in the interest of bloat-avoidance, is more than I would like.  My plan is to treat extensions like I do stocks: only own a certain number of them.  So if I find one I like, I have to decide if I like it enough to get rid of an existing one.  I haven’t noticed any slow-down after installing these extensions, so I’m not sure what my magic number will be.  Probably more than 10 and no higher than 15.

Another of the beauties of Chrome is the sync feature.  If you install or uninstall an extension on one computer, corresponding changes will be made on the other synced computers.  Just one more reason why you should be using Chrome as your default web browser.

I really dig Chrome.  If you give it I try, you will too.  What are you waiting for?  Go get it.

Why Chrome OS Will Change the Way You Compute

Sadly, I haven’t received my Cr48 yet, even though (are you listening Google?  Email me and make me happy) I am a devout lover of Chrome and have moved most of my computing life into the cloud.   But there is no doubt that Chrome is about to change the personal computing landscape.

Paul Thurrott explains why it is a huge threat to Microsoft in the latest installment of his excellent Google Chrome Vs. the World series.  If there were a Pulitzer for blog writing, this series should win it.   Probably the best tech read of the year, in part because a guy who likes Microsoft is trying to save Microsoft from itself.

Yes, Chrome is going to hurt Microsoft, and yes it will further extend Google’s empire.  And it will be very good for consumers.  Shoot, if I ever get a Cr48, it will immediately become my primary mobile computing device.

But I think Chrome will also help Apple, by being the final element in a lot of peoples’ decision to leave Windows forever, if not for Chrome, then for OS X with Chrome, in browser form or otherwise, installed.  Sound crazy?  Then consider this.

Just about everyone has capitulated to the iPhone.  Yes, some geeks like Android, and there is no denying that it is a good option.  But it just doesn’t have the penetration into the non-nerd set that the iPhone does.  I know one person in the real world (e.g., people I regularly see face to face) who has an Android phone.  I know one person in the real world who doesn’t have an iPhone.  It’s the same guy.  NOTE: Yes, I am excluding the sad masses who are chained to Blackberries because their companies have not realized that Blackberries are on the Palm road to obscurity.

Apple is soundly winning the handset war, at least for now.  The new battle is for the everyday computing device.  You know, what netbooks (ugh!) were supposed to be, but were not.  Make no mistake, this battle will be fought in the browser.

And as I have told anyone who will listen, Chrome is by far the best browser.  It’s not even close.

There are only four things I have to do regularly that I can’t do right now in a browser.

1. Edit photos with Photoshop.  I can’t do that (yet) in Chrome, but I can on a Mac.  Imagine if you will a MacBook, with the Chrome browser (if not somehow the OS in a Parallels-like configuration) installed.  I could do just about everything in Chrome, and drop into OS X when I need to work with Photoshop.  Nice.

2. Edit videos in a sane, easy Format.  I am on record as to my dislike of the Mac video import and editing process.  I certainly can’t (yet) edit videos the way I want to in a browser.  For people like me who do a lot of video, this is a big issue.  For most people not so much.  Plus, at some point someone will come up with a workable cloud-based video editing solution.  All of this doesn’t scream for a MacBook+Chrome device, but neither is it a strong enough chain to bind many folks to Windows.  Yes, I know that many people believe Macs are infinitely better for video.  I disagree, but all of those who feel that way are certainly not likely to choose a Windows-based computer over a Mac.

3. Manage iTunes.  I’m also on record about the train-wreck, Apple-hampering mess that is iTunes.  I hate it, but I have to use it for my iPhone and iPad.  Once again, a MacBook+Chrome device would let me drop into OS X when needed.  Certainly no reason to stay with Windows.

4. Write Blog Posts with Live Writer.  How bizarre is it that Live Writer is the biggest thing tying me to Windows?  I can’t overstate my love for Live Writer.  But like Romeo and Juliet, it is a love that won’t last.  There are too many forces aligned against a desktop based editing app and pointing to the cloud.  The standard WordPress editor is not horrible (unlike the iPad app, which is).  At some point I will have to say farewell to Live Writer.  Unless, oh please, it finds a home in the cloud.  Then I could use it in a browser.

Taking all of this into account, it seems to me that there are three paths to travel.

A. Chrome OS on a Cr48 or its successors.  I sure would like to try this, Google. . . .

B. A MacBook+Chrome device.  But for the video thing, I’d probably be there now.  At a minimum, I expect Chrome in some form to become my primary day to day computing platform.

C. The status quo, via Windows. I’m not going to sell my Windows-based computers, but I am beginning to wonder if I’ll replace them when they grow old or die.  Even now, the large majority of my computing is being done via the Chrome browser.

All paths involve Chrome in one form or another.  One path definitely benefits Apple.  Unless something unexpected happens, Windows may end up on the path less traveled.

As a less desirable metaphor.

Why Chrome is Going to Win the Browser War

Jolie O’Dell reports that Internet Explorer’s share of the internet browser market has fallen below 50% for the first time in a very long time.  Meanwhile Firefox’s share grew by half a percent during September 2010.

Three things seem pretty clear to me.  One, Internet Explorer is fighting a war it can’t win.  Two, Firefox is going to have to scramble to stay in the game.  Three, Chrome is going to beat everybody.  Maybe sooner than later.

Internet Explorer had a good ride, replacing Navigator and becoming the people’s (default) choice for a decade or so.  I moved from Navigator to Internet Explorer back in the day (after much urging from my IT friends at my old firm), and then from Internet Explorer to Firefox a few years ago (also at the suggestion of my IT friends).  Internet Explorer seemed bloated, and Firefox seemed lithe and nimble, and offered a web-full of excellent extensions that allowed me to create something akin to a custom-made browser.  But over time, Firefox started to get a little pudgy.

Then came Chrome.

I tried Chrome when it was first released and was very under-whelmed.  I ran straight back to Firefox for another year and a half.  A few months ago I tried Chrome again, and, wow, what a difference!

Chrome, at least so far, is the best combination of efficiency (e.g., non-bloat), speed, good design (both looks and usability) and customization.  It’s both minimalist and robust.  I love it.

The universe of extensions kept me tethered to Firefox for a long time- probably too long.  When I took another look at Chrome I realized that you don’t need as many extensions with Chrome.  And I realized that the ones I really need are available.  I only use 7 extensions, but they are 7 great ones:  AdBlock, Google Dictionary, Google Mail Checker, Google Voice, iReader, NPR and RSS Subscription Extension.

Chrome is, hands down, the best browser right now.  Add Chrome’s elegant (and strategically advantageous) integration with other Google products, and Google’s obvious commitment to push out upgrades and new features, and I just don’t see how the other browsers can compete.

I’ve moved my entire family to Chrome and, unlike my disastrous attempt to move my family from Word to Google Docs (which resulted in an immediate and simultaneous mutiny on the part of every other member of my family), everybody is happy.