The 30 best Safari extensions -- so far

Before Safari 5 was released, Apple was criticized for being late to the extensions party that started with Firefox and gained ground with Chrome

MouseGestures

If you're more comfortable with the mouse than the keyboard, you might prefer Kai Straßmann's MouseGestures extension. It lets you assign actions such as "back" and "close tab" to four gestures (up, down, left and right) you make with your mouse.

To trigger a gesture, hold down the mouse button you designate in the options (typically the right or middle button) and sweep the mouse up, down, left or right. You can execute common navigational functions much more quickly with a gesture, so you can focus on getting your work done.

Privacy and security

LastPass

How many Web sites and services do you use that require you to log in with a username and password? To keep track of them all, many people use easily guessable passwords or use the same password for multiple sites (or both) -- neither of which is a smart security tactic.

That's where LastPass comes in. It securely stores all your usernames and passwords; all you need to remember is a master password.

After you sign up for a free LastPass account, the LastPass extension asks if you want it to save usernames and passwords for every site you log into. Once saved, you can set each site to log in automatically or to require your LastPass master password to log in. (We recommend the latter.) The extension creates a menu bar with links to all the sites you have saved information for, as well as a form filler to quickly enter profiles or shipping information.

More important, LastPass helps you change your worthless passwords (like HelloKitty) to much stronger ones (like J#Qq*!bnF). Go to each site's "change password" page and use LastPass's secure password generator to create complex passwords of whatever length and combination of numbers, symbols and upper- and lowercase letters you choose. You won't have to remember them, of course -- LastPass does it for you. It takes some time to update all your weak passwords this way, but the security you'll gain is well worth the investment.

Another bonus: LastPass also offers extensions for Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer, so if you use multiple browsers, your passwords will be available to you in all of them.

WOT (Web of Trust)

You can surf more safely with WOT, short for "Web of Trust." WOT compiles user-submitted safety reports to determine how trustworthy a site is. The ranking is based on these four factors:

* General trustworthiness: WOT users would likely rate the BBC as being more trustworthy than, say, "Bob's Alien News."

* Vendor reliability: Users would give a site a low rating if it had developed a reputation for ripping people off. (While this category isn't intended to be used for noncommerce sites, some people seem to be using it to rate such sites based on the usefulness of the information they provide.)

* Privacy: Ratings in this category are based on factors such as how well a site protects personal data.

* Child safety: A site that includes adult images or language would likely get a low rating from users.

When you first visit a site that WOT users consider to be safe, a green circle will flash at the top left of the screen. When you visit a suspicious site, you'll get a WOT pop-up warning message that explains why the site has been flagged as untrustworthy.

You can add your own ratings and contribute to the web of trust by clicking on the WOT button in the Safari toolbar.

Blocking annoyances

AdBlock

A port of the popular Chrome extension, AdBlock does what its name says it does: It blocks most ads, both graphic and Flash-based, from being displayed.

Plugin Customs

Plugin Customs automatically keeps content from loading if it requires any Safari plug-in (most commonly Adobe Flash). This can keep poorly coded content from slowing down your browsing or page-loading times and keep away annoying animations and video.

A gray box that displays the plug-in type is shown at the same size as the actual plug-in content. To view the content, simply click the gray box.

Shut Up

If you're just interested in articles and other content and don't care about comments and potential flame wars, Shut Up from Ricky Romero is a great plug-in because it prevents the comments section of most Web pages from loading. As a result, it also speeds up page loading and rendering.

Shellfish

Not into social networking? Open Bits Software's Shellfish blocks the various "share" buttons for most social networks that are now embedded in most articles, blog posts and other Web content.

Better social networking

Twitter for Safari

There are a plethora of Twitter-related extensions. The best, however, is the one from Twitter itself, which makes it easy to tweet about Web pages as you surf, view top trends and see who is talking about a site or article. It's handy for business users who want to keep tabs on what people are saying about their products, companies or Web sites.

The extension adds a toolbar with a Twitter search form, the top 10 trending topics on Twitter, and buttons to post new tweets or to see tweets related to whatever page you're currently looking at. Clicking "Tweet" opens your Twitter.com home page and, if you're logged in, creates a new tweet with the page title and shortened URL of whatever page you're looking at; otherwise it prompts you to log in. Clicking "Related Tweets" opens a sidebar listing the last 15 tweets that link to or mention the page you are on.

Shortenz Linkz

A number of extensions offer easy access to link-shortening services, but Shortenz Linkz from Trailing Zee Productions takes the cake: It supports the widest range of services, can be used to tweet links automatically and offers some support for customized link creation (such as for Flickr and YouTube as well as Bit.ly accounts). Shortenz Linkz isn't available in the Safari Extensions Gallery, but you can download it from the developer's site.

Facebook Cleaner

If you want your Facebook experience to be just about what's in your timeline or on your wall, SonsterMedia's Facebook Cleaner is the perfect plug-in for you. It blocks almost everything else, including ads, friend suggestions and references to things your friends like, as well application-specific items like pokes, from appearing in the Facebook sidebar. And it speeds up Facebook load times a bit.

Better Facebook

Facebook Cleaner is great if you're just interested in cleaning up Facebook's appearance, but if you want to go whole-hog with Facebook customization, give Better Facebook a whirl. The extension makes dozens of changes to your Facebook home page, such as separating status updates that originated on Facebook from posts imported from Twitter, adding your "Liked" pages to the main page, and adding buttons to mark read posts as "read" so you don't waste time re-reading them.

If you don't like any of these changes, you can easily change them back in the extension's myriad options, which also let you do everything from forcing Facebook to display the Most Recent feed instead of the edited News Feed to automatically loading older posts as you approach the bottom of the page and hiding old comments when you revisit a post to see new comments.

Another nice feature is the Privacy Scan, which uses the tool from ReclaimPrivacy.org to check your page for potential leaks of information to people other than your friends.

YourVersion

YourVersion combines the social bookmarking features of sites like Delicious with the broadcasting abilities of Twitter and Facebook and the serendipity of discovery sites like StumbleUpon.

Click the YourVersion button in your Safari toolbar and a window opens on your current page offering a shortened URL for that page. You can copy and paste it wherever you want or use the shortcuts to automatically create a Twitter post, Facebook update or e-mail message with the link embedded.

If you register for a free YourVersion account, the links you send will also be saved to your account. You can also simply bookmark pages for later reference. Entering a topic and clicking the "Discover" button opens a YourVersion page listing pages other users have shared or bookmarked that relate to your search terms. (An account is not necessary for bookmarking or Discover features.)

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