Six settings to enhance browsing in Safari

Safari has several options that can be used to reduce clutter and troubleshoot problems with Web sites you frequent.

Among third-party options like Chrome and Firefox, Apple's Safari browser for OS X offers a well-integrated and easy option for viewing Web content on a Mac. However, there are some default settings in Safari that, with a few tweaks, can offer some enhancements to your browsing experience.

Safari General preferences
Tab and window management options are available in the General section of Safari's preferences. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  1. Set homepage options
    The first options are those you will see whenever you create a new Safari window or tab, and these are located in the General section of the Safari preferences. In here, you can choose to open new windows and tabs with an empty page, Safari's Top Sites view, the same page that was loaded on the last active tab or window, or a custom home page you specify in the Homepage field. In addition, you can choose to load an organized folder of tabs when you open a new window, which can be set up in Safari's bookmarks organization interface.

    If you use the Top Sites feature, you can also set the number of previews to show in the same preferences pane. By default it shows 12, but you can select either six or 24, depending on your needs.
  2. Block pop-up windows in Safari
    Check this option to prevent pages from opening new windows. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  3. Block pop-up windows
    Older versions of Safari had an option to block pop-up windows in the program menu. Apple has removed this option from the menu, but the feature is still available. Now you need to enable it by checking the appropriate box in the Security pane of Safari's preferences. With it enabled, Web sites will be prevented from launching new browser windows, which on some spam sites can result in many windows opening at once and cluttering your display.
  4. Web site cookies and caches in OS X
    Click this button to select specific Web sites to remove cookies and other stored content from. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  5. Clear site-specific data
    Web sites you visit often store site-specific settings in cookies and caches. If this data is corrupted, then sites may not load properly, or show odd behavior like not accepting log-in credentials. Often when Web sites have such problems you can try clearing cookies and other site-specific data, but using the Reset Safari option will clear data from all of your Web sites, which may not be preferable. Instead, go to the Privacy section of Safari's preferences and click "Details," under the option to remove all Web site data. In the panel that appears, you can search for a site you've visited to remove data for that site only.
  6. Site-specific plug-in settings in Safari
    Choose site-specific handling for your plug-ins from the drop-down menus on the right. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  7. Manage site-specific plug-in options
    Similar to the management of site-specific data, the plug-ins that Web sites use to display content can be managed on a per-site basis. While Safari has an option in its Security preferences to allow or block plug-ins, next to this option is a "Manage Website Settings" button that will allow you to specify not only how Safari handles each plug-in globally, but also how Safari will do so for specific Web sites.

    To do this, after clicking the button, you can select a plug-in and choose the restriction level to use for other Web sites. This will bring up the global settings for the plug-in, as well as individual options for sites listed.
  8. Safari Advanced system preferences
    Safari's develop menu offers options to clear caches and debug scripts. You can also switch the default Tab key behavior to select all interactive items on a page. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  9. Enable the Develop menu
    When troubleshooting Web sites in Safari, it may help to clear your browser's cache, or disable caches altogether. This way, content is always loaded directly from remote servers instead of from a local temporary store. This option is not available in Safari by default, but is supported if you enable the Develop menu. This menu can be activated by checking the corresponding box at the bottom of the Advanced section of Safari's preferences. In this menu, you will not only have options for managing Safari's cache, but also ones to enable WebGL, change user agent identifiers, and use developer tools such as JavaScript debugging panels, and HTML source code viewers and editors.
  10. Tab through all items on a page
    The last option is to be able to tab through all items on a page with which you can interact. By default, the Tab key will shift focus through various text fields and buttons, but if you hold the Option key while pressing Tab, Safari will highlight links and other objects, and pressing Enter will activate that link. While this is the default setup, you can reverse this behavior in the Advanced section of Safari's preferences by enabling "Press Tab to highlight each item on a webpage."

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