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by Tom Nelson

Have you ever wondered what’s stored in your Mac’s Utilities folder? This folder contains apps that are used to perform a number of interesting chores, from providing basic information about your Mac, to displaying complex mathematical formulas as 2D or 3D graphs, to allowing your Mac to speak, not only the text in a window, but how the window’s tools and buttons can be used.

In macOS 101: What’s in the Utility Folder, Part 1 we looked at the first ten apps Apple stores in the Utilities folder. In the second part of this article, we look at the last ten apps. Your version of the Utilities folder may contain more or fewer apps than we list here; the number fluctuates, depending on the Mac OS version you’re using. Other apps may be added by third-party developers.

If you’re ready to continue the exploration of the Utilities folder, open a Finder window and browse to /Applications/Utilities.

Grab
The Mac has been able to take screenshots since it was first introduced, by using keyboard shortcuts, such as Command + Shift + 3, to capture the entire screen, or Command +Shift + 4 to capture a user-selected portion of the screen.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To give the user a bit more control over taking screenshots, Apple includes the Grab app in the utilities folder. Grab can perform the same function as the earlier keyboard shortcuts for screen capture, but it also provides additional capabilities, such as grabbing a selected window, taking timed screenshots, or optionally showing the pointer in the screenshots.

If you’re using macOS High Sierra or earlier, you’ll find that Grab does a great job of handling the screenshot taking needs of most users. If your Mac is running macOS Mojave or later, Grab has been replaced by the newer Screenshot app. You can find out more about the Screenshot app a little further on in this guide.

To give the user a bit more control over taking screenshots, Apple includes the Grab app in the utilities folder. Grab can perform the same function as the earlier keyboard shortcuts for screen capture, but it also provides additional capabilities, such as grabbing a selected window, taking timed screenshots, or optionally showing the pointer in the screenshots.

If you’re using macOS High Sierra or earlier, you’ll find that Grab does a great job of handling the screenshot taking needs of most users. If your Mac is running macOS Mojave or later, Grab has been replaced by the newer Screenshot app. You can find out more about the Screenshot app a little further on in this guide.

Grapher
Grapher is a visualization tool for creating 2D and 3D graphs from mathematical equations. Many users of Grapher consider it an equivalent to the older graphing calculators, but with more ability to store, edit, and refine equations than a hardware-based calculator could ever do. And there’s the added benefit that the graphs you create can be saved in various formats for inclusion in other documents you may be working on.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Grapher supports popular 2D graph types such as classic, polar, linear-logarithmic, log-log and polar log. Three-D graphs can display standard system, cylindrical system, and spherical system. Graphs can include animation, though there’s an issue with exporting animated graphs that can be overcome by using the Screenshot app to capture the animated graph as a video.

Aside from the ability to export an animated graph, Grapher can export data in JPEG, TIFF, EPS, PDF and LaTeX formats.

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by Tom Nelson

Safari is the most popular web browser for the Mac, and why not; it’s fast, easy to use, and it comes with every Mac. These eight tricks (sixteen, if you count the tip included with each trick) can make you more productive, make it easier to work with Safari, or just make you scratch your head, wondering why Apple included that feature.

If you’re ready to explore a few new tricks, let’s get started.

Privacy Settings for a Website
Starting with Safari 11 and macOS High Sierra, Safari gained a number of security and privacy protections that can make surfing the web both safer and faster. These settings are normally available on a website-by-website basis, and are stored in Safari preferences, under the Websites button in the toolbar.

Accessing this part of the Safari preferences lets you see and change the privacy settings for each website you’ve visited and altered the privacy settings from the default state.

But it’s not the quickest way to make changes to a site you’re visiting; a much faster method can be found directly in the browser’s menu bar:

Select Safari, Settings for This Website.

A sheet will drop down from the browser’s URL bar, displaying the list of privacy settings for the current page.

You can alter the privacy settings on a page-by-page basis using Settings for This Website. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

You can alter the settings directly within the pane by placing checkmarks on each setting you wish to enable, or use popup menus to select from multiple options for each listed item.

You can choose to:

  • Use Readers when available
  • Enable content blockers
  • Set the page zoom level
  • Set Auto-Play levels
  • Adjust popup window settings (macOS Mojave and later)

As well as control the use of:

  • Camera
  • Microphone
  • Location

Tip: You can also access the privacy sheet for the currently loaded website by right-clicking in the URL field and selecting Settings for This Website in the popup menu. Note: The menu item is only available if the URL field hasn’t been previously selected.

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by Tom Nelson

Choosing the six best free and almost free Safari extensions is generally a fun task, though this time I had to be a bit more careful, because of the changes made in Safari 12, as well as in macOS Mojave.

Safari 12 prevents the use of some extensions, imposes limits on others, and generally mucks up the ability of the user to decide which Safari extensions they wish to use, all in the name of security and creating a unified user experience.

You don’t have to rush out and pick a different browser to use, though that’s certainly an alternative if your favorite extension is no longer supported in Safari. For the most part, Safari extensions are still supported and available. The changes primarily mean that extension developers must submit their extensions for placement in the Mac App Store, and make use of current Apple extension APIs. The upshot is that many extensions will need to be updated by their developers before they will be available for download and installation from the Mac App Store. Related: Rocket Yard Testing Lab — Which Browser is Fastest?

Two Sources for Safari Extensions
Extensions that will work in Safari 12 and later can be found from two sources: the older Safari Extension Gallery, which is being deprecated in favor of the Mac App Store. It’s still functional for now, and is a good source for many Safari extensions that haven’t yet made the transition to the new Mac App Store platform.

The second and preferred source can be found in the Mac App Store; Safari Extensions for macOS High Sierra and earlier or Safari Extensions for macOS Mojave and later.

Safari Extensions in the macOS Mojave’s Mac App Store. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

I used both of these sources to assemble our list of the six best Safari Extensions.

Safari Extensions
I liked quite a few of the new Safari extensions; they all have very low impact on Safari and the Mac’s performance, which is one of the design goals of the new extensions format. While I can recommend these six, I want to point out there are plenty of extensions to choose from in the Mac App Store, and more to come.

Ghostery Lite: More than an ad blocker, this privacy extension stops most trackers dead in their tracks, preventing them from sending personal data about your browsing habits back to the advertisers servers. It’s also able to rid web pages of those annoying customer interaction bots that pop up and offer to chat with you about a product or service, dispense with social media feeds that may be integrated into a website, block comments, adult content, audio or video, and, of course, block ads.

Ghostery Lite also allows you to include websites in a trusted sites list, which lets them override the blocking you have in place.

Ghostery Lite is lightweight, and doesn’t place a significant load on CPU or memory when operating.

Ghostery Lite is free.

Ghostery Lite’s settings allow you to customize which type of trackers are blocked. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

StopTheMadness: How often have you navigated to a website and discovered that your browser stops working as expected? Many websites suppress normal operations of a browser, preventing such routine operations as using keyboard shortcuts, opening contextual menus, copying, cutting, or pasting of text, AutoFill, and more.

If I end up at just one more website that prevents me from pasting my password into the appropriate field… Well, you get the idea. StopTheMadness does one thing I really like: it lets you take back control of your browser and thumb your nose at websites that want to control you.

StopTheMadness is $6.99

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by Tom Nelson

The Preview app is a handy tool for viewing and working with PDF (Portable Document Format) files, as outlined in the Rocket Yard guide: macOS 101: Mark It Up with Preview.  In Part Two of the guide, we’ll look at how Preview can be used for viewing and editing images.

We’ll be using Preview’s Markup toolbar, which is usually hidden. You can use the instructions from the Mark it Up with Preview guide, linked above, to access the Markup toolbar.

While it’s not a full-featured image-editing app, Preview does have some remarkable capabilities that make it a good choice for working with images, especially when you consider it’s supplied free as part of the macOS.

Destructive Editing, Auto-Save, and Versions
Preview is one of the apps that work with the Mac’s auto-save system. This means that Preview will automatically save a document as you work on it. The practical aspect to this is that Preview will use destructive editing by automatically periodically saving the changes you make to the file you’re working on. In other words, if you want to change an image back to the way it looked earlier, chances are it’s too late. Earlier versions of the image are history.

For this reason, I highly recommend that you work on a duplicate of the image file. This can be done by after opening an image in Preview by selecting Duplicate from the File menu. Give the file a new name, then use Save from the File menu. This will ensure any changes won’t affect the original file.

Optionally, you can make use of the Revert to command in the File menu to return to a previous version of the file that existed before you made any edits. This means you will lose all of the edits you made, even the ones you might want to keep.

Remove Objects from an Image
Preview has a number of tools that allow you to select an object and copy or remove the selected object from the image. One of the problems with selecting an object is the difficulty in performing a precise selection to isolate the object from the background. Preview offers two tools to perform this task: the Selection tool, which allows you to draw a rectangle, an elliptical, a free-form lasso, or a smart lasso around the desired object, and the Instant Alpha tool, which can perform a selection based on colors of objects.

Instant Alpha: This tool has been included with the Preview app for some time. It allows you to remove an object from an image, or remove the background from around an object. Instant Alpha works by making selections based on color matching, making it an ideal tool when there’s distinct difference between the object and the background.

Using Instant Alpha, you can remove the background from around an object, such as these glasses, making it easier to copy them for later use.

The instant alpha tool can be found in the Markup toolbar. It looks like a magic wand, and is usually the second tool from the left in the Markup toolbar.

To use the Instant Alpha tool, make sure the object within the image is visible in the Preview window. You may want to use the Zoom in or Zoom out icons in the standard toolbar to better focus on the object you wish to work with.

Once everything looks right, click or tap the magic wand icon.

Place your cursor near the object above the background you wish to remove.

Click and hold the mouse or touchpad while very slowly dragging the cursor over the background.

As you drag, you’ll notice the background starts to turn pink. The more you drag, the larger the area of the background is turning pink. What is happening is, as you drag the cursor, the Instant Alpha tool adjusts the range of color it will accept as a match. This lets you select more of the background as a wider color match is used. If you select too much area, you can simply drag in the opposite direction to reduce the match range.

Once you have the background selected, stop dragging, and release the mouse or trackpad button.

The pink highlight will be replaced by a dotted selection line.

Click the Delete key on the keyboard, or select Delete from the Edit menu, to remove the selected background.

You’ll likely see a sheet appear asking if it’s OK to convert the image format to PNG. This is done to ensure the deleted areas of the image are replaced with a transparent background.

You may need to repeat the process to remove background areas near the desired object that were a different color.

Once you’ve removed the background around the object, you can use any of the Selection tool types to select the object, and then select Copy from the file menu.

The selected object will be saved to your Mac’s clipboard for use in other apps.

You can save the object to a file by selecting File, New from Clipboard.

Preview will open a new image file with the object you just copied.

You can then select Save from the file menu.

Smart Lasso: The Smart Lasso tool is part of the Selection tool’s options. It allows you to draw a freeform selection line around the object you wish to copy or delete. The smart lasso will attempt to automatically adjust the selection path based on color intensity. This allows it to conform to the object you’re attempting to select.

The Smart Lasso lets you draw around an object you want to select, and will automatically resize itself to follow the outline of the selected object. Photo © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To use the Smart Lasso, make sure the object of your desire is visible within the image. Adjust the zoom in or zoom out settings as needed.

Click or tap the chevron just to the right of the Selection tool.

In the dropdown menu that appears, make sure that Smart Lasso is chosen.

Place the cursor along one of the edges of the object, then click and hold the mouse or trackpad. Start dragging a line around the object. As you drag, you will notice the freeform line being drawn has a thick border. Make sure the edge of the object you wish to extract is within the thick border of the line you are drawing.

Finish the Smart Lasso by completely surrounding the object, and returning to the starting point.

Release the mouse or trackpad; the thick line will become a dotted selection line hugging the selected object.

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by Tom Nelson

Preview, the free PDF viewing app included with the Mac, can do a lot more than view images or open PDF files to view. It includes a number of features and services that can be used for editing PDFs, working with images, even creating electronic signatures to use to sign important documents.

In this Rocket Yard guide, we’re going to explore the Preview app’s ability to fill out PDF forms and mark up files, even files that weren’t designed to be completed electronically.

Using Preview for Markup
PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format intended to ensure that documents can be exchanged reliably, independent of the type of software or hardware being used to view, print, or edit them. In other words, that PDF file you’re viewing on a Mac will look the same when viewed on a PC, or for that matter, any device that supports PDFs.

Preview supports more than just viewing; you can also mark up a PDF file in order to add additional information. One of the most common uses for a PDF file is as a form intended for an individual to fill out. When a PDF file is created for this purpose, the creator of the file can make the process easier by adding predefined text boxes, check boxes, graphics, links to instructions, just about anything that will make the process of completing the form an easier one. A well-designed PDF form can make the process an easy one.

But even PDFs that weren’t designed as forms can still have information added to them in a process commonly referred to as marking up a document, or simply mark up.

Finding the Markup Tools
Launch Preview, which you’ll find in the /Applications folder.

Preview opens by asking for a document to load. If you don’t have a PDF document to experiment with, I suggest a trip to the IRS.gov website. Download any of the IRS forms, which are available as PDFs ready to be filled in. You can also elect to open a JPG image file, or perhaps one of the OWC manuals you’ve downloaded from the OWC support website.

The Markup toolbar is usually hidden, and has to be opened before you can use it. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Select the file you wish to open, and click the Open button.

With the selected PDF file now open, you can access the Markup tools by ensuring that Preview’s toolbar is displayed. Select Show Toolbar from Preview’s View menu.

If the toolbar wasn’t displayed before, you’ll now see a small toolbar across the top of the Preview window. It will include buttons for zooming in or out, sharing, rotating, search, and a few other options.

Just to the left of the search bar is a button that looks like the tip of a pen or pencil within a circle. (Depending on the version of the Mac OS you’re using, the button may look like a little toolbox.) Clicking or tapping this button will display the Markup toolbar just below the standard toolbar.

Using the Markup Toolbar
At the time of this writing, the Markup toolbar contains eleven or twelve tools (depending on the Mac model you’re using) you can use for marking up a PDF file. We will look at each one, and how it is used. The markup tool list below starts with the first tool on the left-hand side of the window and moves to the right:

Text Selection: This tool is used for selecting and copying text. To select text, click the Text Selection button (it turns blue when active), and then drag over the text you wish to choose. In many cases, the Text Selection tool may already be selected, allowing you to simply drag across text to make the selection; in other cases, the Text Selection tool may need to be enabled first.

Once text is selected, you can copy it by selecting Edit, Copy, or by using the keyboard shortcut Command + C, or right-clicking and selecting Copy from the popup menu. Text you have selected can also be subject to other markup tools, as mentioned below.

Rectangular Selection: Use this tool to draw a selection rectangle over an image.  The rectangle can be resized using the selection handles as well as moved about the PDF document by dragging from any side. Once in place, you can then copy or remove the area selected.

Sketch: The sketch tool allows you to draw an arbitrary shape using a single stroke.  If the shape you draw looks like a standard shape (arc, square, rectangle, circle, oval, star) it will be replaced by the standard shape. A palette will also be displayed, showing the original and the standard shape. Use the palette to pick which of the two shapes you wish to use.

Draw: This tool only appears if your Mac is equipped with a Force Touch trackpad. It works the same as the sketch tool above, but interprets the force being applied to the trackpad to determine the width of the line being drawn.

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by Tom Nelson

Backing up your Mac can be a very easy process. Pick a drive to use for your backups, turn on Time Machine, and you have a basic backup system in place with very little effort. Time Machine has a lot going for it, including the ability to recover older versions of a file from the backup device. That can be invaluable when you need to know what was in a document a few versions back, or even a few years back.

But there are a few things Time Machine doesn’t do well, such as restoring all of the data on a failing startup drive. The process of recovering the information from a Time Machine drive can be long and arduous, and having to wait a few hours to get back to work can really throw a monkey wrench into your schedule.

That’s one of the reasons I recommend using a second backup strategy, based around cloning the data on your startup drive. Cloning can let you get back up and running in the time it takes to restart your Mac. It lets you continue to work while you order a replacement storage device for the volume that failed. It can also take some of the tension out of what can be a very stressful time.

Using Time Machine and a cloned startup drive is such a powerful backup system that it’s the basis for all of the backups in our home and office environments.

Which brings us to this week’s Rocket Yard guide: Use Multi-Bay Enclosures for Better Backups.

Using External Enclosures with Two or More Bays
Let me be clear: a multi-drive backup system doesn’t have to be built from multi-bay enclosures. You can successfully make use of multiple single drive enclosures and achieve equivalent results. But using multi-bay enclosures has a few advantages:

  • Fewer power bricks and cords to clutter up your work area.
  • A single connection to your Mac leaves more ports available for other uses.
  • Available with 2, 4, or 6 drive bays, or even more.
  • Many multi-bay enclosures support various RAID types.
  • Can be used for multiple tasks, such as backups, media libraries, bulk storage, and media editing.

External Enclosures to Consider
With so many multi-bay drive enclosures available, you may want to look at the following as good examples of enclosures to consider for this backup system.

The Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini houses two storage devices in the smallest of our suggested enclosures.

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini: This dual-bay enclosure is designed to accept 2.5-inch drives, the same size used for most laptop drives as well as SATA-based SSDs. It makes use of hardware-based RAID that supports RAID 0, 1, SPAN, and Independent drive modes. The enclosure makes use of USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, providing speeds up to 10 Gb/s. Its small size and use of USB 3.1 Gen 2 connections make it a great choice for backups, as well as image or music libraries.

The Mercury Elite Pro Quad can house up to four drives, and connects using USB 3.1 Gen 2.

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Quad: This quad-bay enclosure works with both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch SATA-based drives, with no adapters needed. It comes with SoftRAID XT Lite, supporting RAID 0, 1, JBOD. This enclosure uses USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, providing speeds up to 10Gb/s. This enclosure is also available with an advanced version of SoftRAID that adds support for RAID 4, 5, and RAID 1+0.

OWC ThunderBay 4: A quad-bay enclosure that supports 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives with no adapters needed. It makes use of SoftRAID XT Lite, and supports RAID 0, 1, and JBOD. This quad enclosure makes use of Thunderbolt 3 to provide the highest sustained performance of our suggested enclosures for backup.

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by Tom Nelson

If you’ve been using iTunes for a long time, you may have noticed how it changed from a good music player into a strong multimedia player, became a music, video, and app store, as well as a file and device manager for syncing, backing up, and restoring iOS devices.

Lost in all the changes was its original strength: simply playing and managing media on a Mac.

If iTunes now seems a bit unwieldy to you, there are alternatives available that can likely meet most of your needs. The key word here is “most” of your needs. As far as I’ve seen, there’s no single iTunes replacement that can do everything iTunes does. But if your main interest is playing media, or organizing your multimedia library, there are quite a few alternatives available. If you’re looking for an app to manage your devices, perform backups, and transfer files between devices, there are some good choices for that as well. Related article: How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Drive

Swinsian – Free trial; $19.95
If you’re looking for a media player to play music and manage your libraries, Swinsian may be a good fit. Swinsian is easy to set up; it can import your existing iTunes music library, and you can set up specific folders for Swinsian to monitor. Drop an album or track into one of the folders, and Swinsian will import it into its library for you.

Swinsian displays your media library in a compact but customizable window. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Swinsian supports a large number of file formats, including FLAC, MP3, AAC, ALAC, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WAV, Opus, AC3, AIFF, Musepack (MPC), DSF, and APE.

And while being able to play music on your Mac from different file types is helpful, it can be a problem when you want to transfer a music file to your iPod or IOS devices. Swinsian has you covered there, with automatic transcoding of file formats to ones supported by the device you’re moving them to. No need for a separate app to translate file formats.

Other features include:

  • Album art: Swinsian can find and download album art automatically, and display it within the player.
  • Duplicate track finder: If your music library looks anything like mine, the ability to find duplicate tracks and eliminate them may be worth the price of admission alone.
  • AirPlay support.
  • Smart playlists: Build new playlists based on a wide range of criteria including rating, artist, title, bit rate, play count, and much more.
  • Mini player.
  • 10 or 31 band equalizer.
  • Gapless playback.
  • Support for cue files or embedded cue information.

Plus many more features.

Swinsian’s interface will remind you of iTunes before it became so bloated with features. The interface is easy to move about in; using the music browser simplifies finding music. And the interface is highly customizable, allowing you to rearrange and add information as you see fit.

If your main need is for a versatile and easy-to-use music player, Swinsian is a good choice. Its focus is being a music player, and library and playlist manager.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

There are many features of the Mac that are often overlooked by new users, or simply forgotten about by those who have been using Macs for a while. In some cases, the feature is used once when setting up a Mac, and then vanishes from memory; other times, the feature is never stumbled upon. No matter the reason, this collection of six “forgettable” Mac tips deserves to be remembered.

Customize Icons
Icons, those little images that represent apps, documents, folders, drives, and a few other items, are used extensively throughout the Mac’s interface. They’re most prominent in the Dock, in the Finder, and on the Desktop.

Personalizing your Mac by using custom icons can add a bit of flair as well as allow you to better organize your Mac’s file system. Apple already provides custom folder icons for the Applications folder, Documents folder, Downloads, Movies, Music, Pictures, and a few others, but most of the folders on your Mac will use generic folder icons. The same is true for storage devices mounted on your desktop, and files on your Mac.

You can replace a file, folder, or drive icon with one of your own making, or one acquired from the many websites that specialize in Mac and Window icons, many of which are free.

The thumbnail icon displayed in the Get Info window can be used to copy a favorite icon, or to replace it with a new one. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

One of the simplest ways to change an icon is to copy/paste an icon using this tip:

Right-click or control-click on the icon you wish to copy, and then select Get Info from the popup menu that appears.

In the Get Info window that opens (the window will be in the upper left corner of your display and may be hidden by other windows), you’ll see a thumbnail icon in the top left corner.

Click or tap once to select the thumbnail, then select Copy from the File menu or hit the command + C keys on your keyboard.

The icon will be copied to the Mac’s built-in clipboard.

Find the file, folder, or drive icon you wish change.

Right-click or control-click on the icon.

In the Get Info window that opens, click or tap the thumbnail icon to select it, then use Paste from the File menu, or command + V on the keyboard, to paste the icon from the clipboard onto the selected item.

That’s the easy way to copy/paste icons from one source to a new destination. But what if you want to create a custom icon from scratch?

We’ve got you covered with Create Your Own Custom Icons.

Other World Computing also has a webpage full of drive icons you’re welcome to use. You’ll find them at: Custom Drive Icons.

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by Tom Nelson

When asked what browser they use on their Mac, most people will respond with Google Chrome or Apple Safari. Some will mention Firefox and Opera as alternatives to the big two.

It seems each browser has its advocates, with browser features, speed, and user interface being the most often named reasons for a preference. It would be difficult to try to measure the benefits of a browser’s features, or its user interface, but we can test a browser’s speed, and who doesn’t enjoy a good race?

So, let’s line up the competitors and see who gets to the finish line the fastest.

The Browsers
The four most popular Mac browsers are included in our benchmark testing, along with Safari Technology Preview (STP), a browser in beta form designed to showcase new technology that will likely make its way into Safari at some future date. We’re including it just to provide a sneak peek at what will be coming down the line.

Chrome: Google Chrome has become the most used desktop browser, with an estimated 68% share of the desktop market (2018). It was first released in 2008, and made use of the WebKit rendering engine, the same one used by Safari. In 2013, the Chromium project was announced; it included the new Blink rendering engine. Blink was a fork of the WebKit code, and since the two have parted ways, each rendering engine has seen a frantic pace in its development.

Firefox: Could be considered one of the oldest browsers available. Firefox can trace its heritage back to Netscape Navigator, one of the first widely available web browsers. Firefox may have a long history, but it is, in all respects, a modern browser. It includes the newest version of the Quantum rendering engine, designed to bring new technologies to Firefox by building on the foundation of the older, but very stable, Gecko engine.

Opera: Another browser that can follow its heritage back into the dim beginnings of the world wide web. Although Opera has been around for a very long time, its technology is quite new; it’s based on the same Blink rendering engine used in Chrome.

Safari: Apple’s Safari web browser has been the default browser app since 2003 and the release of OS X Panther. Safari makes use of WebKit as its rendering engine.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Safari Technology Preview, often referred to as STP, is a web browser for the Mac. STP was designed as a testbed to evaluate new browser technology that Apple is considering using in future releases of Safari. Think of it as a public beta for the next generation of the Safari browser, but with a few important differences over conventional beta software.

First off, STP is amazingly stable, which is a pretty amazing thing to say for an app that is, at its heart, a framework for Apple to plug in modules to test out various concepts. At any time, STP may be running an updated version of WebKit, the rendering engine that powers Safari. It could also have a new or updated JavaScript engine, updated CSS technology, new features, developer tools, and security measures. With all these new or updated components, you would think STP would be prone to errors and crashes, but in actual use, Safari Technology Preview remains very stable, a testament to the developers and the testing process being used with this beta browser.

Second, frequent updates ensure that bugs, once found, are quickly fixed. Likewise, new technologies that are being developed are likely going to be first publicly seen in STP, at least for Mac users, and updated frequently with each STP release.

What Are STP’s Features?
A better question would be, what are the recent features since STP is updated so frequently. In the two most recent updates (STP 71 and STP 72), Safari Technology Preview has seen new additions to its list of experimental features:

Web animation can be used to bring life to a web page, or simply to animate a galaxy of swirling points of lights. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

  • Web animation: STP gained support for Web animation, part of the W3C standard. In addition, STP can translate older CSS animation to the newer and faster web animation standard.
  • Web authentication using USB security devices: This set of programming APIs allows USB-based security devices to be used for authenticating login credentials. Apple is testing the Client-to-Authenticator protocol part of the FIDO2 standard that would allow a hardware key, in this case in the form of a USB stick, to be used in place of passwords as a login credential for web services.
  • Dark Mode support: Safari gained support for Dark Mode in Mojave.
  • WebGPU: A future standard, still being worked on, that allows a computer’s GPU to be used to accelerate rendering of both 2D and 3D graphics images within the browser.
  • WebMetal: Similar to WebGPU but specific to the Metal-enabled GPUs used in some Macs (mostly 2012 and later models).
  • WebRTC: Web Real-Time Communication is an open-source standard that allows audio and video communications to work within a web page using direct peer-to-peer communications.

Safari Technology Preview contains many additional features and capabilities, way too many to list here. You can discover more by stopping by the Safari Technology Preview developer’s page (developer membership is not required).

General features of STP include:

  • It allows you to try out the latest web technology.
  • If you’re a web developer, STP contains a wide collection of developer tools.
  • Independent of the standard version of Safari, you can run STB and Safari side-by-side, with no interaction between them.
  • STP Bug Reporter not only allows you to report bugs you encounter, but you can also make enhancement and feature requests.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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