Creating A Minimal Browsing Experiencing in Safari

Years ago, back when theming a Mac was possible, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend hours tweaking the way the menu bar looked or changing the stock icons of my favorite apps. These days I’m pretty content with the way OS X looks though, which is good since Apple’s greatly reduced the ability to customize it. In any event, I’ve always done my best to hide things that didn’t need to be seen. Case in point, this screenshot from 2008 where I meticulously picked out every icon to match the wallpaper.

I’m no where near as into customizing as I used to be, but I still try to keep things as minimal as possible. Bartender’s a great example of an app that does that by keeping my menu bar tidy. I rely heavily on Bartender’s ability to only show an item in the menu bar if it detects a change. In fact thanks to that feature, on a regular basis, I only have 3 things in my menu bar: Healthier only when I’m at my desk, Fantastical, and the time (and of course the dots are Bartender itself).

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Somehow Safari ended up being the next app to be caught in my minimizing grasps and the results are a Safari interface that’s as minimal as I’ve ever had it. The minimalism isn’t just for looks though. It’s actually changed my behavior, making me more mindful of my browsing and more efficient too.

Hide Unnecessary Extensions and Buttons in the Toolbar

The first thing I did to simplify Safari was to hide any uncessary extensions and buttons on the toolbar. Only the things I truly use regularly need to be in the toolbar for quick access. For me this meant things like the Pinterest button didn’t make the cut. Pinterest unfortunately doesn’t have Share extension support where I’d prefer it to be located, but I’ll share my solution in a second. 1Password, the Share extension, and downloads are the only thing occupying the right side of my toolbar these days.

Remove the Favorites Bar

The next thing I removed was the favorites bar. This was a pretty big step for me. I’ve always had the favorites bar shown in my browsers for as long as I’ve been using a computer. I was worried I’d miss it, and I did for about 20 minutes. After those 20 minutes, my muscle memory had completely switched to using Alfred to launch my most visited sites.

Configure Alfred to Launch Bookmarklets

One thing Alfred couldn’t replicate out of the box was the bookmarklets that lived in my favorites bar. Paprika, my recipe manager of choice, allows you to import recipes from websites, but it does so using a bookmarklet rather than an extension. (Maybe one day that will change.) Without access to my favorites bar, saving a recipe became a lot more complicated than a single click. Thankfully, I found a wonderful Alfred workflow that let’s you trigger a bookmarklet with a keyword. I used “paprika” as the keyword to launch Paprika’s bookmarklet purely so I didn’t need to remember something else. Now when I’m on a site, I just need to launch Alfred and start typing paprika to get the bookmarklet.

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With the bookmarklet solution figured out for Paprika, I used the same workflow to make one for Pinterest. Remember I removed the button from the toolbar, so I needed a way to pin things. Pinterest’s bookmarklet, available originally for the iPhone before it got it’s own dedicated share extension, is available here.

New Windows Open Blank

Rather than launch a particular page or display my favorites, I opted to have new windows launch with a blank page. Minimal yes, but it has greatly reduced the mindless visiting of certain sites that I found myself opening purely because of habit. So here you have it folks, my Safari experience.

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The Mindful Browsing Extension

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My last Safari tweak is actually the addition of an extension called Mindful Browsing. If I find myself visiting a distracting site, I can click a button on the toolbar to block the site. Next time I visit it, I’ll be met with a timer (set to a time of your choosing) and a message asking me to reconsider my decision. Another handy addition is the inclusion of when you last visited the site, which serves as a great reminder for how often you actually visit distracting sites.

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