How to Install, Manage, and Delete Safari Extensions

Firefox and Safari browsers on OS X

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 Ever since OS X Lion and the release of Safari 5.1, the Safari web browser has included support for extensions that allow users to add features that Apple may never even have thought of.

Getting Started

Safari Extensions in use

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Extensions are provided by third-party developers who create the add-on code that uses Safari’s web features for specific tasks, such as making it easier to search Amazon, allowing an app, such as 1Password, to integrate with the browser and create an easy-to-use password management system, or adding an effective way to block pop-up ads.

You'll also find that most social media sites have Safari extensions that make posting to your favorite social site as simple as clicking on a button in the Safari toolbar.

Extensions were actually included with Safari 5.0, although they were disabled. If you happen to be using this older version of Safari, you can turn Extensions on. Once the Develop menu is enabled, select the Develop menu and click the Enable Extensions item in the menu.

How to Install Safari Extensions

Safari Extensions Installation

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Installing Safari extensions is an easy process; a simple click or two is all it takes.

The first thing to do is download an extension. For this guide, we're going to use a simple little extension called Amazon Search Bar. Click the Amazon Search Bar link to open it. You'll see the developer's web page, with a Download Extension for Safari button.

Go ahead and click the button to download the Amazon Search Bar. The download can then be found in the Downloads folder on your Mac and will be named Amazon Search Bar.safariextz

Installing a Safari Extension

Safari extensions use one of two methods of installation. Extensions offered directly from Apple via the Safari Extensions Gallery are self-installing; just click the Install button and the installation is automatic.

Extensions you download directly from developers and other websites require you to install them by launching the downloaded extension file.

Safari extension files end in .safariextz. They contain the extension code as well as a built-in installer.

To install a Safari extension, simply double-click the .safariextz file you downloaded and follow any on-screen instructions. Generally, you'll be reminded to only install extensions that come from a trusted source.

Using the Amazon Search Bar Extension

Once the installation process is complete, you'll see a new toolbar in your Safari window. The Amazon Search Bar has a search box that lets you quickly search for products on Amazon, plus a few buttons that give you quick access to your shopping cart, wish list, and other Amazon goodies. Give the Amazon Search Bar a whirl, perhaps to look for a new Mac or a new mystery by your favorite author.

When you've finished taking the new extension for a test drive, go to the next page of this guide to discover how to manage your ever-growing collection of Safari extensions.

How to Manage or Delete Safari Extensions

Safari Extensions preferences

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Once you start loading up on extensions for your Safari browser, you're probably going to want to manage their use, or uninstall the extensions you don't like or just never use.

You manage Safari extensions from within the Safari application, using the Safari Preferences dialog box.

Manage Safari Extensions

  1. If it's not already running, launch Safari.
  2. From the Safari menu, select Preferences.
  3. In the Safari Preferences window, click the Extensions tab.
  4. The Extensions tab provides easy control over all installed extensions. You can globally turn all extensions on or off, as well as turn extensions on or off individually.
  5. Installed extensions are listed in the left-hand pane. When an extension is highlighted, its settings are displayed in the right-hand pane.
  6. Settings for extensions vary widely. In our Amazon Search Bar extension example, which we installed on page 2 of this article, the settings allow users to change the width of the Amazon search box and define what window or tab should be used to open search results.
  7. Some Safari extensions have no setting options, other than to enable or disable them.

Removing Safari Extensions

All extensions include an uninstall option, which you can access by selecting the extension, and then click the Uninstall button in the Options pane.

Extensions are physically located at /Home directory/Library/Safari/Extensions. Your library folder is hidden, but you can use the guide, OS X Is Hiding Your Library Folder to access the hidden folders.

Once in the Extensions folder, you'll see each of your extension.safariextz files stored here, along with an Extensions.plist. Do not manually uninstall an extension by deleting the .safariextz file from the Extensions directory. Always use the uninstaller in Safari's preferences. We mention the Extensions directory only for informational purposes, and for the remote possibility that an extension file becomes corrupt and can’t be removed from within Safari. In that case, a trip to the Extensions folder should allow you to drag the Safari extension to the trash.

Where to Find Safari Extensions

Safari Extensions Gallery

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Now that you know how to download, install, manage, and delete Safari extensions, it’s time to find the best places to download them from.

You can find Safari extensions by performing an Internet search on the term "safari extensions." You'll find many sites that list either a collection of extensions or individual extension developers.

Safari extensions are generally safe to install. Apple requires all extensions to run within their own sandbox; that is, they can’t access other Mac services or apps beyond the basic tools provided by the Safari extension environment.

Starting with Safari 9 and OS X El Capitan, Apple created a secure extension distribution system that guarantees that all extensions in the Safari Extensions Gallery are hosted and signed by Apple. This should prevent rogue extensions from being added to Safari, provided you download them from the Safari Extensions Gallery.

You can download Safari extensions directly from developers, as well as sites that gather a collection of Safari extensions, but you should be careful of these sources. A nefarious developer could package any type of app into a file resembling a Safari extension. While we haven't actually heard of this happening, it's best to be on the safe side and download from reputable developers or well-known sites that check the authenticity of the extensions.