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Posts tagged with "safari"

Unobstruct Clears a Path to a Better Web Reading Experience

Too many websites wreck the reading experience by floating interface elements on top of articles. One of the worst offenders has been Medium, which John Gruber called out on Daring Fireball recently. Medium has made some improvements since then but didn’t eliminate floaters, and there are many other sites with social media buttons, branded navigation bars, and other material that hovers over webpages even as you scroll down the page. The practice makes it especially hard to read on the smaller screens of mobile devices.

Inspired by the Daring Fireball article and a JavaScript bookmarklet to which Gruber later linked, Troy Gaul, a developer at The Iconfactory, created Unobstruct, a Safari content blocker for iOS that eliminates floating bars, buttons, and other UI elements. The simple app, which Gaul fittingly announced in a post on Medium, removes any HTML that is set to sit on top of a site’s content and not scroll.

Unobstruct doesn’t hide persistent navigation bars by default because doing so would make it impossible to get around some sites. Instead, you can use the app’s action extension from the share sheet to hide the bar. Later, if you need the navigation bar, you can simply reload the page to get it back.

I love Unobstruct’s colorful and feisty robot icon. It adds a bit of fun and whimsy to an otherwise utilitarian app. For insight into the icon’s design, be sure to check out Ged Maheux’s blog post, in which he details how he started the design by making rough sketches in The Iconfactory’s drawing app Linea, then moved to Adobe Illustrator after Gaul had picked his favorite.

Unobstruct doesn’t block as broad a variety of webpage elements as some content blockers, but its singular focus on floaters pays off. In my testing, the app worked flawlessly to remove floating buttons automatically, as did the extension for eliminating navigation bars. Branding and sharing are important to websites, but they shouldn’t get in the way of the core experience – reading. The trend of obscuring content with floaters is a shame, but I’m glad I have Unobstruct to make browsing those sites a little nicer each day.

Unobstruct is available on the App Store.


Adobe Flash’s Days Are Officially Numbered

Adobe announced today that it has set the end-of-life date for Flash, its popular technology for displaying animations and other multimedia on the web.

Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.

Apple has a long and storied history with Adobe and, more pointedly, Flash. When the first iPhone launched ten years ago, one of the chief controversies at the time surrounded the fact that Safari on iPhone OS did not support Flash, and Steve Jobs made it clear that it would not support Flash.

This stance grew into more of a sticking point for prospective consumers in 2010 when Apple’s new tablet, the iPad, did not support Flash either. Sparked by the newly revised controversy, Jobs laid out his thoughts on the issue in a piece simply titled “Thoughts on Flash.” His closing words predicted the technology could not survive in an increasingly mobile-first landscape.

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice...New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

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Apple Issues Statement Regarding Consumer Reports’ Battery Tests

Shortly before the winter holidays, Consumer Reports announced that the new MacBook Pro had failed to earn its ‘recommended’ rating due to poor battery life caused by Safari. Apple disputed the testing done by Consumer Reports and worked with it over the holidays to track down the discrepancy between its testing and Consumer Reports’ results. Today, Apple released the following statement to a handful of outlets, including iMore and The Loop:

"We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results," Apple told iMore. "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we've ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we're glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro."

There have been reports of battery life issues with the MacBook Pro that are unrelated to Safari, but this should put the Safari issues raised by Consumer Reports to rest.


Apple Pay Arrives on Safari

Apple Pay started with point of sale terminals and iOS apps. With iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, Apple has extended Apple Pay to include web-based purchases made with its Safari browser. Despite being limited to Safari, Apple Pay's combination of simplicity and security has the potential to make it a de facto requirement for online retailers.

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New Video Policies for iOS

Jer Noble on the WebKit blog:

Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, Safari on iOS has required a user gesture to play media in a <video> or <audio> element. When Safari first supported <video> in iPhoneOS 3, media data loaded only when the user interacted with the page. But with the goal of returning more control over media playback to web developers, we relaxed this restriction in iOS 8: Safari began honoring the preload="metadata" attribute, allowing <video> and <audio> elements to load enough media data to determine that media’s size, duration, and available tracks. For Safari in iOS 10, we are further relaxing this user gesture requirement for silent <video> elements.

There are a few new <video> policies in iOS 10, and the WebKit blog goes into great technical detail about what they all are. But for most users, there will be two main changes that you'll notice in iOS 10. The first is that iOS 10 will now support the ability to play videos automatically if they are silent. For example, some websites have a silent video background (e.g. The Life of Pi movie website), and others use it as an alternative to displaying GIFs. In iOS 10 these will be able to play automatically without a user interacting with it. It is important to note that this feature of automatic playback will only be triggered if a video has no audio tracks or is muted.

The second change is that on the iPhone, user-triggered video will not automatically enter full screen mode. Instead, videos will play inline, just as they do currently on the iPad and on Android. Full screen mode is still available, but a user will have to trigger that manually.

These may seem like small tweaks, but they are notable improvements to the video experience on Safari for iOS. The first brings the iPad and iPhone one step closer to the Mac/PC web experience, whilst the second is a recognition that iPhones have become large enough and powerful enough that it is entirely feasible that users may wish to view videos inline and continue browsing the webpage that has embedded the video.

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Roadblock for OS X Review

Content blockers arrived with a splash on iOS last Fall when iOS 9 was released, but have only recently begun showing up on the Mac App Store. Last month I reviewed 1Blocker, a Safari content blocker that replicated its successful iOS app on the Mac. Today, Obied Corner released Roadblock for Mac, which takes its iOS content blocker and adds some compelling new features. What makes Roadblock unique, is its focus on profiles, allow you to set up different sets of content blocking rules for different use cases, and its simplified approach to creating complex custom rules. Despite a few limitations that I discuss below, these two features make Roadblock extremely powerful and an excellent choice if you are looking for a content blocker for your Mac.

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1Blocker Brings Content Blocking with iCloud Sync to the Mac

If you are familiar with 1Blocker for iOS, then you will have no trouble figuring out 1Blocker for Mac because the two are nearly identical. What Federico explained about 1Blocker for iOS in his iOS 9 review applies equally well to the Mac version:

1Blocker [is] an excellent all-in-one Content Blocker that can block ads, trackers, social widgets, Disqus comments, web fonts, adult sites, and that lets you create your own rules for URLs, cookies, and page elements to hide or block. 1Blocker is Universal and it comes with over 7000 built-in rules, which you can individually turn on and off.

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Apple Launches Safari Technology Preview for OS X

Safari is joining the growing collection of apps and developer tools that Apple wants to open up for public testing. Earlier today, Apple unveiled Safari Technology Preview, a separate version of Safari for OS X that will allow users and developers to test upcoming WebKit features.

Safari Technology Preview (which, unlike the regular Safari, has a purple icon) is a standalone app that will be updated every two weeks from the Mac App Store.

The browser will be fully compatible with iCloud: contrary to WebKit Nightly previews (the existing way of testing upcoming WebKit changes), Safari Technology Preview supports iCloud Tabs, Reading List, bookmarks, and every other iCloud feature of the stable version of Safari. Integration with iCloud should make it easier for users and developers to test Safari Technology Preview as their daily browser as they won't lose access to their iCloud account and personal data.

Here's Apple's Ricky Mondello:

Safari Technology Preview is a standalone application that can be used side-by-side with Safari or other web browsers, making it easy to compare behaviors between them. Besides having the latest web features and bug fixes from WebKit, Safari Technology Preview includes the latest improvements to Web Inspector, which you can use to develop and debug your websites. Updates for Safari Technology Preview will be available every two weeks through the Updates pane of the Mac App Store.

Features already available for testing include support for the latest iteration of JavaScript (ECMAScript 6), the B3 JavaScript JIT compiler, and a new way to programmatically cut and copy to the clipboard in response to a gesture.

Safari Technology Preview requires a Mac running OS X 10.11.4 and it's available for download today here.


Sidefari Adds iPhone Support with Updated Safari View Controller Extension

Sidefari's new iPhone extension.

Sidefari's new iPhone extension.

I first covered Sidefari by Francisco Cantu last month, noting how such a clever idea had arisen from Apple's limitations in the multitasking framework of iOS 9 for iPad:

Sidefari essentially acts as an on-demand Safari View Controller built into an app that does nothing else, and that's been made available for Split View. In its simplicity, I find Sidefari to be an ingenious idea for an app that uses a built-in technology to work around a limitation of Apple's multitasking design in iOS 9. By using Safari View Controller, Sidefari comes with a series of Safari features available by default (such as autofill and Reader); for Safari users, this is a superior alternative to using Safari and a browser like Chrome in Split View, as third-party browsers can't access user data and settings from Safari.

I've been using Sidefari extensively on my iPad: while other third-party browsers exist with support for Split View (notably, both Google Chrome and the Google app can be used to browse webpages alongside Safari), Sidefari brings the convenience of having an instance of Safari that looks and behaves like the system browser. This convenience applies to design and security features, but also to everyday tricks like holding the address bar to open a URL or built-in Reader mode.

Yesterday, Cantu updated Sidefari with iPhone support and other minor improvements on the iPad. On the iPhone, the app now offers an action extension to open any link modally in Safari View Controller from any app. This is reminiscent of Browsecurely in that you can summon Safari views from apps that don't support them– like Twitter's official app – and it works well. On the iPad, the app has two new options: the address bar now doubles as a search box for Google search so you can type any query in it, and you can set a Home page to open with an icon in the main view. Both additions are quite handy if you want to save a little bit of time when using Safari and Safari View Controller simultaneously (the latter doesn't let you tap the address bar to search manually, nor can you access bookmarks with it).

Sidefari has become one of my must-have utilities on the iPad, and I'm glad it's on the iPhone too. Sidefari is available at $0.99 on the App Store.