Mac Users Get Simpler Safari Add-ons, Office 2011 Preview

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If you head is spinning with all things Apple, you are not alone. Apple released Safari 5.0.1 today, following Tuesday's announcement of iMac, Mac Pro, and display updates. In addition, Microsoft previewed its Office 2011 plans for the Mac.

The Safari Web browser now officially supports third-party extensions, bringing little add-ons like Flashblock and Greasemonkey to the masses. The update also addresses some security and compatibility issues, including 32-bit JavaScript encryption, compatibility with certain Web sites, and Flash 10.1 compatibility.

For small businesses that use Macs, this is good news. Some of the best security and productivity features for browsers are not built-in, but available as extensions. Simplifying the process of finding, installing, and enabling extensions ensures more people have access to those features.

Among the add-ons, Flashblock prevents Flash movies from playing by default, speeding up page loads. NoScript is handy as it prevents Web sites from running potentially harmful scripts, and Adblock Plus makes pop-up ads go away. The popular Greasemonkey is a great productivity tool. IT admins can create Greasemonkey scripts or download one that provide even more features, such as displaying hidden Javascript for Web metrics on the page.

The Safari Extensions Gallery will be available via the Safari menu and at the Apple Website. Prior to version 5.0.1, you had to turn on the Develop menu, select "Enable extensions" from it, and then go to Preferences and turn on extension support.

The smorgasbord of available add-ons smooths out the user experience, enhances productivity, and can secure the computer and network. And while they were all available before, the process of finding and installing them was not widely publicized or easy to do. Putting this process the hands of end users leaves one less thing for IT admins to deal with.

The happiest news for the next Office for Mac, so far? Entourage is going away. Microsoft will replace Entourage with Outlook, complete with threaded conversation view. No more days of having Time Machine kick in to make a new backup every time the user receives a new e-mail message or adds a new contact. The changes to the database structure mean everything is stored as discrete objects, resulting in smaller and faster backups.

The Apple news storm began with Apple releasing the Magic Trackpad, an external trackpad to complement its wireless keyboard. The Magic Trackpad is a standalone, Bluetooth trackpad that brings multitouch technology to any Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later. Ironically, as Wired points out, this is not Apple's first external trackpad: that distinction was awarded in 1997 when the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (with a whopping $7500 price tag) shipped with a detachable trackpad in the keyboard. Perhaps the Magic refers to Bluetooth?

The new Mac Pro will be more powerful than its predecessors, with up to 12 CPU cores. With hyperthreading and turbo boost, the Mac Pro will boost CPU speeds and power. As for data storage and stability, the new Mac Pro will allow users to add a 512GB solid-state drive into one or all four of the drive bays to expand storage.

For small-business owners considering new monitors for the office, the new 27-inch LED Cinema Display has the same features as its current 24-inch model, with glossy surfaces and deeper colors. However, the downside is the end of the 24-inch and 30-inch LED Cinema Display lines, which will continue to be sold until supplies are depleted. If upgrading new monitors is on the to-do list, this would be the perfect time to go ahead and upgrade the monitors to the larger 30-inch one instead of the new display, since they won't be around for much longer.

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