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Safari 5 Extensions Available Now

Apple has yet to launch its Extensions Gallery for the newly released Safari 5, but dozens of the mini-apps are already being distributed online for the Web browser.

Apple unveiled the latest version of Safari Monday, when the company also launched iPhone 4. The latest version of the popular smartphone is scheduled to be released June 24.

Safari 5 offers users better performance and a new Reader mode for reading long articles on the Web. The browser also has a number of features for developers, including improved developer tools and support for more than a dozen new HTML5 technologies.

But among the major developer-targeted enhancements is the ability to create extensions to customize and enhance the browser's capabilities. Mozilla Firefox has offered third-party extensions for year, helping to make it the second most popular browser behind Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Apple is asking developers to start building extensions now, and submit them for the company's Extension Gallery, which is set to open this summer. In the meantime, Jonas Wisser, a self-described geek and staff member at Oberlin College, has launched a site listing a few dozen extensions submitted by developers unwilling to wait for Apple.

For extensions to be accepted, the Web apps must be built on Apple's official extension application programming interface. When Apple starts accepting extensions, the need for a third-party site like Wisser's is likely to fade. But in the meantime, Safari users can see what's available today.

Posted extensions provide numerous capabilities, including automatic restoration of previous browser settings, URL shortening through a toolbar button, access to photo site Flickr and micro-blogging site Twitter, ad blocking, a viewer for Google image search, an Amazon search toolbar, and a Google Gmail checker.

Safari 5 does not have extensions enabled by default. To turn on extensions, the user must first go to the Advanced section of the Preferences pane and click on "Show Develop menu in menu bar." The user must then go to the Develop drop-down list that appears on the browser's toolbar and click on "Enable Extensions."