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Disable Flash content in web pages in Safari

Adobe Flash is a very clever program that enables web pages to easily display a variety of content that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. It enables the display of vector graphics, animation, fonts, images, video, audio and so on. When you consider how small Adobe Flash Player plug-in is, it is surprisingly powerful. However, it does create problems for users as well as solving them for web designers. You need to be aware of the pitfalls of Flash and what can be done about them.

Flash content in web pages is not always necessary and it is frequently used to display animated and interactive adverts. These take time to download and display and consequently web pages are slower to load than they otherwise would be. Without Flash the web would be quicker to navigate. Of course, we need to have adverts because websites must have an income, but a static image uses less bandwidth than Flash content.

Another problem is that Flash on the Mac isn't as good as it could be. If a web page has a Flash advert then processor usage can be quite high and with several tabs open it can use a lot of processor time. This may not happen every time on every Mac with every web page with Flash content, but it certainly happens a lot, particularly when a several tabs are open in Safari.

You can check the processor usage by starting Safari and going to a web page that contains a Flash advert. Open a second tab that has another page with a Flash advert. Now open Activity Monitor in the Applications/Utilities folder. Select All Processes at the top and then click the % CPU column heading to sort by processor usage. You will probably see Adobe Flash at the top, sometimes with up to 100% usage.

An additional problem is that if you are using a MacBook then high CPU usage will run down the battery very quickly. If you find that the battery doesn't last very long when you are browsing the web using a MacBook, the problem could be down to Flash.

So what can be done? Hopefully, Adobe has steadily been improving Flash and it's not as bad as it used to be, but it's still not quite perfect, so regularly go to the Adobe website and make sure you have downloaded and installed the latest version of Flash Player. Then get ClickToFlash. This is an extension for Safari that prevents Flash from downloading content and displaying it on web pages.

You will see an empty space where Flash content should be and in this space is a button and a gear icon. If you want to see the Flash content then just click the button and it displays. Clicking the gear icon displays a menu and you can choose to load all Flash content on the web page or add the website to a whitelist of sites that are allowed to display Flash.

ClickToFlash is simple and very easy to use. Flash only runs when you want it to. Web browsing will be faster, CPU usage will be lower, and battery life will be longer.

To install ClicktoFlash go to Safari Preferences, Extentions and click Get Extensions. You'll see it listed about half way down the page. Just click the Install Now button.