Drag-scrolling in Safari

[The Saft icon, a flat-screen iMac showing the Safari logo on its screen] Saft is a Safari plugin that allows true full-screen browsing, kiosk mode, and type-ahead searching familiar to the Mozilla family. I gave Saft a whirl after reading a glowing review from Jon Hicks about a month ago. I’m quickly realizing the full-screen mode of Saft is handy when giving HTML/CSS-based presentations. I’ve been using Firefox and a fullscreen bookmarklet for my presentations, but some of the browser chrome and the menu bar still show when using that method. With Saft’s full-screen mode, the only piece of the browser still visible is the scroll bar, and that’s only if it’s needed.

While poking around within Safari a couple weeks ago, I accidently discovered a little-talked-about feature of Saft. One which annoyed me greatly until I figured out what was going on.

Holding down the Ctrl-key, then clicking is normally a way to invoke contextual menus in the Mac OS. But with Saft installed, within Safari, if you hold down the Ctrl-key, then begin dragging via the trackpad (or a mouse), the cursor will turn into a hand (minus the raised index finger), and you can drag-scroll a web page as far as your cursor can go in any direction. No need to click anything. Works for vertical or horizontal scrolling, or both in cases where you want to scroll diagonally. And it’s incredibly fast.

I doubt I would have noticed the feature while using a mouse. But when I’m out of the office, with only the trackpad and a single-button on my PowerBook, I often use the Ctrl-key to access contextual menus. I realized the page would scroll in Safari with the slightest touch of the track pad. I didn’t connect this with my install of the Saft plugin until after doing more research. For a few days, I thought it was a new, undocumented feature of Safari.

Small discovery? Yes, very much so. (Windows users are thinking, “Typical of these Mac fanatics to hype on a small feature.” That’s fine. Sometimes we do.) If you’re an experienced Adobe user, dragging to reposition a window (normally using the spacebar to temporarily bring up the hand tool) is a common occurrence, and very handy for quickly moving around the canvas. While writing this entry, I was also reminded this functionality exists (and has existed for a while) in IE5/Mac if you hold down the Command-key, then click and drag. With Safari/Saft, no need to click. It’s especially useful if you only want to reposition the window just a slight amount, or want to scroll a screen-length faster than the arrow keys will let you scroll. It’s faster than pushing the cursor over to the srollbar area, or moving your right hand to the arrow keys.

Unfortunately, the latest version of Saft (the one that works in Panther with Safari 1.2) is shareware, and will nag you with a Thank You screen every time you start up Safari until you pay for a non-demo version. The demo may be limited in more ways, but I can’t remember now that I’ve paid for it. The $10 fee won’t be worth it for casual surfers. Would I have paid for drag-scrolling? Of course not. It’s a bonus. But if you’re a heavy Safari user, and really want some of Saft’s features, as Jon said, the fee is “a pittance for functionality that I would enjoy every day.” Thanks for the tip, Jon.

Update: Hao Li, creator of Saft, just released v6.5.5, which adds an option in the preferences to enable/disable “control-drag”, which is probably why I never knew it was part of Saft until accidentally discovering it. If you don’t like the control-drag behavior, you can now easily disable it.