1. Computer Skills
  2. OS X

Quick Tip: Customize Safari Reader


Theming OS X used to be a big thing — people would use CandyBar to customize app icons and ShapeShifter to give a different look to the OS as a whole. Things quieted down recently though because apps like CandyBar cannot modify Mac App Store software due to code signing.

There are still areas that you can theme in OS X though, such as Safari’s Reader function. In this quick tip, I’m going to show you how to install and use Safari Reader themes to enhance your perusing experience in the Apple browser.

Find a Theme You Like

Just don't enable everything at once like I did here.
Just don't enable everything at once like I did here.

If you search Google for “Safari reader themes”, you’ll likely be greeted with a few App Store results, some tutorials, and weird modifications for the browser. MacThemes is one of the best places to look for any OS X theming resources because they have the most well-designed stuff out there.

One of my favorite themes is Jarques Pretorius’ Safari Reader Mod. It’s one of the simpler themes that merely remodels the big ugly scrollbar that the Safari Reader has right now.

There is only one other well-known theme out there: Brett Terpstra’s Antique. He stopped developing the collector’s item back in June, but it still works with Safari 6.0 in Mountain Lion, so I see no reason not to try it out.

If you have secret developer powers, Terpstra has made the theme open source so that people like you can take things further with a bit of personal customization. He gives you a few tips on customization in a blog post as well.

Other than those, there’s the Safari Reader Metallic Mod, also from MacThemes. I searched around the forums and couldn’t find anything else, but feel free to make your own! Now, on to the installation process of said themes.

Installing a Theme

The files you're going to be replacing can be found here.
The files you're going to be replacing can be found here.

I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide to installing one of the themes mentioned above. Before proceeding, please know that you will be modifying internal Safari files that are required for proper operation of the Reader functionality. You might mess things up and lose the Reader entirely, but all you have to do is download the original files and replace the tweaked ones to fix things.

I’ve uploaded everything you’ll need in a ZIP file here for such a case; I still take no responsibility for any mistakes that you make during this tutorial.

  1. Download whichever theme you have chosen to use.
  2. Unzip it (if needed) and open the folder.
  3. For Jarques Pretorius’ ReaderMod, copy Reader.html, ReaderThumb.png, and ReaderTrack.png to your clipboard. Please note that these are not Retina-optimized images, so you might be annoyed by the fuzziness. For the metallic theme, copy the three items in the “Drop them into Safari Resources folder” directory. Lastly, the Antique theme only has the Reader.html file so copy that.
  4. If you’re using OS X 10.7 or later, navigate to Macintosh HD > System > Library > PrivateFrameworks > Safari.framework > Versions > A > Resources.
  5. This cannot be said enough: back up your files! Make sure to put the original Reader.html, ReaderThumb.png, and ReaderTrack.png found in Resources into a folder somewhere safe. Don’t move them — copy and paste them, keeping the originals.
  6. If Safari is open, quit it (CMD + Q).
  7. Paste the files in your clipboard. You’ll be asked to authenticate the copy with your password and then asked if you’d like to replace the files. Click "Yes" and you’re done.
  8. Pretorius’ theme has an alternative background named ScratchBg.png in the folder you downloaded. You can use this by renaming it ReaderBg.png if you prefer something a bit different. This theme also replaces the scrollbar, so if you want to replace ReaderThumb.png and ReaderTrack.png with something of your own, feel free. Just be sure to use the correct dimensions.

Use CustomReader to Take Things Further

You can really go advanced with this extension.
You can really go advanced with this extension.

Some of you might feel inclined to customize every element of the Reader, from the font to spacing to a shortcut for opening it. For these things and more, Canisbos’ CustomReader II extension (for Safari 6.0; there’s an one for older versions if you need it) performs the task very well. It includes text and link color options, paragraph indentation, every font your Mac has, an auto-read function that opens the Reader on any website you wish automatically, the aforementioned hotkey feature so you can start reading without delay, full customization of the Reader.html file, and more fun stuff.

I will warn you that some of the features in this extension are for advanced users only, so please be cautious when modifying files — you can break them. As always, make backups of everything you’re tampering with before potentially wrecking files.

How Have You Customized Safari Reader?

Well, I’ve shown you how I decked out my Safari Reader, but what have you done to yours? Are you planning to use one of the customizations mentioned in this article or do you have alternative methods? Let us know in the comments!

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