capsule review

Cookie Cutter

Many websites use cookies—small bits of information about your browsing sessions—to enhance your browsing experience. For example, a site may use a cookie to save your login information, to save your preferences for viewing that site, or to keep track of items added to your “shopping cart.” (Macworld’s forums use cookies to remember you so you don’t have to log in every time you visit.) Each site that uses cookies stores those cookies on your hard drive and requests its cookie(s) when you visit the site. (In the case of Safari, these cookies are stored in ~/Library/Cookies/Cookies.plist.)

For the most part, cookies don’t do any harm, and one site’s cookies can’t be accessed by another site. Still, there are reasons why people choose to disable cookies, or to delete specific ones. For example, some online advertising services use cookies to track advertisement views. Or perhaps you don’t want your session information saved for a particular site.

Most browsers allow you to view basic information about cookies, and some even allow you to manage those cookies. Safari is no exception: By clicking the Security icon in Safari preferences and then clicking the Show Cookies button, you’re presented with a list of all your cookies. You’re also provided with a good amount of information on each: the domain name of the website, the name of the cookie, the path to the particular Web server sub-directory (if any) to which the cookie applies, whether or not the cookie is secure, the expiration date of the cookie, and the contents of the cookie. If you select a cookie, you can press the delete key, or click the Remove button, to delete it.

Safari’s cookie management dialog

Unfortunately, if you’re the type who tends to work with your cookies frequently, Safari’s cookie management functionality leaves a lot to be desired. Most significantly, there’s no search feature, which means you have to locate particular cookies by manually searching the list. Sorting by Website helps, but most people don’t realize that a site such as www.domain.com likely uses cookies that fall under www.domain.com , .domain.com , and possibly other something.domain.com names. And when you do find a desired cookie, all Safari lets you do is view that cookie’s information or delete the entire cookie; you can’t modify it in any way.

For a better solution, check out Nicolas Valcasara’s free Cookies Eater 1.1 (   ). Like Safari’s own cookie dialog, Cookies Eater lets you view your cookies and sort them by domain (website), name, and expiration date. You can also Get Information (Command+I) on a cookie to view its path and contents (although not its security value). But several additional features make Cookies Eater a much better solution than Safari's own dialog for managing your cookies. First and foremost is its search field: By typing a domain, or part of a domain, into the field, you can filter the list of cookies to just those associated with that domain. (Alternatively, if you know the name of the cookie you want to find, you can change the search criterion from Domain to Name.) In the screenshot below, I used the search function to locate all cookies associated with the MacFixIt website.

Cookies Eater’s Search function

Once you’ve located the desired cookies, you can select them all and delete them, just as you can in Safari—Cookies Eater even lets you undo accidentally deletions. But Cookies Eater has another handy feature that power users will appreciate: By getting information on a cookie, not only can you view more information about it, but you can also edit that information: domain, expiration date, name, path, and value. I don’t recommend editing cookies if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, but if you do, Cookies Eater makes the process simple. (It even lets you duplicate selected cookies or create new cookies from scratch.)

Cookies Eater’s cookie editing dialog

Finally, Cookies Eater includes a White List feature that allows you to protect particular cookies from accidental deletion. Cookies for any domains you add to this White List cannot be deleted or edited until you remove the respective domain(s) from the White List. This is a good way to make sure you don’t accidentally delete useful cookies while “cleaning house.”

Cookies management isn’t for everyone. But if you’re the type of user who spends time in Safari’s cookies dialog, that time will be much better spent using Cookies Eater.

  
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