Saturday, July 24, 2021

Safari in macOS Monterey: what’s new and how it works

Apple unveiled a totally redesigned Safari with macOS Monterey (same for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15). With the sweeping changes comes some controversy as early testers try out the beta. Let’s jump into what’s changed, what’s new, and how Safari in macOS Monterey looks and works.

The first thing that grabs your attention with Safari in macOS Monterey is an overhauled, minimalist tab design that merges the tab bar with the search/toolbar at the top. That may be the aspect that’s created the most controversy in the Monterey beta so far. But for now, at least, it’s possible to revert to the Big Sur Safari tab design.

However, it’s hard to know if the new design will be optional by the time Monterey officially launches for Macs in the fall. Beyond that, there are new tab groups, the new Quick Note feature, UI and button changes, and more.

Safari in macOS Monterey: what’s new and how it works

Start page

The start page in the new Safari looks about the same with your Favorites up top, followed by Frequently Visited, Privacy Report, and Reading List. Like Safari in Big Sur, you can customize your start page background image with a few included options or even your own. You can drag to reorder the different sections or turn them on/off.

But new in Safari for macOS Monterey/iOS 15/ iPadOS 15 is that background images automatically sync across devices via iCloud. You’ve also got the new “Use Start Page on All Devices” option and a checkbox to turn on/off iCloud Tabs for the start page.

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You can head to the bottom right corner to customize your start page, including the background image.

How Safari in macOS Monterey works - walkthrough start page
How Safari in macOS Monterey works - walkthrough customize start page

Safari’s new unified tab/search/toolbar

Alright, the tab bar elephant in the room. By default, it’s very minimal with just four buttons: Sidebar/Tab Groups, back/forward, and new tab + icon (no share or even reload page button in the toolbar).

Just like Safari in Big Sur, you can right-click at the top to customize the new unified tab/search/toolbar with more buttons (or in the menu bar, click View > Customize Toolbar).

Here’s a look at what’s available:

How Safari in macOS Monterey works - walkthrough customize toolbar
How Safari in macOS Monterey works - walkthrough customize toolbar 2

Not everything from Big Sur’s Safari toolbar customization is available in Monterey. Very notably, the share button to share, bookmark, and add webpages to your reading list is no longer available to add directly to the toolbar.

Instead, it lives behind the icon in the URL/search bar. That’s also where the reload page button has been moved:

How Safari in macOS Monterey works - walkthrough where are the buttons?

Using tabs and tab groups in the new Safari

Here’s how it looks to open a new tab with at least one webpage already open:

How Safari in macOS Monterey works - walkthrough adding a new tab

And here’s the new Safari in macOS Monterey with 7 tabs:

Here's how Safari macOS Monterey works - 7 tabs

You can drag tabs or the URL/search bar to the left to pin a tab/open page. However, the mechanics feel a little clunky for now compared to Big Sur.

With the new Sidebar/Tab Groups button, click the dropdown arrow to pull up saved Tab Groups or create new ones:

Creating Quick Notes

Quick Notes are new for macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15. There are a couple of ways to use the feature with the new Safari.

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You can click the three-dot icon in the URL/search bar > Create Quick Note. Or, when you highlight text on a webpage and do a right-click, you can choose New Quick Note or Add to Quick Note.

Safari in macOS Monterey wrap-up

Have you been testing out the new Safari in macOS Monterey? Or just been taking a closer look during WWDC and coverage like this? What do you think of the changes? Share your thoughts in our poll and the comments below!

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