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A Safari of Tips for the Mac’s Web Browser

Brett Burney


  • The Safari Preferences box includes the option to edit the Tabs, Search, and other Advanced settings.
  • Safari’s Reader feature displays a clean version of a story or article without ads or other visual distractions.
  • Keyboard shortcuts make it easy to open a new tab to run a Google search, close tabs, and undo actions.
A Safari of Tips for the Mac’s Web Browser
golubovy via Getty Images

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You can’t get through a workday without opening your web browser—it’s almost become the modern-day operating system given how much software we run through it, including email, legal research, practice management, time tracking, and so much more.

All Mac computers come with the Safari web browser that Apple released in 2003. You’re free to use other web browsers, but Apple has vastly improved the Safari browser over the years, and it makes sense that it’s the second-most-popular browser behind Google Chrome worldwide. The Microsoft Internet Explorer browser used to be the default on Macs until 2003, and today you can also download and run the Microsoft Edge browser.

My recommendation for most Mac users is to keep Safari as your default browser because it’s so integrated into the macOS, but you can certainly download and run Google Chrome side by side. Both browsers are always open on my Mac because there are some services that just work a tad better in Chrome. But Safari is my web workhorse and remains my preferred window to the Internet.

In that spirit, I wanted to share a few tips for getting the most out of Safari on your Mac. If you’re lucky enough to have already upgraded to macOS Monterey, then you’ll have a few additional features available such as Tab Groups, but the tips below will still work just fine, regardless of what version of macOS you’re running.

Settings in Safari’s Preferences

First, let’s go into Safari’s Preferences (from the menu or hit Command + comma), where you can tell Safari what you want to use as your default search engine. Click on the “Search” tab in the Preferences box, and you’ll see that Google is selected, but you can change that to Yahoo, Bing, or DuckDuckGo. When you type in Safari’s “Smart Search Field” (the URL box), this search engine is what Safari will use to show you relevant hits.

Setting your default search engine in Safari

Setting your default search engine in Safari

Back on the General tab in the Preferences box, I like to tell Safari to open “All windows from my last session” so if I accidentally close Safari or have to reboot my computer, Safari relaunches all the tabs I had open previously. You can set this to open a new window every time, but I like to see things how I left them.

Last, on the “Advanced” tab, I check the box that tells Safari to “Show full website address” in the Smart Search Field. If I don’t check this, Safari will just show “” (the top domain) instead of the full URL of the story or site that I’m reading. I like to see the full address of the page I’m viewing.

Setting the Smart Search Field to show full website addresses in Safari

Setting the Smart Search Field to show full website addresses in Safari

The last tip isn’t found in Preferences but from the “View” menu: I recommend clicking “Show Status Bar” so that when you hover over a link in the browser, you’ll see the full URL of the link’s destination pop up in the bottom left of the Safari window. This gives me the confidence that I can trust the link before I click it.

Just Put It On My Tab, Please

Now let’s switch to something that has become indispensable with modern-day browsers: tabs. Once upon a time, web browsers showed just a single page, but today many of us have dozens of tabs open at any one time because we need to compare pages, or we leave a story open that we want to read later.

I’m a visual guy, so I like to see the website icons on my tabs (otherwise known as “favicons”), but Safari doesn’t show these by default. If you go back into Safari’s Preferences box and hit “Tabs,” you can check the box to “Show website icons in tabs.” Now each of your tabs will have a little website icon to help you identify the site it contains.

I like using tabs in Safari so much that anytime I click on a link, I hold down my Command key at the same time, and this will automatically open that link in a new tab. If you like keyboard shortcuts, you can use ⌘ + 1 through ⌘ + 9 to jump to those tabs, but I usually have more than nine tabs open at one time, so I prefer using Shift + ⌘ + [ to cycle through the tabs to the right and Shift + ⌘ + ] to cycle through tabs to the left.

Last, if you have a tab or two that you always keep open (e.g., Gmail, Lexis, etc.), you can “pin” those tabs in Safari by either going to Window > Pin Tab or just right-clicking on the active tab. That will move the tab to the far left in Safari, and it will stay there until you unpin it.

Pinning and unpinning tabs in Safari

Pinning and unpinning tabs in Safari

Reclaim Your Web Sanity in Safari

My favorite tip in Safari is absolutely the Reader View, which Apple introduced in 2010. By that time in Internet history, web-preneurs had discovered the power of online advertising and started filling up our screens with images, banner ads, animated click games, auto-playing videos, and a variety of other cyber-detritus trying to entice us to click and buy.

I don’t fault the need for online advertising—I know that it supports a generally free web—but sometimes I just want to read an article without getting interrupted with link bait every three paragraphs. And that’s why I embrace the Reader View with a cuddly warmth formerly reserved for my Steve Jobs–inspired teddy bear (which is always dressed in a black turtleneck).

The Reader View is toggled on by clicking on the teeny-tiny Reader button in the left of the Smart Search Field in Safari—it looks like a tiny piece of paper with some lines of writing at top. When you click on that button, you’re immediately presented with a beautifully clean version of the text from the web page, completely free of ads, navigation, or other distracting items. It’s comforting, refreshing, and completely readable. To get out of Reader and return to the cyber-craziness, just click on the Reader button again, or just click on the Esc key on your keyboard. I also use the keyboard shortcut Shift + ⌘ + R to toggle the Reader view off and on.

Even better, once you’re in Reader View, you’ll see another little button in the right of the Smart Search Field that has two capital A letters (one letter is smaller than the other). Click on that button, and you can customize the size of the text in Reader View and the background color (white, sepia, grey) and even select from nine fonts. Those settings stay in place for any page where you toggle into Reader View.

Once you experience Reader View, you’ll welcome the ability to toggle into hypertext sereness and briefly escape the busyness of the web. Some websites have gotten smart to this ad-free alternative and will prohibit you from using Reader View, but anytime you see that tiny Reader button, you know that cyber-tranquility is only a click away.

If you find yourself routinely jumping into Reader View for every article on a particular website, you can tell Safari to always show pages from that website in Reader View by right-clicking on the Reader button. Click “Use Reader Automatically on,” and now every page from that site will be presented to you in plain vanilla brilliance. You can always click out of Reader View, but at least this will become your default view for this website.

Setting Reader View as the default for a website in Safari

Setting Reader View as the default for a website in Safari

A Shortcut Through Your Keyboard

You can tell by now that I like my keyboard shortcuts, so it only makes sense that I use a lot of them when I’m working in Safari. I already shared how I like to switch between tabs with a keyboard shortcut, and when I’m done with a tab, I will use the ⌘ + W shortcut to close it, which is much easier than trying to click on that tiny little “x” on the tab.

When I’m ready to open a new tab to run a Google search or type in a URL, I’ll use the ⌘ + T shortcut and then just start typing my search terms because the Smart Search Field is already selected.

One of my favorite keyboard shortcuts across the Mac is ⌘ + Z, which is “undo,” whether I typed the wrong name in an email or I’m correcting a typo in Microsoft Word. But in Safari, the ⌘ + Z shortcut saves me when I inadvertently close a tab. What usually happens is that I get a little trigger happy by closing a tab (⌘ + W) before I was done reading it; instead of panicking, I simply hit ⌘ + Z, and the tab magically reappears! And you can keep hitting the ⌘ + Z shortcut to keep opening the last few tabs you closed. It’s an excellent shortcut to remember.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you become a Safari master. And it’s good to learn them because we’re not going to stop using a web browser anytime soon.