Tips & Tricks: Safari Web Browser for iPhone & iPad

Updated on October 22, 2019
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Jonathan Wylie is a writer, educator and podcaster. You can hear the audio version of this article, and others, on the Unpacking iOS podcast


A New Dawn for the Safari Web Browser

When Apple released iOS 13 and iPadOS, they included a raft of new features that added additional functionality to mobile Safari, the default browser for millions of iOS users. Many of these features were long overdue, but others were a nice surprise. So, without further ado, here are the tips you need to browse faster and more efficiently on an iPhone or iPad.

1. New Safari Start Page

When you open a new tab or launch Safari when it has no stored tabs, you see a cleaner, easier to read start page. It has your Favorites, as well as frequently visited sites. You may also see links from Messages, websites based on your browsing history, and other recommendations from Siri's artificial intelligence engine. It's not a huge change, and some people may never even notice it, but keep an eye out for it the next time you open a new tab, because you never know what you might find!

2. Website Settings for iPhone & iPad

In iOS 12 and earlier, the button to the left-hand side of the address bar was for activating the Safari Reader mode. In iOS 13 it has been replaced by a new icon and expanded to offer a variety of website settings. These include:

  1. Page zoom: Tap the icons to adjust the text size on a website.
  2. Reader View: When available, tap this option to clean up a web page and minimize distractions. For quick access to Reader View, press and hold the Aa icon to enter or leave Reader View.
  3. Hide Toolbar: For a fullscreen browsing experience, tap Hide Toolbar.
  4. Request Desktop/Mobile Website: iPhone users can request the desktop version of a mobile webpage, while iPad users can request the mobile version of a desktop webpage.
  5. Turn Off Content Blockers: If you are using an ad blocker, you can temporarily disable it, or re-enable it, from here.
  6. Website Settings: With this option you can select viewing preferences for individual websites, as well as give permission to access your camera, microphone or location. You can review the settings for all websites by going to Settings > Safari > Settings for Websites.


3. Bookmark Multiple Tabs at Once

You can now bookmark multiple tabs at once on an iPhone or an iPad. This is great if you are working on a research project, or you want to save your current tab setup so you can come back to it at a later date.

To bookmark your open tabs on the Safari web browser, press and hold on the Bookmarks icon, and then select the option that says, Add Bookmarks for 'X' tabs. This opens up a new window that will prompt you to create a folder for the websites you are saving. Once you name your folder, all the open tabs on your device will be saved for future reference.

If you want to reopen all your tabs at a later date, tap the bookmarks icon and navigate to the folder that has your tabs. Press and hold on the name of the folder, and then select, Open in New Tabs, to open all the tabs from that folder.

4. Automatically Close Tabs on iPhone & iPad

Some people compare their unread email count while others compare the number of tabs they have open at one time. Typically, neither is a number to be proud of, so save yourself any future embarrassment by telling Safari to automatically close your tabs for you. Simply go to Settings > Safari > Tabs > Close Tabs, and choose the duration that best fits your needs. You can choose to close tabs automatically after one day, one week, or one month. Tabs? What tabs?


5. Sort Safari Tabs by Title or Website

On an iPad, you can now sort the open tabs in your browser by pressing and holding on one of the tabs. From here you can choose to Arrange Tabs by Title, or Arrange Tabs by Website. You can do the same on an iPhone, however, you can only access these options when you tap the Tabs button and rotate your iPhone into landscape orientation. Next, press and hold on a tab title to find the option to sort your tabs.

6. Go to Website in Open Tab

Sometimes you have so many tabs open on your device, that you forget the one you want is already open. For times like this, Safari will alert you that the tab you want is already open. To try it out, search for a website that you already have open by using the address bar at the top of your screen. Among the results that Safari automatically populates for you, is the ability to go to the website that is already open in another tab. Simply tap that result to save opening yet another tab!


7. The New Share Sheet in iOS 13

The revised sharing menu in iOS 13 and iPadOS is not specific to Safari, but it does have some additional features that are worthy of mention. When you tap the Share arrow, you will see an Options button at the top of the share sheet. It's pretty small, so look carefully. If you tap it, you can choose the format that you want to use when you share a website with someone else. You can send it as a PDF, a Reader View PDF, or as a Web Archive. If you leave Automatic set as your default, Safari will choose the best format based on the app you are sharing it to.

8. Desktop Browsing on the iPad

iPadOS brings desktop browsing to the iPad. So, if you've ever been frustrated by the mobile version of Google Docs, YouTube or Reddit on your iPad, fret no more! When your iPad browses the web, it masquerades as Safari for Mac, so when it make a website request, it is served up the same version of a website that you would get on a Mac or Windows laptop. This is a big leap forward for the Apple's tablet and will surely make it easier if you are considering replacing a laptop with an iPad.

9. The Safari Download Manager

Another much sought after feature on iOS has been the ability to download files natively from the web. In the past, this was difficult because Apple did not give you much access to the file system on an iPhone or an iPad. However, the addition of a download manager in the Safari web browser means that you can now download pictures, videos, and music from the web quickly, and easily.

When you tap a download link on a website, a dialog box will open asking you to confirm that you want to download the file. After you click OK, you can track the progress of the download in the from the button that appears to the right of the address bar. By default, data is saved to a Downloads folder in the Files app, but you can change the location of this folder under Settings > Safari > Downloads.


10. Quick Scroll on Websites

For a while now, we have had the ability to jump to the start of a long website by tapping on the top, middle of your iOS screen. However, Apple has introduced an additional quick scroll option that works for scrolling up or down a webpage. All you do is tap and hold on the scroll bar that appears on the right-hand side of your screen, then drag your finger up or down to quickly scan through a website.

11. Press & Hold for Link Previews in iOS

If you press and hold on a link on a website, Safari now offers up a thumbnail image of the website that it links to. These are called Link Previews, and they can be a useful option for getting a sneak peek at where a website is linking to without having to tap the link and navigate away from the page you are looking at. If you decide you don't like Link Preview, tap and hold on a link, and then tap Hide Link Previews.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jonathan Wylie


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