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Safari 15.1 Reverses Course, Reverts to Old Tab Interface

With the betas of Safari 15 on the Mac and iPad, Apple experimented with a variety of interface tweaks related to tabs. By the time Safari 15 shipped, however, Apple had pulled back on the more radical changes from the betas, offering the new Compact Tab Bar layout and colorized tab bar as options. Even with the more traditional Separate Tab Bar layout, however, tabs appeared as buttons above your favorites, a switch from earlier versions of Safari. With Safari 15.1 in macOS and iPadOS 15.1, Apple has reverted the Separate Tab Bar layout even further, making the tabs look like, well, tabs, moving them below the favorites, and eliminating the colorized tab bar (it remains an option in iOS 15.1). The Compact Tab Bar option remains available for those who prefer it, but if you’ve been feeling the sand shifting under your feet, it’s not your imagination—tabs really did change in Safari 15.1.

(Featured image by iStock.com/ESOlex)

New Features to Try (Or Not) in Safari 15

Along with a new version of Safari in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Apple has released Safari 15 for macOS 11 Big Sur and macOS 10.15 Catalina. Why do this before macOS 12 Monterey ships? Some of the browser’s new capabilities—notably the Tab Groups feature—integrate it more deeply into your Apple device experience by syncing across devices. So, assuming you have Safari 15 on at least some of your devices, what’s new, and is it any good?

New Tab Bar Interface

For Safari 15, Apple tried to minimize the tab bar interface to occupy less screen real estate and stand out less from the content of Web pages by co-opting the color of each page. Early betas were met with a litany of complaints from testers, and Apple pulled back in the eventual releases, offering settings that let you retain the old interface. How that plays out varies between the iPhone, iPad, and Mac:

  • iPhone: Apple combined the address bar and tab bar into a single set of controls at the bottom of the screen, where they’re easier to reach with your thumb while working one-handed and where you can swipe left and right to switch tabs. Plus, the status bar area at the top of the screen takes on the color from the current site, which isn’t necessarily a visual win. This is a huge change from the controls appearing at the top, so if you don’t like it, go to Settings > Safari and switch from Tab Bar (below left) to Single Tab (below right). Turn off Allow Website Tinting (also below right) if you don’t like the colorizing.
  • iPad: Displays on the iPad are relatively small, so saving some vertical space with the new Compact Tab Bar could be helpful. However, since the tab bar automatically minimizes when you scroll down a page, reducing its size when it’s visible isn’t as much of a win as it might seem. And the colorized tab bar can be shockingly bright. In Settings > Safari, you can choose between Compact Tab Bar (below top) and Separate Tab Bar (below bottom); either way, consider disabling Show Color in Tab Bar.
  • Mac: Laptop screens aren’t huge, and Safari doesn’t minimize its tab bar when you scroll, as it does on the iPhone and iPad, so saving some vertical space might be welcome on a smaller screen. But the way the Compact layout embeds the address field inside a tab and reduces the number of buttons you can see may perturb you (below top). Once again, the colorized tab bar can be glaring. To revert to something closer to the old look, in Safari > Preferences > Tabs, select Separate for the tab layout (below bottom), and disable Show Color in Tab Bar to keep the controls gray regardless of the site color.

Voice Search

For many searches, it’s easier to speak than type, and Apple has made doing that even faster with Voice Search on the iPhone and iPad. Tap the current tab to display the address field, tap the microphone button, and speak instead of typing. As soon as you stop, Safari performs the search. You can even navigate directly to a site by speaking its URL, like “apple dot com.” Sadly, Apple didn’t extend this feature to the Mac version of Safari 15.

Tab Switcher

In iOS 14 and earlier, Safari used a card stack metaphor for its tab switcher (below left), which could make it hard to see what each tab contained. In Safari in iOS 15, Apple took a cue from the iPad and Mac versions of the app and moved to a grid interface for the tab switcher (below right). You can drag the tab thumbnails around to organize them and remove them by tapping an X button (weirdly located in the upper-right corner) or swiping them left off-screen. You can also bring up the option to close all open tabs by pressing and holding Done at the lower right corner of the screen.

Tab Groups

If you struggle under the cognitive load of dozens of unrelated tabs, the new Tab Groups feature might help. With it, you can collect tabs into as many groups as you like and switch among them. You work with tab groups in either the tab switcher interface (iPhone and iPad with the Separate Tab Bar) or the sidebar (Mac and iPad with the Compact Tab Bar).

To open the tab switcher on the iPhone, tap the tab button in the lower-right corner of the screen; on the iPad, tap the different-looking tab button in the upper-right corner. Once you have the tab switcher open, tap X Tabs to reveal the Tab Groups menu. To show the sidebar on either the iPad or the Mac, tap or click the sidebar button in the upper-left corner of the tab bar.

Once you have the Tab Groups menu or sidebar showing:

  • To create a new tab group on the iPhone’s or iPad’s Tab Groups menu, tap New Empty Tab Group, name it, and tap Save. In the sidebar on a Mac or iPad, use the New Tab Group button at the top (or choose File > New Empty Tab Group on the Mac). You can also use New Tab Group from X Tabs to create a tab group from currently open tabs.
  • To switch to a different tab group, tap it in the Tab Groups menu on an iPhone or iPad, or access it from the sidebar on a Mac or iPad.
  • To delete a tab group, swipe left on it in the Tab Groups menu or sidebar to reveal a delete icon on an iPhone or iPad; on the Mac, Control-click it and choose Delete.

Shared with You

Ever gone spelunking through Messages to find a link someone sent you? Safari 15’s new Shared with You feature should help. It automatically collects all Web pages you receive in Messages into a new Shared with You section of the Safari start page. On the iPad and Mac, there’s also a Shared with You item in the sidebar.

Customizable Start Page

Speaking of the start page, if you want to customize which headings appear and in what order, you can now do that on the iPhone and iPad. (Choosing which headings appear has long been possible on the Mac by clicking the little settings button in the lower-right corner, but reordering isn’t possible there.)

Create a new tab to view the start page, scroll to the bottom, and tap Edit. Then disable any headings you don’t want to see and drag the remaining ones into your desired order. You can also choose among several Apple-provided background images and have your start page settings sync to your other devices.

Other Stuff

Two final new features may be welcome but probably won’t rock your world:

  • Pull to refresh: If you need to reload a Web page on the iPhone or iPad, either you can tap the reload button in the address field if it’s visible with your tab bar settings, or you can now just pull down with your finger from the top of a page.
  • HTTPS upgrade: If you visit a website that supports encrypted HTTPS but is also loading insecure content over unencrypted HTTP, Safari will now ensure that you connect to it over HTTPS so your entire connection is secure.

There you have it! Check out the new features in Safari 15 and let them improve your browsing experience.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/Evgenii Mitroshin)


Social Media: Safari 15 brings some welcome new features, along with tab bar interface changes that have received mixed reviews. Read on to learn about the features and how you can customize the tab bar more to your liking.

Choose Your Preferred Default Web Browser and Email App in iOS and iPadOS 14

Since the earliest days of the iPhone, Apple’s Safari and Mail have been the default Web and email apps for iOS and, later, iPadOS. There was no way to choose alternatives that would be used whenever an app wanted to open a Web page or create an email message. That has now changed with iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. To switch to a different Web browser (such as Brave, DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser, Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Opera Touch) or a different email app (such as Boomerang, Chuck, Hey, Gmail, Outlook, Polymail, or Spark), follow these directions. In Settings, tap the name of the browser or email app you want to set as the default. Then tap Default Browser App or Default Mail App and select the desired app.

(Featured image based on an original by Sotiris Gkolias from Pexels)

New Features You May Have Missed in the iOS 14.1, 14.2, and 14.3 Updates

We’ve published overviews of the major features in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, along with detailed looks at our favorite features. But Apple keeps releasing updates with new features, and we wanted to take a moment to catch you up on what Apple has added in versions 14.1, 14.2, and 14.3. (If you’re running iOS 14 or iPadOS 14, you should update to the latest version, which is 14.3 as of this writing. There’s no benefit to staying at an interim version.)

Here’s what you may have missed.

Apple Fitness+

The highest-profile change in Apple’s recent updates is support for Apple Fitness+. It provides studio-style streamed video workouts that you can participate in using an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. The linchpin of the system is the Apple Watch, which tracks your fitness metrics and progress and stores them in the Fitness app (previously called Activity).

Apple Fitness+, which can be shared by up to six family members through Family Sharing, costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year. All current owners of an Apple Watch Series 3 or later get a free month to try it out, and if you buy a new Apple Watch, Apple will give you 3 months for free.

If you have an Apple Watch and more exercise figured in your New Year’s resolutions, give Apple Fitness+ a try and see if you find it fun and worthwhile.

Intercom

Tired of yelling to get the attention of other members of your household? If you have two more HomePod speakers, you can use the new Intercom feature to send and receive messages through the HomePods. You can also send and receive messages through an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch, or in your car with CarPlay.

To enable Intercom, open the Home app, tap the house icon at the upper left ➊, and tap Home Settings. In the Settings screen, tap Intercom ➋ and set when you want to receive notifications, who should be allowed to send and receive them when away from home, and which HomePods to use.

Once you’ve enabled Intercom, you can most easily invoke it with Siri on any of your devices using trigger words like “intercom,” “tell,” “announce,” or “ask.” You can also send messages solely to a HomePod in a specific room or zone by specifying its name in the message. For example:

“Hey Siri, announce ‘It’s time to leave now!’”
“Hey Siri, ask upstairs ‘Did anyone feed the fish?’”

You can also access Intercom from within the Home app. Tap the waveform button in the upper-right corner of the screen (➌ above), record your message, and tap the Done button to send it.

When you hear an Intercom message, you can reply. If the message went to the entire Home, your reply will as well. However, if the message was sent to your specific room, your response will go only to the device that sent the message. And you can always direct a reply to a particular speaker. For example:

“Hey Siri, reply ‘I’m almost ready to go, honest!’”
“Hey Siri, reply downstairs ‘Yes, I fed Goldie.’”

Loud Headphone Alerts

If you’re worried about damaging your hearing with too-loud headphone volumes (and you should be), go to Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Headphone Safety. There you can enable a notification that will tell you if you exceed the recommended limit for noise exposure (volume and time) as set by the World Health Organization.

That’s nice from a retrospective point of view, but more useful are the controls below, which let your iPhone actively protect your hearing by reducing the volume of sounds over a certain decibel level.

Optimized AirPods Pro Charging

Apple says that it has now tweaked AirPods Pro charging to increase the lifespan of the battery. It does this by delaying charging past 80% to reduce the amount of time the batteries stay fully charged. Apple previously did this with the iPhone and Apple Watch. Given that there’s no way to replace the battery in the AirPods Pro, anything that extends their useful life is welcome. Sadly, this feature isn’t available for the standard AirPods. If you find that the feature regularly prevents your AirPods Pro from having a full charge, you can turn it off in Settings > Bluetooth (make sure the AirPods Pro case is open or they’re in your ears). Tap the i button next to your AirPods Pro and turn off Optimized Battery Charging.

Launch Shortcuts on the Home Screen Directly

In iOS 14, the Shortcuts app lets users assign custom icons to shortcuts, which has led some to become obsessed with customizing their Home screens with shortcuts that launch their favorite apps. Dedicated designers have created all sorts of Home screen looks, ranging from the minimalist to the wacky. The only problem was that these shortcuts first launched the Shortcuts app and then switched to the desired destination app. As of iOS 14.3, shortcuts now launch directly from the Home screen without passing through the Shortcuts app.

Use Ecosia as Safari’s Default Search Engine

Want to move away from Google as your default search engine? iOS has long provided other options, including Yahoo, Microsoft’s Bing, and the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo. Apple has now added Ecosia, which is privacy-friendly and donates 80% or more of its profits to non-profit organizations that focus on reforestation. It’s a small way you can help fight climate change. It’s worth keeping in mind that Yahoo is a rebadged version of Bing, DuckDuckGo relies heavily on Bing, and Ecosia delivers results from Bing, enhanced by its own algorithms. In other words, when it comes to the quality of the search results, your choices are really between Google and Bing.

New Privacy Labels in the App Store

In Apple’s latest salvo against privacy-abusing apps and services, the company now requires all developers to provide information in App Store listings about what data collected by the app is linked to you personally and what data will be used to track your online movements. Apple doesn’t verify the information, and there’s no way to know if the developer is being truthful. Nonetheless, it’s good to see Apple pushing developers to be more transparent about their privacy practices. In the screenshot below, compare the ten screens of App Privacy details for what Facebook hoovers up with what is collected by the privacy-focused messaging app Signal: just your phone number, which is necessary for others to contact you.

App Clip Codes

In non-pandemic times, the new App Clips feature of iOS 14 might have gotten more attention. App Clips are lightweight versions of an app that let people perform quick tasks—ordering a latte, renting a scooter—without downloading and configuring the full app. Apple encourages developers using App Clips to advertise their presence with App Clip Codes, which look a little like QR codes but are dedicated to launching App Clips. Now that iOS 14.3 has added support for App Clip Codes, if you notice one while you’re out and about, try scanning it with your camera to see what App Clip pops up.

iOS 14’s updates have added plenty of smaller features as well, such as over 100 new emojis, an Apple TV+ tab in the Apple TV app, additional data options in the Health app’s Cycle Tracking feature, air quality data and recommendations in more countries, and detection of people in Magnifier (which is helpful for users who are blind or who have low vision).

So if you have kept your iPhone or iPad up to date but haven’t noticed these new features, give them a try!

(Featured image based on an original Web page by Apple)


Social Media: iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 came out a few months ago, but Apple has been busy since with feature-laden updates. Here’s what you may have missed in the 14.1, 14.2, and 14.3 updates.

Prevent Unsightly Tab Buildup in Safari on Your iPhone and iPad

Whenever you tap a link to open a Web page on your iPhone or iPad, it automatically opens a new tab. Having hundreds of tabs open won’t cause any problems but can make working with tabs clumsy. You can close all tabs—touch and hold the tab button and then tap Close All X Tabs—but you might prefer to prevent them from building up in the first place. To do that in iOS 13, navigate to Settings > Safari > Close Tabs and choose from Manually, After One Day, After One Week, or After One Month.

(Featured image by Startaê Team on Unsplash)

Here’s How to See Full URLs in Safari’s Smart Search Field

By default, Safari on the Mac hides full Web addresses—technically known as URLs—from you, showing just the site name in the Smart Search field at the top of the window. If you click in the field or press Command-L, the full URL appears, which is good for checking that you’re really where you think you should be and not on some dodgy site. It’s also useful if you need to copy just a portion of the URL to share or otherwise work with. To make that check easier, go to Safari > Preferences > Advanced and next to Smart Search Field, select “Show full website address.” Then you can verify that the URL looks right with a glance.

(Featured image by Matthew T Rader from Pexels)

Read More Easily on the iPhone with Safari Reader

Do you sometimes find it difficult to read articles on your iPhone because of ads, banners, extraneous layout, social media icons, and too-small fonts? We certainly do, and there’s often a quick fix for the myriad ills of modern Web pages: Safari Reader. Whenever you see the Safari Reader icon to the left of the site’s domain name in the address bar, tap it to switch to a cleaner view that dispenses with all the unnecessary trimmings and presents the content in a larger, more readable font. Tap the font  icon at the right side of the address bar in Safari Reader to change the font, font size, and background color. Safari Reader isn’t always available, and it can occasionally fail to format an article properly, but it’s a big win when you can use it.

(Featured image by Atlas Green on Unsplash)

Clean Up Old Tabs in Safari in iOS with This Quick Trick

Every time you tap a link to open a Web page in Safari on your iPhone or iPad, it automatically opens a new tab. That’s fine until you realize that you have oodles of old tabs open, making it difficult to find any particular tab. To close all your old tabs in one fell swoop, press and hold on the tab button, then tap Close All X Tabs in the popover that appears.

Look before You Leap with Safari’s Link Preview

When you follow a link in Safari, you generally don’t know where you’re going to end up. That’s fine most of the time, but what if you’re concerned that a site might be trying to trick you into going somewhere malicious? Safari provides an easy way to look at the URL under a link. On the Mac, choose View > Show Status Bar, hover your pointer over the link, and look at the bottom of the window. In iOS, touch and hold a link (don’t press for 3D Touch) until a popover appears, showing the link and giving you options for opening it. The most important thing to look at is the domain—us.norton.com in the screenshots. It should match where you think you’re going, or at least look reasonable. If the URL is dubious, don’t follow the link.

Use This Hidden Feature in Safari to Access Tabs on Your Other Apple Devices

Browser tabs. They breed like bunnies, and if you’re like us, you have oodles of tabs open on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. But you may not know that Safari has a great tab-management feature that lets you access all the open tabs on all your devices. (Make sure to enable the Safari switch in System Preferences > iCloud on the Mac and in Settings > YourName > iCloud in iOS.) This tab overview is easiest to find on the iPad, where tapping the tab  button displays local tabs as thumbnails at the top of the screen and lists tabs from other devices beneath. On the iPhone, scroll down to the bottom of the tab list to see them, and on the Mac, choose View > Show Tab Overview. Click or tap any tab to view it. To close an unnecessary tab, in iOS, swipe left and tap Close; in macOS, hover over the tab name and click the x button that appears.