What’s Coming in the New 2021 Safari Update?

Safari is arguably Apple’s most important app, and the popular web browser is getting some new features this autumn. Let’s see what was unveiled at this summer’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference.

Safari is getting a makeover. The toolbar and tabs bar have been reimagined, combining the two into a single space. Where before the toolbar’s icons were spread out across the top of the browser window, they now reside in the URL field, as a pop-up menu opened by clicking a three-dots icon. You can still access all the controls you need, but they take up a lot less space. The URL bar (which, of course, is also the search field) has been incorporated into the currently active tab, and the rest of the new combined bar is taken up with your tabs, that is, your currently open sites arranged so you can click on them to take you straight to the page in question.

The tabs, which are more compact, can show only a site’s icon instead of the name of the site too, and feature rounded corners that make them stand out very well. Best of all, you can combine tabs into Tab Groups. This allows you to save a series of tabs as a bookmark, so when you open it again, all the tabs reappear. Tab Groups are found in the redesigned sidebar, which can again be opened and closed at the click of an icon. Tab Groups can be dragged into an email, where they appear as a series of links, and they’re synced between your Apple devices, just like Safari bookmarks.

These new features are consistent across Apple’s range of products. On the iPad, the new tabs and tab bar work exactly like they do on the Mac, and on the iPhone, the interface has been designed for the smaller device. The new tab bar appears with a tap at the foot of the screen, and gets out of the way when you scroll. You can move from tab to tab by simply swiping over the tab bar, or swipe up it for a page of thumbnails showing all your open tabs. 

Safari Extensions have long been popular on the Mac, and they’re coming to the iOS and iPadOS versions of Safari. Extensions let you customise your Safari experience by adding extensions that are downloaded from the App Store. They can add all sorts of new functions and features to your web browser. 

These new features are arguably the most significant to come to Safari in years, and they arrive this autumn with macOS Monterey, iOS 15 and iPadOS 15.

Ian Osborne

Ian has worked on computer and video games magazines since the legendary Crash and Zzap! 64 in the early Nineties, so he’s seen many changes over the years (including an expanding waistline and receding hairline). A lifelong Mac user, he bought his first Mac in the year 2000. It’s a testament to the resilience of the Mac that his mother is still using that computer to this very day.

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