How to Pin Sites in Safari and Mac OS

Use Pinned Sites for Surprisingly Fast Access to Web Data

Safari with Pinned Web Sites
Pinned web sites are shown as small icons in the red highlighted area. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

OS X El Capitan introduced a number of Safari improvements, including the ability to pin your favorite websites. Pinning a website puts the site's icon in the top left section of the Tab bar, allowing you to easily pull up the website with just a click.

But pinning is more than just a convenient way to bookmark a site. Web sites you pin in Safari are live; that is, the page is constantly being refreshed in the background.

Switching to a pinned site presents the most current content available, and since it has already been loaded, the site is instantly available.

How to Pin a Web Site in Safari 9 or Later

I can’t explain why, but Apple is on a tab kick at the moment, so for no earthly reason that I can come up with, site pinning only works on the tab bar. If you don't have the tab bar visible, pinning won't work.

But that’s okay because you really should have the tab bar displayed, even if you prefer to visit one website at a time, in a single Safari window. If you'd like to find out more about why the tab bar is a must-see feature of Safari, take a look at 8 Tips for Using Safari 8 With OS X.

To make the tab bar visible, launch Safari.

  1. From the View menu, select Show Tab Bar.
  2. With the tab bar now visible, you’re ready to pin a website.
  3. Navigate to one of your favorite websites, such as About: Macs.
  4. Right-click or control-click the tab bar, and select Pin Tab from the pop-up menu that appears.
  1. The current website will be added to the pinned list, which is located at the far left edge of the tab bar.

How to Remove Pinned Web Sites from Safari

To remove a pinned website, make sure the tab bar is visible (see step 2, above).

  1. Right-click or command-click in the pin for the website you wish to remove.
  1. Select Unpin Tab from the pop-up menu.

Interestingly enough, you can also select Close Tab from the same pop-up menu, and the pinned website will be removed.

Beyond the Basics of Pinned Web Sites

As you may have noticed, pinned websites appear to be nothing more than tabs that have been collapsed to a small site icon. But they do have a few extra capabilities missing from plain tabs. The first of these we have already mentioned; they're always being refreshed in the background, assuring you'll see the most up-to-date content when you open a pinned website.

Their other super power is that they're part of Safari and not the current window. This allows you to open additional Safari windows, and each window will have the same group of pinned sites ready for you to access.

Pinned websites will likely prove very useful for those who make use of websites with content that is constantly changing, such as web-based mail services, and social media sites, such at Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Handy Feature, But Needs Improvements

Safari 9 is the first version to use pinned websites, and not surprisingly, there are some places where improvements could be made. It’s likely that there will be many suggestions for improvements, but here are mine:

  • When you select a pinned web site, that web site should have its title displayed in the tab bar; it is, after all, the currently selected tab. Instead, the last non-pinned website that was open, or the default home page, has its title displayed, although the website isn't visible.
  • The pins themselves can become quite small; this is especially true for anyone with a Retina-equipped Mac.
  • If you get carried away with pinning websites, you can use up enough space on the tab bar to make using normal tabs frustrating. Perhaps pinned websites deserve their own place in the Safari UI, and should not be sharing the tab bar.
  • And lastly, there's the potential for pinned websites to be a resource hog since they're all actively being updated in the background. But I don’t believe this will be much of a problem unless you happen to pin a large number of websites that are very active and always updating information.

Give Pinned Web Sites a Try

Now that you know about Safari’s pinned websites feature, give it a try. I recommend limiting pins to the sites you visit most often; I wouldn't use pins as a substitute for bookmarks. 

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