Use Safari's Tab Muting to Quiet Things Down

You Can Mute Safari Tabs and Browser Windows With This Feature

Safari Tab Muting Dropdown Menu
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

With the introduction of OS X El Capitan, Apple brought a few new features to Safari, including the ability to mute audio from those annoying auto-start ads and site videos.

Of course, being able to mute sound in a tab is nothing new; Chrome has had this functionality in one form or another for quite a while. Apple’s implementation is a bit more straightforward; it doesn't require you to find a GUI setting and turn the feature on; instead, the mutable tab feature is on by default. All that's required for the tab muting function to work is to have a web page that auto-starts audio when you open the page in a tab in the Safari browser.

When Apple originally mentioned this new muting capability, I was both delighted and a bit put off​ because Apple always said this was a tab muting function and required you to be using a tabbed view in Safari in order to take advantage of it.

I tend to open multiple browser windows more often than tabbed windows, so I thought I was going to be left out of the peacefulness offered by tab muting.

Turns out that isn't the case; even those of us who use multiple browser windows can take advantage of tab muting, and the reason is a simple one. Safari considers any browser window open to a single page to be a single tab. When you have multiple windows open, they're just multiple tabs scattered across your open windows. As a result, you can still make use of the tab muting function in any of the open windows to mute or unmute another window, not just another tab.

Using Safari's Ability to Mute Tabs

Let’s start with using tab muting on a single Safari browser window open with multiple tabs. In this case, any tab that includes a page that has any audio content playing will include a new speaker icon in the right-hand side of the tab.

Clicking on the speaker icon will toggle from audible to muted. Toggling to the muted position will result in the speaker icon having a diagonal slash drawn through it, and the sound muted for that page. It's not, however, a pause function; the audio will continue to play on the page; you just won't be able to hear it.

The same speaker icon also appears in any single Safari window, even if there's only one web page open in the window. Just like the tab muting, clicking the speaker icon will mute the current window. Clicking the muted speaker icon will unmute the audio, allowing you to hear whatever is playing within the window.

Controlling Audio in Multiple Tabs or Windows

Since the speaker icon is only displayed in tabs or windows that have an active audio source, it's fairly easy to locate the tab that's playing the audio stream and quickly mute the source.

This becomes a bit more difficult in a multiple browser window scenario, where the offending window blasting audio may be hidden by other browser windows. Thankfully, tab muting has another trick up its sleeve that works for both window and tabbed browsing.

The speaker icon in a Safari tab or browser window is more than just a simple toggle switch that allows you to mute and unmute sound; it also incorporates a dropdown menu, available by clicking and holding the speaker icon. After a second or so, the dropdown menu will appear, with options to mute all sound sources, mute the current window or tab source, or unmute the current tab or window. You can also unmute all tabs and windows if you don’t mind a cacophony of sound screaming away at you.

In addition, the speaker icon's dropdown menu also displays a list of all tabs and windows that have sound, letting you pick one to switch to in the Safari browser.

Missing Mute Controls

Safari’s tab muting is a nice step forward, but really, why should we be subject to blaring audio if that isn't what we want? What's missing from the controls is a simple mute always option. This would show the speaker icon in the muted position if a web page is playing audio. If I want to hear the audio, I can always unmute the page. With any luck, this type of feature may be available in future versions or added by developers as an extension at a later date

Published: 9/22/2015

Updated: 10/1/2015