8 Tips for Using Safari With OS X

Getting familiar with safari features

Steve Jobs with Safari logos

 Kim Kulish / Getty Images

With the release of OS X Yosemite, Apple updated its Safari web browser to version 8. With the user interface changes comes a bit of a struggle for some long-time Safari users, so here are eight tips to help you get started with Safari 8.

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What Happened to the Web Page URL

URL Missing screenshot
Full URL of page is missing from the Smart Search field.

The new unified search and URL field in Safari 8 (which Apple calls a Smart Search field) seems to lack the URL part. When you're viewing a website, the Smart Search field only displays a truncated version of the URL; essentially, the web site's domain.

So, instead of seeing http://macs.lifewire.com/od/Safari/tp/8-Tips-for-Using-Safari-8-With-OS-X-Yosemite.htm, you'll only see macs.lifewire.com. Go ahead; jump around to another page here. You'll notice the field still only shows macs.lifewire.com.

You can reveal the full URL by clicking once in the Smart Search field, or you can set Safari 8 to always display full URLs by doing the following:

  1. Select Preferences from the Safari menu item.
  2. Click the Advanced button in the Preferences window.
  3. Put a check mark next to Smart Search Field: Show full website address.
  4. Close Safari Preferences.

The full URL will now be displayed in the Smart Search field.

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Where Is the Web Page's Title?

Title Missing screenshot
The only way to have the web page title visible is to have the Tab bar open.

Apple likes to say that it streamlined, or created a cleaner look in, Safari 8. We like to say they iOS-ified it. In order to have the same look and feel as Safari on an iOS device, the web page title that used to appear centered just above the unified search field in previous versions of Safari is now gone, kaput, discarded.

It appears the title was removed to conserve space in Safari 8's toolbar area. It's a shame, because unlike iPhones and the smaller iPads, Macs have plenty of display real estate to work with, and a web page's title is a good way to keep track of what you're currently looking at, especially if you have multiple browser windows open.

You can bring the web page title back, but unfortunately, you won't be able to have it appear in its traditional location, centered above the Smart Search field as the browser window title. Instead, you can take advantage of Safari's Tab Bar, which shows the web page title even when tabs are not being used.

  • To display the Tab Bar, select View, Show Tab Bar.

The Tab Bar, with the web page's title, will be displayed.

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How to Drag the Safari Window Around

Drag the window screenshot
You can add flexible spaces to the toolbar to ensure you have a place to drag the browser window.

With the loss of the web page title displaying as the browser window title, you may notice that there isn't a good spot to use to drag the browser window around your desktop. If you try clicking within the Smart Search field, which now commands the old location of the window title, you won't be able to drag the window around; instead, you'll just activate one of the functions of the Smart Search field, which at this point, doesn't seem to be very smart.

The only solution is to relearn old habits and move Safari 8 windows about by clicking a space between buttons on the toolbar and dragging the window to the desired location.

If you tend to fill your toolbar up with custom buttons, you may want to add a flexible space item to your toolbar, just to make sure you have enough room to click in to drag the window around.

  1. To add a flexible space, right-click on a blank area of the browser toolbar and select Customize Toolbar from the pop-up window.
  2. Grab the Flexible Space item from the customization pane, and drag it to the location in the toolbar that you would like to use as your window drag area.
  3. Click the Done button when you're finished.
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View Tabs as Thumbnails

Tab Thumbnails screenshot
Use the Show all Tabs button to view all open tabs as thumbnails.

Are you a tab user? If so, you probably sometimes open enough tabbed browser windows to make the titles difficult to see. With enough tabs created, titles tend to get truncated to fit across the tab bar.

You can view the title by simply hovering the cursor over the tab; the full title will display in a little pop-up.

An easier and more convenient method of seeing the details of each tab is to click the Show All Tabs button, located in Safari's toolbar; you can also select it from the View menu.

Once you select the Show All Tabs option, each tab will display as a thumbnail of the actual web page, complete with title; you can click on a thumbnail to bring that tab to the front and display it in full.

The thumbnail view also allows you to close tabs or open new ones.

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Safari Favorites, or, Where Did My Bookmarks Go?

Favorites screenshot
Clicking in the Smart Search field will display your favorites,.

Remember the Smart Search field? It may be too smart for its own good. Apple seems to have crammed as many functions as it could into that field, including a user's favorites, also known as bookmarks.

Clicking in the Smart Search field will display your favorites, including any folders you were using for the organization. While that's kind of nifty, it has a few drawbacks. First, it doesn’t always work. Clicking into the Smart Search field when you've already clicked into the field to select a URL, copy a URL, or add a URL to your reading list, will make the Smart Search field a great deal less smart. You may have to refresh the current web page in order to click into the Smart Search field and see your favorites, not the greatest of experiences.

You can, however, bring back the old-fashioned favorites bar with just a menu choice.

  • Select View, Show Favorites Bar, and your favorites are right back where you left them in the previous version of Safari.
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Choose Your Favorite Search Engine

search engine screenshot

Safari 8, like previous versions of Safari, lets you pick the search engine you want to use when using the Smart Search field. The default search engine is the ever-popular Google, but there are three other options.

  1. Select Safari, Preferences to open the Preferences window.
  2. Click the Search item from the top bar of the Preferences window.
  3. Use the Search Engine drop-down menu to select one of the following search engines:
    1. Google 
    2. Yahoo
    3. Bing
    4. DuckDuckGo

While the selection is limited, the choices represent the most popular search engines, including the newly added DuckDuckGo.

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Enhanced Search

search screenshot
Safari can even search a specific web site, even if you don't currently have the site loaded in the browser.

Having a unified URL/Search field is old hat, which is why Safari's new do-everything field has the moniker Smart Search, and smart it is (most of the time). As you type a search string into the new Smart Search field, Safari not only makes use of your selected search engine, but also uses Spotlight to search in your Safari bookmarks and history, Wikipedia, iTunes, and Maps, for results that meet your search criteria.

Results are displayed in a format similar to Spotlight, allowing you to select from a list of results organized by source.

Safari can even search a specific website, even if you don't currently have the site loaded in the browser. The Quick Website Search feature learns which sites you've searched in the past. Once you've performed a search at a web site's main page, Safari remembers that you've searched there in the past, and may want to search there again. To make use of the Quick Website Search feature, you simply preface your search string with the site's domain name. For example:

Let's assume you've searched my site: http://macs.lifewire.com. If you haven’t searched the About: Macs site before, enter a search phrase into my site's search box, and click the magnifying glass icon or press the return or enter key on your keyboard.

Safari will now remember that macs.about is a site you've searched in the past, and will be happy to search it again for you in the future. To see this work, open a Safari window to some other website, and then in the Smart Search field, enter macs.about safari 8 tips.

In the search suggestions, you should see an option for searching macs.lifewire.com, as well as searching using your preferred search engine. You don’t have to select one or the other; just hitting return in the Smart Search field will perform the search within macs.about. If, instead, you wish to search your default search engine, then select that option and the search will be performed.

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Private Browsing Vastly Improved

private browsing
With Safari 8, private browsing is on a per browser window basis.

Safari supported private browsing in its earlier iterations but starting with Safari 8, Apple takes privacy a bit more seriously and makes using private browsing as easy as possible.

In previous versions of Safari, you had to turn on private browsing every time you started Safari up, and the privacy applied to every session or browser window you opened in Safari. The privacy browser feature was workable but a bit of a pain, especially when there were some sites where you wanted to allow cookies and history to be retained, and others that you didn't. With the old method, it was all or nothing.

With Safari 8, private browsing is on a per browser window basis. You can elect to open a private browser window by choosing File, New Private Window. Browser windows that have the privacy feature enabled have a black background for the Smart Search field, so it's easy to distinguish normal browser windows from private windows.

According to Apple, private browsing windows provide for anonymous browsing by keeping Safari from saving history, recording searches performed, or remembering forms you filled out. Any items you download aren't included in the Downloads list. Private browser windows won't work with Handoff, and websites can't modify information stored on your Mac, such as existing cookies.

It's important to understand that private browsing isn't completely private. In order for many websites to work, browsers need to send some personal information, including your IP address, as well as the browser and operating system in use. This basic information is still sent in private browsing mode, but from the standpoint of someone going through your Mac and finding details of what you've been doing in your web browser, private browsing works pretty well.

At first glance, Safari's new look may be a bit shocking, especially if you're coming from Safari 7 and earlier. The new flat look to the browser and the streamlining of features can be a bit difficult to get your head around. But once you check out these eight essential tips for using Safari 8, you'll be well on your way to enjoying how fast and convenient Safari 8 has become.