How to Use the Safari Web Browser on iOS Devices

Get online wherever you are

Apple Safari browser logos

geralt / Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons 

While you can install browsers from the App Store, the web browser that comes built into every iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is Safari.

Apple adapted the iOS version of Safari from the desktop version that has come with Macs for many years; however, the mobile version of Safari is different in many ways.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 12 and later.

How to Use Safari in iOS

Safari uses the same gestures as the rest of iOS. Drag to scroll webpages, and tap links and images to open them. But it also has some special features that might not have counterparts in other apps you use. Here are some tricks that will help you get the most out of your internet browsing.

Zooming in and Out

To zoom in on a particular section of a web page – for example, to enlarge the text on the page you're reading – tap twice on that part of the screen. This gesture enlarges that section of the page. The same double-tap zooms out again.

To have more control over what you're zooming in on, use the iPhone's multitouch pinch feature. Put your index finger together with your thumb and place them on the part of the iPhone's screen that you want to zoom in on. Then, drag your fingers apart to zoom in on the page. To zoom back out and make things smaller, put your fingers at opposite ends of the screen and drag them together in a pinching motion.

Jumping to the Top of a Page

You scroll down the page by dragging a finger down the screen. On a long, scrolling page, you can quickly jump back to the top with a single tap. Tap the top center of the screen. The first tap reveals the address bar in Safari, and the second immediately jumps you back to the top of the web page.

Your second tap should be near the top of the screen, on the clock. Otherwise, Safari will open the address field for you to type in a search or website address.

Moving Back and Forth Through Your History

Safari keeps track of the sites you've visited; you use the back and forward buttons and gestures to move through the sites and pages you've been to recently. There are two ways to access this feature:

  • Arrow buttons at the bottom left corner of the screen are the forward and back buttons.
  • Swipe to go back or forward. Swipe the left edge of the screen to go back and the right edge to go forward.

Open a New Safari Tab

Opening a new tab in Safari lets you visit another website without closing the one you're on currently. Here's how to use this feature.

These instructions assume you're using Safari with your phone in portrait mode. The features work the same in landscape, but the buttons may be in different places.

Tap the Tabs icon in the lower-right corner of the screen. The page you're on will get smaller. Tap the plus icon to open a new, blank tab.

Opening a new tab in Safari

You can also open a link on a webpage in a new tab.

Find the link you want to open in a new window. Tap and hold the link on the screen to open the menu. Tap Open in New Tab. The link will open in a new tab.

If your device features Force Touch, you can press down to open this menu as well.

Opening a website in a new tab in Safari for iOS

The Action Menu in Safari

The icon at the bottom center of Safari that looks like a box with an arrow coming out of it is called the Action menu. Tapping it reveals all sorts of features that allow you to bookmark a site, add it to your favorites or reading list, make a shortcut for it on your device's home screenprint the page, share a page, and more.

The Action menu in Safari for iOS

Private Browsing in Safari

Use the Private Browsing mode to browse websites without Safari keeping a browser history, search history, or AutoFill information after you close a tab. To enable it, tap the​ Tabs button to open your browser tabs. Tap Private in the lower left to open a private browsing section. Here, you can press the plus button at the bottom to open a private browsing tab and start surfing the web.

To turn Private Browsing Mode off, tap the Private button again in the lower left of the window.

Opening a Private Browsing window in Safari for iOS