Safari is the web browser app bundled with all Macs as part of macOS. You don’t have to use it - if you prefer to use Chrome or Firefox, for example, you can install those apps for your web surfing needs. But in our experience, Safari is a good option - and as you can see from our round-up of best web browser apps for the Mac, it’s pretty much the best you can get.

If you are new to Safari this article will help you find your way around the app. And if you are a seasoned Safari user we will reveal a few Safari tips and tricks that you might not know, including some of the fab new features in Safari 11, the latest version of Safari for Mac.

If you’d like to read about using Safari on the iPad or iPhone, read this.

How to get the latest version of Safari for Mac

First things first. You will want to make sure you have the latest version of Safari. At the time of writing the most up-to-date version is Safari 11.1.

Here’s how to find out which version of Safari you are running:

  1. Open Safari.
  2. Click on Safari > About Safari in the menu.
  3. The resulting window will reveal the version number.

As long as your copy of MacOS - the Mac operating system - is up to date your copy of Safari should be because Safari is bundled as part of an operating system update.

However, you don’t have to be using the latest version of macOS to have the latest version of Safari. Apple is bundling Safari 11 with High Sierra, Sierra and El Capitan versions of the Mac OS. If you need to update your version of MacOS read this: how to update your Mac operating system software.

Now that you have the latest version of Safari you can start enjoying some of the new features that we will discuss below.

Safari basics

If you are a surfing novice you might want to familiarise yourself with these tips.

We’ll start off with the basics, such as how to get into Safari, how to search, and other useful pointers. You can skip this bit if you aren’t a Safari beginner, there are plenty of tips below that you might find useful.

You can find Safari in the Dock at the bottom of your Mac’s screen. Its icon looks like a compass.

How to use Safari

The big bar at the top of the Safari window is where you can enter a website URL or a search term to either take you directly to a website, or to a list of pages that match your query.

It will automatically search in Google (but you can change it so it defaults to another search engine).

You rarely have to enter a complete URL for a website. Once you have visited a site once you only need to type a few letters of its name and it will autofill the rest of the URL.

For example, type: 'Face' and it will autofill the rest of the URL and when you press enter it will take you straight to Facebook.

How to make it easy to find your favourite sites in Safari

There are lots of ways of making it easy to get to websites you frequently visit.

When you open a new tab (see below for details of how to do that) you will see your Favourites view including Frequently Visited Sites. You could also choose to see a Top Sites view, set a Homepage, just see an empty page, or have the Same Page show up. These are all options you can access in Safari > Preferences > General. Just click on the menu beside New tabs open with.

If you choose the Top Sites view you can adjust it to show 6, 12 or 24 sites. To add and remove Top Sites hover over the preview until you see an x and a pin icon. Pin those sites you wish to keep and click x on those you don't image you will want to find again. The sites that appear in Top Sites tend to be those you visit most frequently.

You can choose one of these views for every time you open a new Safari window.

How to Pin a site in Safari

In Safari you can also 'Pin' favourite sites to the menu bar - a simple way of adding a shortcut to Facebook, YouTube or any site you visit frequently.

When you Pin a site you will see a small icon representing that site on the left of your tabs.

To Pin a particular web page right- or control-click on the tab and choose Pin Tab. Then it’s very easy to go straight to that site.

Using tabs in Safari

Back to tabs. You can open multiple tabs in a Safari window, this means that rather than having a different Safari window open for every website you are on, you can just have one Safari window open and multiple pages accessible through that.

To open a new tab press Command + T.

There are two ways that you can see a preview of the different tabs you have open:

  • You can see a short summary of the name of the web page on the tabs themselves. This might be sufficient if you only have one or two tabs open, but once you have more than eight you’ll probably find the summary is too short to be useful.
  • Or, you can click on the icon that looks like two boxes on the right of the search/URL box. This will show a thumbnail view of all the web pages you have open.

While we’re on the subject of Tabs, you can close a single tab just by hovering over the tab and clicking on the x that shows up in the corner of that tab.

It's also possible to close all but one tab. Just hold down the Option/Alt key when you click on the x to get rid of all the other tabs that are open, except for the page on that tab.

How to tell which Safari tabs are playing audio

Not everyone wants to surf the web in silence though. There is lots of very worthy audio and video content available on the web and no doubt many surfers wouldn’t want to miss out on that.

The problem is when you have multiple web pages open and more than one of them is blaring out audio.

Luckily there is another Safari tip to fix that.

You can identify which of your open tabs is playing audio by the speaker symbol that appears in the far right of the Safari tab associated with that web page.

It's possible to mute the audio with a single click on the speaker symbol without even opening the tab.

And if more than one Safari webpage is playing audio you can choose to mute them all at once. Just click on the speaker symbol in the URL bar and choose Mute all Tabs.

Alternatively, you can Option/Alt-click on the speaker icon of the tab you do wish to listen to and mute the audio on all the other tabs.

How to reopen all windows from the last session

Here’s another useful tip. You can easily reopen all the tabs you had open last time you were using Safari.

Click History > Reopen All Windows from Last Session to quickly recover all the windows you were recently looking at. You might also find this helpful: How to export bookmarks from Chrome to Safari

How to show the full URL in Safari

Another handy Safari tip. In Yosemite Safari stopped showing the whole URL - a feature designed to help avoid users being taken in by phishing scams, wherein the URL is obfuscated. In other words, if you're visiting then all you'll see in the address bar is

If this isn’t what you want, perhaps you want to see the full URL of the article you are reading, you can change things so that the whole URL is shown.

Open Safari's preferences dialog box (Cmd+,) then click the Advanced icon and put a check alongside Show Full Website Address.

How to change how you view websites in Safari

One of our favourite features in Safari 11 is the extra control we have over the web. You can tweak the settings of specific websites so that they suit you for example.

How to change the font size on a website

You can tweak your settings so that when you visit a specific site the images and text are bigger - perfect if you are frustrated to find that the text on a favourite website is a bit too small for your eyes.

Here’s how to enlarge (or reduce) the font size on a particular website so that it stays that size whether you visit:

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences.
  2. Click on the Websites tab.
  3. Click on Page Zoom.
  4. Find the site you want to customise (any site you have open or have recently visited will be listed here).
  5. Choose a number bigger or smaller than 100% depending on how large you want the text and images to be.

You can do this on a per website basis, or if you frequently find that the text on websites is too small for you, you can choose to default to the percentage that suits you wherever you go on the web. Note that not all websites are created the same so some will naturally have larger type than others.

To choose the zoom percentage for all websites, click in the drop down box beside “When visiting other websites”.

Another benefit of having access to these controls that allow you to change the way you view the web is that it enables you to stop seeing ads and auto-playing videos. We'll look at that below.

How to stop ads and auto-playing videos in Safari

Another enticing feature of Safari is the way you can choose to adjust the settings so that you never see another ad or auto-playing video again. We'll look at how to do that next.

How to stop autoplay audio and video in Safari

Perhaps you are frustrated by auto-playing video blaring out every time you visit a website.

With Safari 11 you can disable autoplay video, so you will never again have to hear voices while you are browsing the web. Here’s what to do:

  1. Open the offending website.
  2. Click on Safari > Settings for This Website (or right-click the URL box and select Settings for This Website).
  3. You will see a pop-up window with the option Auto-Play, click on the words besides that to see three choices:
    • Allow All Auto-Play
    • Stop Media with Sound
    • Never Auto-Play

Stop Media with Sounds is the default option, and it will essentially stop any video from starting if the sound is set to be on. If the video is set to play silently it will still run but you won’t hear it, unless you choose to.

If you would rather not let auto-playing video play, you can choose Never Auto-Play.

Remember that if you adjust the settings this way it will only apply to autoplay videos on that website. If you’d like to never see an autoplaying video again follow these steps:

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences and click on Websites.
  2. Click Auto-Play and in the section on the right you will see any currently open websites. As before, you can choose to:
    • Allow All Auto-Play
    • Stop Media with Sound
    • Never Auto-Play

And there is an option below to choose the same settings “When visiting other websites”.

We have a complete tutorial that explains how to use this feature here: How to stop autoplay video in Safari & Chrome on Mac.

We also cover how to stop Safari asking to use your location data here.

How to stop seeing ads on websites in Safari

While ads pay a part of our wage, we realise that some ads can really reduce the enjoyment of web browsing. Usually these are ads that have something wrong with the way they have been coded and aren’t behaving as intended, or even worse they are spam ads that have crept onto the ad networks. We are honestly as frustrated as you are!

One of the big changes Apple bought to Safari 11 was the ability to really manage the ads that you see - this was part of Apple’s effort to make the web work better. Effectively, if Apple can remove ads that aren’t behaving as intended and are jamming up page loading times and the like, then Safari will perform quicker, which means that the surfer has a better time surfing.

There are a few ways you can take advantage of these anti-ad related features in Safari 11.

One way is to choose to surf the web - or certain pages - in Reader mode.

Reader mode is a way of viewing webpages that Apple introduced back in 2010 in Safari 5. Reader displays just the text and images from a webpage, without any of the other page furniture. We think it is a bit like reading a Word document or a PDF. The feature hasn’t changed much over the years, but in Safari 11 it's became possible to choose for a site to always be viewed in Reader Mode.

First, here’s how to view a site in Reader mode:

  1. Click on the stack of lines to the left of the URL bar.
  2. This will automatically change the webpage to Reader view.
  3. Click on the stack of lines to turn Reader view off.

It’s worth checking how a site appears in this mode before switching over to it because not all sites implement it particularly well (sometimes you will find that an article stops abruptly because only one page has been carried into Reader view). Some sites don’t have a Reader view at all (such as Apple, for example).

And here is how to customise your settings so that whenever you visit that site the pages are viewed in Reader mode:

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences.
  2. Click on the Websites tab.
  3. Click on Reader.
  4. Find the site you want to customise (any site you have open, or have recently visited will be listed here).
  5. Toggle the drop-down menu beside that site to On.

A quicker way to do this is to right-click or control-click on the stack of lines beside the URL and choose Use Reader Automatically.

Or, as long as you are on the website you wish to change the setting for, you can click on Safari > Settings for this Website, and choose Use Reader When Available.

How to surf in private using Safari

Another useful feature in Safari is the option to use a private browsing window. This doesn’t just keep your browsing habits private from someone else who has access to your Mac, it also means that you are incognito - in other words even the websites you are visiting don’t have any information about you.

Go to Safari > File > New Private Window (or shift-cmd-n). You can tell if a window is private because the search bar will be grey. Any new tabs you open in this window will be private.

Alternatively, to open a Private Browsing window you can click shift, command and N.

You can tell it's a private window because the URL field will be greyed out.

Hold down Option/Alt while picking Private Browsing to quickly switch it on and bypass the 'Do you want to switch on Private Browsing?' alert window if you happen to see it frequently. We have a complete guide to private browsing on Safari here.

For even more privacy, you can choose to always search with privacy-obsessed DuckDuckGo as your default search engine. Go to Safari > Preferences > Search, and click on the Search Engine. Then select Duck Duck Go from the Search Engine dropdown list. You can choose from Google, Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo.

How to delete your histroy in Safari

If you didn't search using a private browsing window you can still delete your history and evidence of what you were up to.

  1. Click on History.
  2. Scroll down and click on Clear History.
  3. You can choose to clear history for Today, the last hour, today and yesterday, or all history.
  4. You'll see a warning that Clearing history will remove related cookies and other website data. Basically this is warning you that if you go ahead and Clear History you may find that you have to log onto websites, or shopping cart information may disappear.
  5. If you are happy with that then click on Clear history.

We have a complete tutorial all about how to delete your browser history on a Mac here.

How to delete cookies in Safari

Another new feature that came in Safari 11 was the introduction of privacy protection, a feature that’ll stop those annoying Amazon adverts showing you products after you’ve bought them.

Safari actively tries to block the cross-site tracking data that powers targeted adverts. While it won’t completely stop it, it should have a noticeable effect when using the browser.

According to Apple this isn’t an attempt to block ads, but rather to protect your privacy.

This means that you should no longer need to delete cookies if you want to stop seeing targeted ads (cookies have also been known to affect the price for goods if you have previously shown an interest in a product so deleting cookies could avoid such practices).

If you want to go a step further regarding cookies in Safari 11 there are some preferences changes you can make.

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences.
  2. Beside Website tracking click on Ask websites not to track me.
  3. Beside Cookies and website data click on Block all cookies.

If you aren't using Safari 11 you can still delete cookies.

  1. Go to Safari > Preferences.
  2. Click on the Privacy tab.
  3. Click on Remove All Website Data...

Here's how to add your own background image to Safari.