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How to Take Advantage of Advanced Features in Safari in OS X El Capitan

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:

Safari’s major overhaul occurred when OS X Yosemite was released last year, stripping away toolbars, offering up new views, and making searches a whole lot smarter. By comparison, changes to Safari in OS X El Capitan are few, but they’ll have an immediate effect on how you browse the web.

People use the Safari browser for different purposes. Some use it for basic needs, while others can harness its powerful features for productivity. Whatever is the case, I’ll assume that you’re familiar with the basic features of Safari.

This tutorial will show you how to take advantage of powerful features in Safari to

  • Browse the Web efficiently
  • Read on the Web 
  • Share content with others and with different applications
  • Take advantage of security and privacy features
  • Debug and optimise a website

Browse the Web Efficiently

How to Pin Frequently Visited Websites

In OS X El Capitan, Safari lets you pin favourite websites. Drag the tab—with the site you wish to pin—to the left side of the tab bar. When the tab shrinks and displays the website’s icon or initial, drop it in place. 

Alternatively, choose Windows > Pin Tab, or Control-Click a tab and choose Pin Tab.

Pinned websites always stay in place, even when you open a new Safari window or quit and re-open Safari.

pin-tab-in-safari
There are many ways to Pin a tab in Safari. You can pin your favorite website as of OS X El Capitan

To remove a pinned website, drag the pinned tab to the right side of the tab bar. When the tab expands to look like a regular tab, drop it in place. 

Alternatively, choose Window > Unpin Tab, or Control-Click a tab and choose Unpin Tab. To re-order a pinned site, drag a pinned site before or after another pinned site in the tab bar. 

unpin-tab-in-safari
There are many ways to Unpin a tab in Safari

When you click a link to another website from a pinned site, the other website open in a new tab. The pinned site always shows the website you pinned. 

If you pin a lot of websites, then eventually it may get difficult to find the tab. When in doubt, hover the mouse cursor over a tab to see its name in a tool tip.

Browse Quickly With Keyboard Shortcuts

Browsing the Web with keyboard shortcuts can really speed up your browsing. There are many keyboard shortcuts designed for Safari, in addition to those that appear in Safari menus.

  • Scroll to the top-left or bottom-left corner of the page—Command-Up Arrow or Home, Command-Down Arrow or End
  • Open a page in a new tab—Command-Click a link, Command-Click a bookmark, Command-Return after typing in the Smart Search field
  • Open a page in a new tab, and bring the tab to the front—Shift-Command-Click a link, Shift-Command-Click a bookmark
  • Select one of the first nine tabs—Command–1 to Command–9
  • Jump from one input field or text box to the next—Use the Tab key, and move backward by holding Shift-Tab at the same time

A list of all the shortcuts are detailed in this Apple Knowledge Base article. People often don’t use shortcuts in part because they’re difficult to learn and remember—especially when you count individual applications’ own special shortcuts.

The Cheatsheet app lets you view keyboard shortcuts of any application installed on your Mac. Hold down the Command key a bit longer and you’ll see a pop-up window with listings of all the keyboard shortcuts. 

So when you browse the Web, having this list available all the time will help you in remembering shortcut keys.

Mute Audio in Tabs

In OS X El Capitan, Safari now lets you mute audio in any open tabs—helpful when you’re listening to audio from one website, and unwanted audio starts playing from another. You can do this right from the smart search field—no need to click through all your tabs to locate the ones you want to silence. If the tab is playing audio, the audio button is solid blue.

Click the audio button in the smart search field to mute audio in the tab you’re viewing. You can mute and unmute audio in tabs that are in the active Safari window as well those behind the active window. 

mute-audio-tab-in-safari
Mute audio of any tabs in Safari. Take a note of Smart Search field and a blue audio button

To see the list of websites playing audio, click and hold the audio button in the smart search field. A contextual menu will appear and it shows a list of all the tabs playing the audio. 

Select any one tab from the list and Safari will put that tab front and centre. If you’re watching a video on one page and audio starts playing from another, you can just use the contextual menu on the current page to mute all the others.

contextual-menu-audio-tab-safari
Right click the audio button to see a contextual option. Mute all the other tabs playing audio with one click

If you’re viewing a website that’s not playing audio, the list of open websites also include the Mute All Tabs option. If it’s playing audio, it includes the Mute This Tab or Mute Other Tabs option.

Save All the Tabs With One Click

While surfing the Web, if you want to bookmark a webpage you can do one at a time. But if you have multiple tabs open it’s painful to save each bookmark. 

To bookmark all open tabs in Safari, make sure your current Safari window is active. Then select Bookmarks from the menu and click Add Bookmark for These n tabs where n is the number of tabs that are open in the window.

add-bookmarks-for-these-tabs-safari
Safari lets you add bookmarks from multiple tabs. A very handy tip if you want to save all the URLs

A pop-up window will appear. Set a relevant name of those tabs and optionally choose the bookmark folder, where in your tabs will get saved.

pop-up-window-bookmarks-safari
A pop up window will appear before you save any bookmarks. Choose any folder you want to

If you want more flexibility, then download Tab Lister Extension from Safari extensions gallery. 

It creates a list of links to all open tabs in all open windows. The list is clearly organised and you have the ability to save lists for later, or share them via email.

tab-lister-extension-safari
Tab lister extension Safari lets you save all the links, the best part is you can send them them via email 

Disable all Images While Browsing

If you’re using mobile data connection to browse the Web in Safari for Mac, you may want to disable images to reduce your bandwidth usage. 

Also, if you’re developing a website then you want to ensure that your website has an appropriate alternate content for people with extremely poor eyesight. 

To disable images, you have to enable Develop menu. Choose Safari > Preferences, click Advanced, then select Show Develop menu in menu bar.

enable-develop-menu-in-safari
Enable Develop menu in Safari

Now choose Develop > Disable Images to disable images for that particular website. As of now there is no option to selectively disable images per website.

disable-images-develop-menu-safari
From the Develop menu select Disable Images. 

Merge All Windows in Safari

If you find yourself with a bunch of separate browser windows all over your desktop screen, then you can neatly consolidate them into one single, tabbed Safari window by choosing Window > Merge All Windows

You can even make your own Merge All Windows keyboard shortcut exclusive for Safari.

Open System Preferences. Click on Keyboard and select the Shortcuts tab. Choose App Shortcuts from the left pane and click + icon to add a new shortcut.

keyboard-shortcuts-tab-safari
Click the + icon to add a new application shortcut. 

Select Safari.app from the Application pull down list, then type Merge All Windows as the menu title. 

Set the keyboard shortcut of your choice. If the keyboard shortcut didn’t work, you may have chosen a shortcut that conflicts with another function or app.

merge-windows-keyboard-shortcut
Press the shortcut key to merge all the Windows. Don't forget to click Add

Reopen All Windows from Last Browsing Session

Safari gives you the ability to restore your previous browsing session, which can be quite useful in the event of crash, an unexpected reboot of your Mac, or accidental closure of browser windows. 

To restore prior browser windows, click the History menu and choose the option you want:

  • Select Reopen All Windows from Last Session to recover all the windows from the last browsing session.
  • Select Reopen Last Closed Window to open the last window—if you accidentally closed a window this will immediately re-open that window in Safari.
re-open-windows-from-last-browsing-session-safari
This is a helpful option if you accidentally closed all the windows

Alternatively, you can instruct Safari to re-open windows from last browsing session. To set this option, choose Safari > Preferences, then select General

In the Safari opens with section, choose All windows from last session

Note: If you don’t see this section, then you have probably turned off Close windows when quitting an application in the General pane of System Preferences.

safari-opens-with-preferences
In Safari opens with choose All windows from last-session, check that this option is visible

See Webpages Open on Other Devices

iCloud keeps the you have open in Safari up-to-date on an iPhone, iPad, and Mac. You can go from one device to the next and pick up browsing wherever you left off. 

I’ve previously explained how to set up iCloud tabs. To make iCloud tabs work, you have to fulfil the minimum system requirements.

  • Mac OS X with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or later
  • iOS with iOS 6 or later

To see webpages open on your other devices, you can also click the Show All Tabs button in the Safari toolbar. 

Ensure Safari is turned on in iCloud preferences, on the Mac and in Settings > iCloud on the iOS device.

see-webpages-open-on-other-devices
iCloud tabs is a handy feature and is enabled for your iCloud account

Read the Web as Per Your Needs

Read Articles Clutter Free

Most Web pages contain elements that try to attract attention—sidebars, jiggling and floating ads, social toolbars, and more. 

Safari Reader lets you view a webpage article in one page, formatted for easy reading, and without any distracting elements. If that article spans along multiple pages, then you can read all the pages in Reader view. While you’re in Reader view, you can adjust font, font size, and background colour.

When you stumble upon an article you’d like to read, click the Reader button at the left end of the Smart Search field, or press Command-Shift-R. The button appears only when the webpage has an article that Reader can show.

show-reader-view-safari
Reader view is an easy to use but the most under-rated feature

To customise Reader View click the Appearance Option button to the right end of the Smart Search field. In the pop-over that appears, you can

  • Click the small A or big A to decrease or increase the font size
  • Click the circled dot to change the background color scheme—White (Default), Sepia, Grey, Black
  • Eight font options, including the San Francisco font
customize-reader-view-safari
Safari Reader view now has lots of options, including the San Francisco font

If you want to customise every element of Reader View, then Canisbos CustomReader II extension is an appropriate choice for power users. 

It includes text and link colour options, paragraph indentation, page-width, auto-read function that opens the Reader on any webpage automatically, customisable Reader css file, and more.

customreader-safari-extension
This is a must extension if you use Reader view a lot in Safari

Save Articles as PDF With Single Click

Saving a file as a PDF can be easily done from almost anywhere in Mac OS X by using the print to PDF feature. 

But it requires you to click multiple buttons: Click Print, choose the PDF button and select Save as PDF option. If you save lots of articles from the Web as PDF, then a keyboard shortcut is a better alternative.

Open System Preferences. Click on Keyboard and select the Shortcuts tab. Choose App Shortcuts from the left pane and click (+) icon to add a new shortcut for all applications.

keyboard-shortcuts-tab-all-applications
Click the + icon to add a new app shortcut

Select All Applications from the Application pull down list, and type Save as PDF… as the menu title. 

For the ellipses, use the shortcut Option-Semicolon. Now set the keyboard shortcut as Command-P and click Add. Open just about any file or webpage, hold down the Command key and press P twice.

save-pdf-keyboard-shortcut
You should use this shortcut if you save lots of PDF from Web

Subscribe to RSS Feeds in Safari

RSS is a great way to follow some of your favourite web sites and skim headlines. I often rely on third party applications for subscribing to RSS feeds, but if your needs are pretty basic and follow only few websites then you can use the built-in subscription feature in Safari

  1. Visit a webpage to which you wish to subscribe. 
  2. Click on the sidebar button to expand the bookmarks and subscription bar. 
  3. Select the @ symbol tab
  4. Click on Subscriptions at the bottom.
subscribe-rss-feeds-safari
If you have a basic needs, Safari still provides a basic RSS capabilities. Although there is no RSS button

Choose + Add Feed. At the Subscribe to pop-up, select Add Feed. To access and read your RSS feeds, go back to the @ tab. The RSS feeds will automatically populate into the sidebar.

add-feeds-in-safari
Adding feeds in Safari is quite easy. If you notice, there is a twitter account too. 

To add a favourite article from RSS feeds to the Reading List, right-click on the article and select Add to Reading List. When you add a page to the Reading List, Safari temporarily bookmarks the page and also make it accessible offline.

Turn Off Website Notifications

OS X can notify you when new email arrives, a reminder is due. Similarly, Safari can notify you when new articles are posted. You’ll see a message The website would like to send you push notifications in the Notification Center.

push-notifications-safari
If you allow this feature, you'll likely get many alerts in a day. Don't allow this feature

Once you agree to allow a website to send push notifications, you’ll see notifications slide out from the top-right corner periodically. Usually they disappear within a few seconds, but you’ll quickly get frustrated if you subscribe to a website that’s too chatty and sends you notifications all the time.

To turn off website notifications, open the System Preferences and click the Notifications tab. 

You’ll see a list of websites that have asked for permission to display alerts in the Notification Centre. Click Deny next to each website, or turn off Allow websites to ask for permission to send push notifications to make websites stop asking for permissions.

website-notifications-stop-in-safari
Disable the permissions for notifications entirely. Simply clicking Remove All will not work

Share Content With Others and With Different Applications

Send Web Links to Others

Sending web links to others is quite easy with Safari. Select or open some text, a photo, a video, a web link, or something else that that you want to send to friends. When you click the Share button, you’re offered various ways to share the selected item. The choices vary according to the application you’re using. 

For example;

  • Email this Page: When you choose Email this Page from the Share menu, you can choose the format of the link you want to email. It includes four options—Reader (optimised for easy reading), Web page (sends the content just like the way you see in browser), PDF, and Link Only
  • Twitter: Opens up the Twitter share sheet. A counter helps you keep your message under the limit of 140 characters. Explain what your linked item is about, and click Send
  • Facebook: Attaches the selected photo, video, or text to the Facebook share sheet
  • Messages: Puts the selected material into an outgoing message, add the recipient and click Send
  • AirDrop: We’ve previously shown you how to use AirDrop in depth. You can use AirDrop to send web link from your Mac to iOS device and vice versa
safari-share-button
Safari share sheet is tightly integrated with the operating system and different applications

You can choose which items to appear in the Share menu by using the Extension pane of System Preferences, or click More… from the Share menu to reach the preference pane in one click. 

You can also drag items’ names up or down, so that the most useful ones appear at the top of the Share menu.

extension-pane-system-preferences
Here you can arrange the extensions based on your usage. Helpful if you lots of extensions installed

Play Web Videos Using AirPlay

AirPlay has always been a great way way to mirror a Mac’s screen to an Apple TV. 

As of OS X El Capitan, Safari shows an AirPlay icon in its controller. Click this to choose an Apple TV and stream the video to it directly, without mirroring the entire screen. 

In fact, you can continue to work on the Mac while the video plays on the television.

Send Web Links to Applications

Applications in OS X El Capitan is integrated into the system-wide share sheet menu. You can send a link to URL to a note straight from Safari, a location from within Apple Maps, and a reminder link straight to Reminders app.

  • Notes—To add a link to a page you see in Safari, click the Share button, and choose Notes. A note appears with a short description, link, and a thumbnail representing the article or Web site. Select the destination of the note, it could be a new note or a folder of your choice and click Save
  • Reminders—To add a link to your reminder in Safari, click the Share button, and choose Reminders. A note appears with a link (replace the link with your own note), title of the article, and a thumbnail representing the article or website. Click the Info icon to add a reminder date and their priority. Select the Reminder list (you can choose Inbox, or your own list) and click Add
send-web-links-to-reminders
If you use Reminders a lot, then you'll appreciate this feature in day-to-day life

Take Advantage of Security and Privacy Features

Show the Full Website Address Bar

The newest versions of Safari, OS X El Capitan and Yosemite defaults to only displaying the domain name of the website you’re visiting, rather than the complete URL that many users have long been accustomed to seeing. 

If you feel that it hides information about active websites that is important to know, then you can change it back to display complete URL in address bar.

  1. Choose Preferences from the Safari menu and click Advanced tab
  2. Check the box next to Smart Search Field for Show full website address

The change is immediately visible in the URL bar. Note that you’d need to be beyond the root level of a website to see the difference.

safari-preference-advanced-tab
Under Smart Search field, toggle on Show full website address

Manage Cookies and Location Data

Cookies are like webpage preference files. This data many include information that you have already provided, such as name, email address, and preferences. It acts like a little bookmark, so that they’ll remember you the next time you visit. 

By default, Safari accepts cookies and data from websites you visit. This helps prevent certain advertisers from storing data on the Mac. If you’re worried about privacy, then you change them.

Choose Preferences from the Safari menu and click Privacy tab. Select a Cookies and website data option.

  • Always block: the browser doesn’t allow any websites, third-party elements to store their cookie related information on your Mac. This may prevent some websites from working properly
  • Allow from current website only: the browser accepts cookies and website data only from the website you’re currently visiting. It does not allow third parties to store or access cookie related information. This is a recommended option for most users, as it does not cause any potential issues in browsing
  • Allow from websites I visit: This option is almost same like above option, but in here Safari accepts cookies and website data only from websites you visit often. It uses existing cookies to determine whether you have visited a website before.

To view all the cookie related information, click the Details button to reveal the complete list. All of the data is available for removal with a click on the Remove All Website Data button.

Also while you’re in this tab, take a note of Website use of location services. This option controls the behaviour of websites that want to know your location and customise their content accordingly—you can customise them to prompt you just once, once a day, or never.

manage-cookies-and-location-data
If you want better privacy in Safari, set to options shown in blue checkmark. 

Disable Safari Suggestions

Safari search includes Safari Suggestions from the Internet, iTunes, the App Store, movie showtimes, locations nearby, and more. 

When you have Safari Suggestions enabled in Safari, search queries, the suggestions you select, and related usage data will be sent to Apple. If you have Location Services enabled, then Safari Suggestions provides you with more relevant suggestions.

According to the Apple Privacy Policy, location, search queries, and usage information sent to Apple will only be used to make Safari Suggestions more relevant and to improve other Apple products and services. Your account name, number, and password will not be sent to Apple. Depending on how you prefer to search, and which country you reside in, Safari Suggestions may not be relevant to you.

Choose Preferences from the Safari menu and click Search tab. Under the Smart Search field uncheck Include Safari Suggestions. As you uncheck the box, Safari Suggestions will no longer appear in the drop-down menu when performing a search. 

Note: In OS X Yosemite, you’ll see this option labeled as Include Spotlight Suggestions, they were changed to Include Safari Suggestions in OS X El Capitan.

safari-suggestions-privacy
Safari suggestions feature is not available in all countries. It's quite helpful if this feature is available

To deliver relevant search suggestions, Apple may use the IP address to approximate your location. 

You can turn of Location Services for Safari Suggestions too. 

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click on the Security and Privacy pane
  3. Go to Privacy tab
  4. Select Location Services a
  5. Click Details button under System Services 
  6. Uncheck Safari and Spotlight Suggestions 
  7. Click Done
disable-location-services-Mac
If you're not using Safari Suggestions, then turn of location feature in preferences

Disable and Remove Adobe Flash

Flash is much less necessary than it’s ever been. Mobile platforms like Android and iOS don’t offer Flash support at all, and big companies are slowly adopting HTML5 in favour of Flash

If you need Flash, then the Chrome browser includes a bundled Flash plug-in and it gets auto-updated with every release of Adobe Flash

Refer to the Envato Tuts+ recent tutorial how to disable, and uninstall Adobe Flash

Once you've uninstalled Flash you’ll be surprised at just how much of the web works properly without Flash installed.

Stop Pop-Up Ads and Adware

The steady decline in the effectiveness of banner ads has prompted advertisers to opt for another format, a pop-up ad. 

Pop-up ads are advertisements that are advertisements that open over or under your browser window, in another tab, or as a graphic element within the current window. The window in which the ad appears, sometimes does not include usual browser controls. They are often hard to identify, close button, or link that might appear anywhere in the window.

To combat with the issue of pop-ups, web browsers come with in-built pop-up blocking tools. In Safari, click the Security tab and check Block pop-up windows to stop some type of pop-ups.

block-pop-up windows-in-safari
You should enable this feature, or else you'll get really annoyed while browsing the Web

Apart from pop-ups, traditional viruses, worms, and trojans, there’s now a thriving ecosystem of adware and spyware programs. 

Adware has been a plague on the Windows for years. Unfortunately, this plague has begun to spread to the Mac as well. Macs do have some integrated protection against viruses and adware. The built-in anti-malware protection on Mac OS X is known as XProtect or File Quarantine. The file is located at

/System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources/XProtect.plist While you’re in CoreTypes.bundle, right click this file to show package contents.

The new definitions are updated periodically, but it has their own issues. Some will support quarantine and some will not. There are ways of getting files, applications, extensions, past the quarantine system and the results are mixed and often controversial.

Adware can come from multiple sources:

  • Packaged installers riddled with adware mainly because of incentives provided by adware creator
  • Applications downloaded from pirated sites or even popular download sites such as Download.com and Softonic
  • Installers installed through deceit, by tricking the user into installing it

If you see symptoms such as:

  • Change in browser’s home page
  • Change in Safari search engine settings
  • Increase in pop-up ads
  • Unknown extensions installed in Safari

Then you must check for Adware on your Mac. Apple has provided a detailed documentation on how to check adware on a Mac

As you’ll notice from the documentation, Apple has listed all the possible folders where an adware can get installed on a Mac. In essence, you must ensure that

  • Home-page field is empty or contains the website you want
  • Search engine setting shows your preferred search engine
  • Check the Extensions tab for any unknown, installed extensions

After removing all the infected files, it is necessary to reset Safari.

  • Clear all history and cache data: Go to Safari menu and choose the option Clear History. From the drop-down menu select all history.
clear-all-history-in-safari
Select all history from drop-down menu. Don't forget to click Clear History
  • Go to Develop menu and select Empty Caches or if you have CCleaner then that will help you to clean caches
  • Remove all the extensions from Preferences > Extensions tab
  • Remove all plugins, including Adobe Flash
  • Remove Safari configuration folder stored in /Library/Safari
  • Remove Safari window state from /Library/Saved Application State/com.apple.Safari.savedstate
  • Remove Safari preferences from /Library/Preferences/, any file that begins with com.apple.Safari should be removed
  • Open /Library/Cookies and delete com.apple.Safari.SafeBrowsing.binarycookies

Then restart your Mac. If you find that there are too many folders and configuration files to handle, install Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Mac. MBAM for Mac will scan your system and help you remove any known adware automatically. Of course, you must reset your Safari and restart your Mac to complete the job.

Debug and Optimize a Website

Use Responsive Design Mode in Safari

In OS X El Capitan, Safari has a new tool for web designers called as Responsive Design Mode

Responsive web design is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience and interaction experience across a wide range from devices—from computers to mobile devices. 

As a user switches from their laptop to iPhone, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting capabilities.

Go to Develop menu and you’ll see an Enter Responsive Design Mode menu item. To enable the Develop menu, go to Safari > Preferences and check Show Develop menu in menu bar.

enable-develop-menu-safari
Develop menu in Safari lets you do advanced things. However, you have to enable them first

When you switch to this mode, you’ll see the current webpage like this.

responsive-design-mode-safari
This feature was introduced in OS X El Capitan. See the list of presets available, they are quite detailed

In the top portion of the screen, you’ll see several preset sizes for Apple devices. With a single click, you can switch from iPhone to iPad and more. This helps you quickly spot any layout issues on a webpage across many screen sizes.

Debug Desktop and Mobile Websites

While the responsive design mode is good for checking any layout issues, it doesn’t give you any option to debug them. 

On the desktop we have powerful debugging tools; most browsers have a web inspector of some kind. You can use web inspector tool to build and debug mobile websites.

To use it on desktop, click Develop > Show Web Inspector

With Web Inspector you can

  • Inspect the DOM (Document Object Model), External and Locally stored data—scripts, stylesheets, and offline images
  • Monitor network request as the webpage downloads, observe page layout calculations, and profile the efficiency of external and internal resources
  • You can debug javascript and interact with the Console and much more

Conclusion

The Safari browser has been the part of Mac for years. With each successive version of operating system, Apple has introduced new features and improvements to its browser.

Everyone uses Safari for different purposes. Some use it for basic needs, while others can harness its powerful features to use them more productively.

There are many factors that users value while browsing the Web—speed, security, privacy, ease of use, expandability and support of latest technologies. 

In this tutorial, I’ve just shown you how to exploit the Safari browser in all those aspects.

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