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Recently I switched from Chrome to Safari because on a 2019 16" MacBook Pro, Chrome has nasty video glitches; apparently Apple and Google are blaming each other for the problem. My first impression of Safari is decent, subjectively it feels faster than Chrome. But browser tabs act in ways that that feel somewhere between “weird” and “badly broken”. Here are a few of the issues I’ve encountered.

[Update: Lots of free wisdom on offer in the comments here, including some that improved my life.]

Tab display · On Chrome, if you have a lot of tabs — I typically have 20 or 30 open — they get narrower and narrower and until completely crushed out of existence show a little glimpse of icon and label, so you can find what you’re looking for.

On Safari, the tabs near the one you’re on are shown pretty well full-width with quite a bit of white-space surrounding labels and icons (where by “white ” I mean “grey”). You can two-finger drag the tab label array right and left and they shuffle around in a graceful way.

I don’t like this because I lost all-my-tabs-at-a-glance. If you have hundreds open I guess that wouldn’t work anyhow.

But I do like it because when I’m looking for a tab that’s not obvious to the eye, it’s easier to find. Hmm, I’ll call this a saw-off.

Tab pinning · All the browsers support tab pinning these days, which is great because it enables the Mighty Tab Trick, where you park the eight tabs you use all the time and insta-hop to them using CMD-1 through CMD-8.

But Safari pins tabs hard. If you follow a link off the site you’re at, new tab. If you go somewhere, pin it, then press Back, new tab. You can’t nuke the tab with CMD-W. I mean it’s not pinned, it’s nailed the fuck down.

This can lead to weirdly buggy behavior, which this blog provokes. If you’re reading this in a web browser, there’s a search field up the top right which does a dumb simple Google search of the blog. Now, I keep ongoing in a pinned tab for obvious reasons. If I a do a search, the blog is replaced by a Google search output page. Fine. But that page now exhibits hard-pinning. If I click a result, that opens in a new tab. If I press back, it opens my blog… in a new tab. In fact there is absolutely no way back to the blog from the search result page. I think I’d call this a bug?

Left and right · [Update: Check the comments for better options. I think I withdraw this complaint.]

You can move from any tab to the next one on the left or right. The key combo is CMD-Shift-left/right, annoyingly different from other browsers. But a lot of the time it just doesn’t work. If you’re in a form, or a text-edit field, or really any mode that you might be able to interact with what’s in the tab, you can’t step left or right.

I often put a couple of tabs next to each deliberately, like when I’m editing a Wiki page and I have supporting evidence I need to copy from, if it’s in the next tab it’s easy to flip back and forth. But impossible on Safari because if you can edit, you can’t flip.

This one really feels like a bug. Or am I weird?

Where do new tabs go? · [Update: “Debug” menu suggestion below: Verified; note that you have to click several things in that sub-sub-menu.]

I mean tabs that are opened because the link requested it, like from a search-results page or, as described above, a pinned tab, not because you hit CMD-T to ask for one. Safari is consistent with Chrome on this one, which is a pity, because they’re both wrong, they both open the new tab as close as possible to where you are. Which, if in you’re in the middle of a bunch of pinned tabs, is not what you’d expect.

I’d actually like it if all new tabs opened over at the right end of the row. At least as a settings option. Because then you’re tabs would naturally arrive at a structure of the oldest ones being at the left and the newest ones to the right. I can see room for argument about this, but I suspect the current policy was arrived at before a lot of people had many pinned tabs, because that’s where the behavior becomes confusing.

Did I miss any? · I wish everything worked the same.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Nathan Dimmock (Jul 18 2020, at 06:00)

re: Left & Right

I find shift+cmd+] and shift+cmd+[ works really reliably for switching between tabs. I believe this was the original shortcut for next/previous tab, but I see in the window menu now lists it has (shift)-ctrl+tab so I have no idea how you discover this as a newbie!

cmd+[ is also back so I find shift+cmd+] works very nicely.

For positioning new open tabs it looks like there might be a hidden setting that controls this:



Nathan (A long time very happy safari user)


From: Marten (Jul 18 2020, at 06:08)

Tab left right I've always done with cmd-shift-[ and ]. Seems to be an OS-wide standard as much as anything else is, and seems to work in all other browsers that I dev in.


From: Timothy Collett (Jul 18 2020, at 06:41)

Regarding your "Left and Right" point, my experience is that Safari actually supports the same Cmd-Shift-[ and ] shortcuts that other browsers do to switch between tabs, despite the fact that it doesn't advertise this in the menus.

My pet peeve with Safari (which has actually led me to use Firefox for some time now) is that when you have a large number of tabs open (I usually do), having the find-in-page bar visible causes it to freeze up with the spinning beachball for several seconds when you try to close the active tab—with the length of time proportional to the number of tabs open in that window.


From: Dirkjan Ochtman (Jul 18 2020, at 07:21)

Have you tried Firefox recently? I know for a fact that it has a (hidden) setting to always open tabs at the right.


From: alex (Jul 18 2020, at 07:55)

Tab Display: I think safari wants you to use "Show all tabs"

Shift-Command-\ or that two overlapping squares button at the very top right. Agree others do it better. Oddly, the Touch Bar display for tabs in MS Edge is ok and useless in Safari

Re moving left and right... I think, ctrl tab and ctrl shift tab works with the most consistency.


From: Sami Samhuri (Jul 18 2020, at 08:29)

You can also switch tabs with ⇧⌘-[ and ⇧⌘-] or ⌃-tab and ⇧⌃-tab, neither of which conflict with the keyboard shortcuts for text editing.

Tabs used to open at the end but they recently changed the default to be more like Chrome. I don’t like it either but haven’t looked for a setting yet. Over the last few years they’ve made a lot of concessions to work like Chrome, for better and for worse.


From: hawkse (Jul 18 2020, at 14:05)

Another vote for Firefox here. I too have loads of tabs open (in 4-5 instances as well) most of the time. In Firefox, there's a very neat little arrow pointing downwards at the end of the long row of tabs. Click that and you get a very nice jumplist containing the titles of all your tabs from the instance you're in.


From: Laurie Savage (Jul 18 2020, at 18:43)

I ended up mostly using Safari after moving to a MacBook. I'm pretty agnostic about browsers but love a couple of Safari features - Reader View is great if you're reading an essay-style article, which I usually do, and when you're filling in forms and need to enter a validation code that has been SMS'd it happens automagically. It's the little things that can really irritate or delight us!


From: Tim Tepaße (Jul 20 2020, at 12:10)

Since I'm using Safari's tabs as a LIFO queue I too was annoyed when Safari switched from open-tab-at-the-end to open-new-tabs-somewhere. I managed with "New Tab at the end" command (hidden in the file menu, visible only when holding down the option key). For my own muscle memory I remapped the default ⌥⌘T to ⌘T in System Preferences → Keyboard → Shortcuts. While the debug menu seems better in this regard, maybe manually reassigning other shortcuts is something you wish. Something else I did was remapping ⌘Q to ⌥⌘Q since Q is right next to W.

If I remember correctly the pinned tabs predate the annoying new tab policy. Safari being the holdout was one of the reasons I never switched to other browsers. For me this related tab policy only makes sense if there is a complex UI for the tab structure likes Firefox' Treestyle Tab Extension. But none of the browsers with tab-in-the-middle as default has such a UI.

The other reason I never switched are gestures. I live with both a trackpad and a mouse. Especially pinch-to-zoom was and is always been better than in every other browser. Pinching out btw. is the fastest and most intuitive way to Show All Tabs.


From: Ted Crilly (Jul 20 2020, at 14:22)

For tab management, I find the Firefox extension Panorama tab groups to be fantastic. I organise my tabs in logical areas and hide them. It is really a shame that Mozilla abandoned it as part of the Firefox browser. https://techcrunch.com/2010/08/24/firefox-panorama/

However, the extension has far exceeded my expectations of the feature and I have it installed on all my desktops.

I don't know if there is such a thing for Safari, but if there is such an extension, give that a go.


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