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.