How to manage Safari tabs in iOS 15

Apple has revamped its Safari browser for iOS 15, released on September 20. One of the most controversial new features of the new mobile browser version is a tab/address bar now located at the bottom of the screen, which appears when you browse web pages. While the bottom bar is the default layout, the final version of iOS 15 lets you reposition it back to the top of the screen, if you choose. Regardless of where the address bar is located, you will still handle tabs the same way.

Mobile Safari has adopted the style of the Safari Start Page, derived from the current MacOS 11 (Big Sur), letting you create tab groups that are accessible across all your Apple devices to make browsing a more seamless experience. The new iOS 15 Safari has a lot more functionality than the previous version, is even more connected across devices, offers more screen space dedicated to browsing, and supports browser extensions. It also relies on a series of nested menus and will take some getting used to.

Mobile Safari’s redesigned Start Page can display your Bookmarks, Favorites, Frequently Visited sites, Siri Suggestions, iCloud Tabs, Reading List, and Privacy Report. To see that, you will first need to go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Safari and toggle the control to On (the green position). The Edit button lets you customize which items appear on your Start Page and lets you add custom wallpaper or use another background from your Photos. If you sync the Start Page in iCloud, it will appear with the same content on all your devices. To get complete cross-device functionality, you must also have MacOS 12 (Monterey) — still in beta — installed on your computer. However, you can still do plenty with the final release of iOS 15 and MacOS 11 Big Sur, from which this example is derived.

New tab bar

A new tab bar sits at the bottom of the Start Page where Apple has consolidated multiple controls that are expedited by a long press or an icon tap. Tapping the tab bar URL moves it toward the middle of the screen, letting you search for a site or enter a web address. When you hit Go, the page loads and the tab bar sits back down at the bottom of the screen, providing an unobstructed view of the page. If the presence of the tab bar is too distracting on your small screen, you can swipe down to minimize it, but it automatically minimizes anyway as you scroll down a page, and all you have to do to reveal it again is tap.

Once you get the hang of the tab bar, there’s plenty more you can do with it. First, you can use the tabs icon at the bottom far right to access a tab switcher interface. From there, swiping across the bar between open tabs either to the left or right cycles through your open tabs. A long press on the tab bar brings up an action menu with options like Copy, Paste and Search, Voice Search, and Move to Tab Groups.

Tapping the Share icon gives you the share menu, but directly below it are numerous commands such as Add Bookmark, Add to Favorites, Add to Reading List, and more. The Edit Actions command at the bottom of the page menu lets you rearrange which controls you want to see at the top of the screen for ease of use.

Creating tab groups

In iOS 15, tabs are easy to find because they appear as vertically scrolling thumbnail previews. Tab groups let you save tabs and organize them according to classifications, topics, and categories to save you the trouble of swiping through many tabs to find a specific site.

After launching mobile Safari, tap on the Tabs icon. Then, tap the tabs arrow in the tab bar to access the menu to creates a new empty tab group, a new group with the tabs you currently have open, or a private tab group. If all your open tabs already are in one category, you can also choose New Tab Group from X Tabs, name the tab group, and click OK. The tab group offers naming suggestions that are fairly sophisticated conceptual interpretations of the tabbed site content. If you have already named a tab group, you will see it listed in this menu and you can tap to switch between it and any other existing tabs. Independent open tabs are listed according to their number. The plus (+) icon in the Tab Switcher Bar opens a new tab. A tap-and-hold brings up your recently closed tabs.

A long press on a tab in the Tab Switcher offers additional commands like Close Other Tabs, Move to Tab Group, Arrange Tabs by Title, and Arrange Tabs by Website. A tab bar at the bottom of the screen lets you access tabs with your thumb. Users can also swipe between tabs, or swipe up for the grid view. Once you see all of your open tabs, choose which one you want to move to another group and long-press until you see a menu appear. On the menu, select Move to Tab Group and tap the group you created.

Bottom line

The new tab interface in Safari for iOS 15 has a slew of options to help you visually connect with websites for work and entertainment. It can get kind of dense, and will take some getting used to. But not only will you have more flexibility, but you can also move the address bar back up to the top if you really don’t like it at the bottom.

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