Safari in macOS Monterey: What’s New and How It Works

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Apple is offering a redesigned Safari with macOS Monterey, but in this case, the biggest UI change is not visible with the default version. Let’s take a look at what’s changed, what’s new, and how Safari looks and works in macOS Monterey.

Apple went through many iterations of Safari during the macOS Monterey beta, and even went from version 12.0 installed on the 2021 MacBook Pro to the official 12.0.1 public version of Monterey.

While the default Safari experience on Monterey 12.0.1 and later looks a lot like the one that comes with Big Sur, you can opt for the new, modern and minimal tab design by heading to Safari> Preferences> Tabs> Compact.

Beyond the classic default and optional super modern UI, Safari in Monterey includes new tab groups, redesigned sidebar, new Quick Note functionality, UI / button changes, etc.

Safari in macOS Monterey: What’s New and How It Works

Home Page

The new Safari’s start page looks roughly the same with your favorites at the top, followed by Frequent Visits, Privacy Report, and Reading List. Like Safari in Big Sur, you can customize the background image for your start page with the included options or your own. You can drag to rearrange the different sections or toggle them on / off.

New to Safari for macOS Monterey / iOS 15 is that background images automatically sync across devices via iCloud. You also have the new option “Use start page on all devices” and a checkbox to enable / disable iCloud tabs for the start page.

You can head to the 3 line icon in the lower right corner to customize your start page including the background image.

 How Safari Works in macOS Monterey - Walkthrough start page
 How Safari works in macOS Monterey - walkthrough customize start page

New unified Safari tab / search / toolbar

Just like Safari in Big Sur, you can right click at the top to customize the new unified tab / search / toolbar with more buttons (or on the menu bar, click View> Customize Toolbar).

By default, the toolbar has five buttons: sidebar / tab groups, previous / next, downloads, share button, and new tab + icon.

Here’s a look at where it came from and what’s available when you customize it:

 How Safari works in macOS Monterey - guide to customizing the toolbar tools 1
 How Safari works in macOS Monterey - guide to customizing the toolbar tools 2

If you choose to stick with the default Safari in Monterey, you get the same tab UI experience you’re used to with macOS Big Sur and earlier versions.

But for the new modern UI, it’s a pretty aesthetic change. Head to Safari> Preferences> Tabs> Compact to use the new design:

 How Safari works in macOS Monterey - walkthrough choosing a new design modern

This is how the modern, “Compact“The design of the tab looks like:

And here is the default / traditional user interface, what Apple calls “Separatetabs:

Using tabs and tab groups in the new Safari

You can drag tabs or URL / search bar left to pin tab / open page. However, the mechanics can look a bit clunky in the modern compact user interface. For example, rearranging pinned tabs requires precision and patience.

With the new Sidebar / Tab Groups button (in separate or compact UI), click the drop-down arrow to view saved tab groups or create new ones:

You can create a new empty tab group or quickly create a new tab group among your existing open tabs.

As you already guessed, you can create multiple tab groups to quickly switch between different sets of saved web pages to work and play more seamlessly.

Just click the Tab Groups drop-down arrow at any time to return to your saved groups. And alternatively, you can click the button on the sidebar to see your tab groups.

Finally, you can click the Preview tabs button (four-square icon) to see all open tabs.

Updated sidebar

For the new sidebar, you’ll see “Start Page” at the top with your tab groups below.

Below, you’ll see links that have been shared by others, then bookmarks and your reading list at the bottom.

When the sidebar is enabled, you will also see the dual window + icon appear to quickly create a new, empty tab group.

Create quick notes

Quick Notes are new for macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15. There are several ways to use the feature with the new Safari.

You can click the three dot icon in the URL / search bar> Add to quick note with the compact user interface.

With the user interface of separate tabs, you can click the share button (square with up arrow> Add to quick note).

Or, when you highlight text on a web page and right click, you can choose Add to Quick Note.

Safari in macOS Monterey summary

After many changes for Safari throughout the beta of Monterey, Apple seems to have landed on a version that satisfies people who want the classic browsing experience and tab design, as well as a brand new user interface for those who are ready to make a difference.

What do you think of the new Safari in macOS Monterey? Are you using the new tab UI or the default? Share your opinion in the comments below!

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