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Safari on macOS Monterey: What’s New, and How to Test it Now

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Apple introduced some major changes to Safari in both macOS Monterey and iOS 15. The tech giant has updated Safari to offer a more minimalist look with some much-needed changes to the software, including grouped tabs and a compact tab layout.

While the software is still in the beta testing phases as of this writing, we have a good idea of what to expect from the updated browser. We'll also show you how to test it for yourself to get an idea of what's new, if you're interested.

Introduction to Changes in Safari

Apple removed the dedicated URL and search interface of Safari in the first beta version of macOS Monterey. Instead, you could use any individual tab for navigation. Tabs were also arranged at the top of the display to minimize space taken up at the top of the Safari window.

However, after heavy criticism regarding the hidden refresh and share buttons during the testing phase, Apple has redesigned the browser. There's now a dedicated URL and search bar at the top of the Safari window, with tabs arranged below it. You can choose to enable the previous compact view instead, if you prefer.

Let's take a look at some of the biggest changes coming in this iteration of Apple's browser.

1. Separate and Compact Tab Layout Options

macOS includes two different tab layouts. You can either choose to use the Separate tab layout (activated by default) or a Compact tab layout. The Separate tab layout is similar to the current layout of Safari, with the address bar taking up the top of the screen and the tabs lined up below it. However, the tab bar now takes up much less space, while extending the web page to the edge of the window. The tab bar also changes color to match the web page you're browsing.

The second option you can use is the Compact layout. This was the original design that Apple introduced with the first beta of Monterey. The Compact layout combines the address bar into the tab that you're currently viewing. This takes up less space at the top of the screen, letting you see more of the website you're viewing. Since the address bar is integrated into the tab name, you'll need to drag around the address bar if you want to move a tab to a new window.

You can see the difference between the Separate layout (top) and Compact layout (bottom) in the image below:

Safari-macOS-Monterey-Separate-Compact-Layout

2. Tab Groups

Safari on macOS Monterey includes tab groups. This lets you organize tabs based on what you're currently doing, or by any personal preference. For example, you may choose to launch some websites that you frequently access during working hours, and others while you're checking social media.

You can switch between tab groups using Safari's sidebar or the dropdown menu. Tab groups are also synced to your other Apple devices, including iPhone and iPad, so you can easily switch between any device and have your groups present.

Safari-macOS-Monterey-Tab-Group

Tab groups may sound a bit confusing at first, but they really help with organizing your browser and tabs.

3. Universal Control

At WWDC 2021, Apple introduced Universal Control, which is a promising feature. It allows you to seamlessly move your trackpad and keyboard between Mac and iPad. Additionally, Universal Control will allow you to switch your cursor between two instances of Safari open on your iPad and Mac. At this point, it is yet not enabled in the Monterey beta, so we haven't been able to test it.

4. A New "More" Menu

If you have tab groups enabled using the Compact view, you'll find the new More menu within the active tab on the address bar. This allows you to access features such as the Safari Privacy Report, Translate, and Reader. You can also access Safari's sharing features using this menu.

Safari-macOS-Monterey-Share-Menu

Test Safari 15 on macOS Big Sur

Overall, Safari in macOS Monterey feels more clean and sleek. The tabs are more rounded and less cluttered. Individually, these changes don't sound extraordinary, but they give a new refreshed experience while using the browser.

If you want to test the changes in Safari for yourself, you can do so by downloading the Safari Technology Preview. Safari Technology Preview is Apple's experimental browser designed for developers. It helps them get early access to new upgrades in macOS and iOS, allowing them to test the software and prepare for its launch. This browser was recently updated to run Safari 15, which will be released with macOS Monterey.

Safari-macOS-Monterey-Browser

Although Safari Technology Preview is meant for developers, you do not need a developer account to download it. The browser currently works on both the macOS Monterey beta and macOS Big Sur (the current major release of macOS.)

How to install the Safari Technology Preview

Follow these steps to try the latest release of Safari:

1. Make sure your Mac is updated to macOS Big Sur 11.3 or later (you can do this by navigating to System Preferences > Software Update).

2. Head over to the Safari developer downloads page.

3. Choose and download Safari Technology Preview for macOS Big Sur.

4. Once downloaded, drag the app to your Applications folder to install it like normal.

Remember that beta software is often unstable, so you shouldn't use it for any mission-critical work.

Getting Used to Safari's New Design

It may take some time to become familiar with the new design in Safari. The Separate tab layout is enabled by default. However, if you want to try out the new Compact look, simply enable it by navigating to Safari > Preferences > Tabs > Compact.

Safari-macOS-Monterey-Compact-Tab-Layout

As mentioned, the tab bar has had the biggest change in the Compact tab layout. Tabs take up the top center of the screen, where you used to have the address bar and search bar. Within a tab, there's the address/search box. The aim is to make tabs disappear from your view until you need them. A part of this design philosophy is to change the color of Safari's controls based on your current site.

To use the tab groups feature, open a website that you'd like to add, then right-click on the address bar. This will give you an option to make a New Empty Tab Group or a New Tab Group with X Tabs. Access your tab groups using the left pane menu. You can open up more websites in this tab group, or simply move back to the start page.

You also might be a bit confused by the lack of a reload button next to the website URL. Instead, you'll see an ellipsis icon, which leads to the More menu. When you hover over this, you'll see the reload button on the left.

There's also no apparent x to close a tab. Apple has added a new way to close a tab instead. Hover on the tab you want to close and you'll see a close icon replace the site's favicon.

Safari-macOS-Monterey-Close-Button

If you feel like these changes are too much, you can choose to opt for the Separate tab layout instead from Safari's Preferences.

How to Go Back to the Previous Version of Safari

Since the Safari Technology Preview is meant for beta testing, it's possible that you'll encounter some problems while using it. In this case, you may want to switch back to the normal Safari browser for your browsing.

This is simple and does not require any uninstalling. Simply close the Safari Preview browser and launch your normal Safari browser. Both of these browsers can run separately, and the Safari Technology Browser does not have any effect on the normal Safari browser on your system. You can uninstall the Preview version if you like.

Will Safari Have More Changes in Monterey?

It's likely that Safari will change further, since macOS Monterey is still in beta testing phases. Apple may choose to further tweak the design before the final release of the OS. It'll take a bit more testing to fully grasp the changes Apple is bringing to Safari. However, the Safari Technology Preview gives us a good idea of what to expect with macOS Monterey.

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