Customize Safari on Mac with this Ultimate Guide

Photo of a Mac in an office

For most Mac owners, Safari is the gateway to the World Wide Web. Given that it’s probably your most used application, knowing tips, tricks and new features is the best way to get the most out of it. While Safari does not have the extension libraries of Chrome, it still has a few tricks up its sleeve for Mac owners. Read on to learn how to customize Safari on your Mac.

1. Pin Tabs

Pin Tab Mac

You probably visit a couple of sites on a regular basis, and keeping them close can make it easy to refer back to them. When a tab is pinned in Safari, it stays docked as the farthest-left tab. Pinning a tab is incredibly easy: right-click on any open tab and select “Pin Tab.” Rearranging pinned tabs is as easy as dragging the tabs around one another until you have a setup you prefer.

2. Mute Tabs

Mute Tab On Mac

We have all been there as you open a new tab expecting to read new content and are instead hit with an auto-play video. In Safari, when a new tab is opened with audio playing, you’ll see a little speaker icon in the tab. Click the speaker icon, and it will automatically mute the tab.

3. Rearrange Tabs

For anyone who has more than a few tabs open at a time, organization can become an issue. To help with this, Safari enables you to get at least some semblance of order.

1. Open the “Window” menu on the Mac bar.

Window Mac Toolbar

2. Choose “Arrange Tabs By.”

Windows Arrange Tabs By

3. You can now choose between “Title” and “Website.”

Windows Options Mac

For many, choosing to sort by website will be the most useful. That way, if you have multiple tabs open, they will all be next to each other.

4. Customize Safari Toolbar

The Safari toolbar is where your most important buttons will go for daily use. That includes your Home button, Sidebar, Tab overview, and so on.

1. Right-click anywhere on the toolbar and select “Customize Toolbar.” You can then drag any item into the toolbar.

Mac Toolbar Safari

2. Once you have dragged all of the icons you want to use, click “Done.” Then, all of your changes will be saved.

Click On Done Toolbar

5. Change Your Search Engine

Safari, like most browsers, will let you choose between a few different default search engines. Google is the default search engine in Safari, but it’s not your only available option.

1. Go to “Safari -> Preferences” and open the Preferences window.

Safari Preferences

2. Click the “Search” tab.

Search Settings Safari

3. You will immediately see a drop-down that allows you to choose between Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ecosia, or DuckDuckGo.

Search Engine Options Safari

At this time, there is no way to add your own search engine. For now, Safari has chosen to add the most popular options.

6. Save Pages as PDFs

If you ever need to export a website as a PDF, Safari makes it super simple. Head to the page you want to save, then click on File and “Export as PDF.”

Mac Export Webpage As Pdf

The last remaining step is to choose where on your hard-drive you want to save the page. You can then refer to the PDF at any time, and it will automatically open in Safari, Preview or your PDF viewer of choice.

7. Handoff Continuity

As Safari is the default browser for iOS and Mac, Apple has long explored how to make it seamless between the two systems. Enter Handoff, Apple’s solution for starting an email on Mac and picking it up on iOS. This also works incredibly well with Safari.

1. Start by signing in to your iCloud account on both devices.

2. On your Mac computer, go to “System Preferences -> General,” and click on the box next to Handoff to allow it.

Mac Allow Handoff Continuity

3. On iOS or iPad OS, go to “Settings -> Handoff” and move the switch so that it’s active.

4. Once activated, you can go about your regular browsing business on your Mac. When you want to pick up wherever you left off on your Mac on your iPhone or iPad, a little icon will appear above your Safari icon. Tap on Safari and it will allow you to select whatever page you want to continue browsing.

8. Reading List

Bookmarks were yesterday’s news. Today, it’s all about Safari’s Reading List. We have all come across interesting articles that we want to read but don’t have time at the moment. Across all Apple devices, Reading List is enabled via the Sidebar icon on Safari on Mac or by using the book icon on Safari on iOS/iPadOS. You can choose the eyeglasses icon to view your entire article list. To add a new article, you have two options on Mac.

1. The first is to hit the “+” sign that appears next to the website URL. The article or site will automatically save itself to your reading list.

Mac Add Website To Reading List

2. Alternatively, you can click on the Share Sheet icon, and the first option in the drop-down is “Add to Reading List.” Select that and the article will automatically save itself to your Reading List.

If you want to read these articles offline, say while you are on a plane, go to “Safari -> Preferences -> Advanced” and click on “Save articles for offline reading automatically.”

Save Articles Offline Reading Mac

9. Safari Reader

Safari Reader strips away all of the distractions from any site where it’s available, allowing for an uninterrupted view of your chosen content. Note that it does not work on every website but definitely works on many.

1. To activate Reader, click on the four-line icon that appears next to the “+” button to the left of the URL.

Mac Reader View

2. A single press of that button will enable Reader view. Clicking on it again will take you out of reader view.

10. Set Custom Safari Icon

If you want to customize your Safari icon, doing so is surprisingly straightforward.

1. While holding down the Ctrl button, click the Safari logo and select “Options -> Show in Finder.”

Mac Show In Finder

2. When Finder loads, you’ll find yourself on the Applications page. Click the Safari logo again while holding Ctrl and choose “Get Info.”

Safari Get Info Mac

to the top-left corner of the Get Info window, you’ll see a tiny Safari icon next to “”. Click on it to highlight it, then drag your replacement icon image to replace it.

Mac Drag Safari Icon

11. Customize Safari Theme

When you first use Safari on your Mac, you’ll see the standard white and grey interface. This is fine, but it can get a little boring for some users. Fortunately, you can customize your Safari theme in several ways.

Change to Dark Mode

For instance, you can change your browser to show dark mode.

1. Go to the Apple icon in the top left of your toolbar and choose “System Preferences … ” in the drop-down.

Mac System Preferences Corner

2. Select “General.”

Mac System Preferences 2

At the top of the next window, you’ll see the “Appearance” option. Click on “Dark.”

Mac Change Appearance

Change Safari’s Background Image

Another way you can customize Safari’s theme is by tweaking the background image on your homepage.

1. Click on the “+” button in the top right of your Safari browser to open a new page.

2. Select the icon showing three lines with sliders in the bottom-right corner.

Mac Toggle Icon

3. Make sure the box next to “Background Image” is ticked. Then, choose from one of the custom background images beneath it.

Mac Change Background Image Settings

In addition to using the background images included with Safari, you can add your own. Click the “+” icon instead of one of the other images.

Choose the picture you want to have as your background image for Safari.

Mac Background Image Change

Once you’ve picked your image, you should see the changes take place immediately.

If you want to clear your background later, you can click on the screen while holding the Ctrl button and choose “Clear Background.”

Clear Background Safari

12. Customize Safari Homepage

Once you’ve customized the theme of Safari, you can fine tune the homepage.

When you see your “Frequently Visited” section, all pages in this area will initially appear as smaller versions of the actual web pages. However, you can make them show up as icons again.

1. Click on one of the pages while holding down the Ctrl button.

2. Select “View as Icons.”

Safari View As Icons

You can also remove some of your Favorites from view. As with changing the “Frequently Visited” pages to icons, click on one of the pages and simultaneously hold the Ctrl button. Select “Delete” from the dropdown menu, and your changes will take effect.

Delete Favorite Page Mac

13. Create Custom Bookmark Folders

When customizing Safari on your Mac, you’ll want to think about productivity and not just aesthetics. One of the best ways to organize your most-visited pages is by creating custom bookmark folders to put all of them in.

1. Click on the icon in the top left that sits next to the red, yellow, and green circles.

Bookmark Icon Safari

2. On the bookmark tab, click anywhere while holding Ctrl.

3. Select New Folder and give it a name.

Name File Safari

4. Drag to add pages to this folder.

14. Customize Safari Location

Like your iPhone, your Mac can easily track where you are in the world. It uses this for several reasons, such as changing the date and time on your device.

However, websites can also track you – and some users may want them to do so. If you don’t want specific sites knowing where you are in Safari, follow these steps:

1. Click on “Safari” next to the Apple logo and choose “Preferences … ” from the drop-down.

Safari Preferences On Mac

2. Go through your currently open websites and choose whether you want to allow or deny access.

Website Permission Settings Safari

You can also block future visited websites from tracking you. Go to the bottom where it says “When visiting other websites.” If you want to revoke permission, open the drop-down and select “Deny.”

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I change the color of the Safari browser?

Besides tweaking from light to dark mode, you can’t customize Safari’s color on your Mac without third-party software.

2. Can I change my Mac’s default browser?

Yes. To change your Mac’s default browser, go to “System Preferences -> General -> Default Web Browser.” Open the drop-down and change to the browser of your choice.

3. Why won’t my Safari icon change on my Mac?

In some cases, you may find that the Safari icon on your Mac doesn’t change. You may need to close and reopen the app. If that doesn’t work, try changing the “Read & Write” privileges on your device.

Wrapping Up

Safari is one of the most important native Apple apps, and customizing it will both let you show off your personality and improve productivity. The above tips to customize Safari are only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget that you can also add extensions to extend its functionality. Do you use Safari on your Mac or one of the strong alternatives?

Danny Maiorca
Danny Maiorca

Danny has been a professional writer for over five years. Now based in Copenhagen, Denmark, he plied his trade working for various companies in the UK — where he was born — before taking the leap into freelancing. He specializes in iOS and Mac.

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