iPhone and iPad

10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With iOS Safari

Bakari Chavanu 24-07-2014

The iOS version of Safari might lack features compared to third-party iOS web browser apps iPad Browsers Compared: Which Is Best? Safari is the iPad's default web browser, but that certainly doesn't mean it's automatically the best tool for the job. Read More , but you’re still going to come into contact with it as the default browser on your iPhone or iPad.


Even if you’re already familiar with the browser’s basic features, there are bound to be things you haven’t yet realised Safari can do. Here are some of the lesser known tips for getting the most out of Apple’s mobile browser.

Safari bookmarking

Change Your Search Engine & More

As with most apps, the settings (Settings > Safari) is a good place to look for additional features and controls. In settings you can change the default search engine for Safari, from Google to either Bing or Yahoo. In iOS 8, expect to see Google alternative Duck Duck Go Get A Better Search Experience With Duck Duck Go It seems that there are a couple of services and Linux distributions (such as Linux Mint) that are switching over to Duck Duck Go as their default search engine. So why the heck are they... Read More on this list too.


You can also set to have Safari open links in a new page or in the background, and most importantly clear your browser history. Settings is also where you can disable the search suggestions feature in Safari if you find it annoying when trying to enter a search term.



Customise Your New Tabs

Another hidden setting (Settings > Safari > Favorites) allows you to dictate which folder of bookmarks appears when you create a new blank tab in Safari, or when you tap inside the URL/search field. By default, the Favorites folder is selected, but you can change this to directly access to another folder.

Safari favorites

Unfortunately there’s no great preview of bookmarked pages or sites, but this little feature can save you a few taps for getting at your most used bookmarks.


Safari bookmarks

Securely Store Payment Details

One feature that’s not enabled by default is the setting for filling out your credit card info when you’re doing online shopping (Settings > Safari > Passwords & AutoFill > Credit Cards).

Once enabled you will be asked to fill in your credit card data for one or more cards, which are then stored in your iCloud keychain. On your iOS device, you can set a passcode lock that will be required before the credit information is used in a web form. I suggest only using this feature if you make regular online purchases using your iOS device.

Safari credit card


Restrict Certain Websites

While we’re in the Settings app, let’s also check out the restriction settings for Safari. If you share your iOS device with your children or other people, you can change restrictions for the type of websites that can be accessed on your device. To make the change, tap on Settings > General > Restrictions, and enable restrictions, which will ask you to create a password.


Now scroll down the page of restricted enabled apps and tap on “Websites.” From there you can restrict sites with adult content, only allow sites like Discovery Kids, PBS Kids, or manually add custom sites.

Access Tabs Open Elsewhere

If you’re a fairly new user of an iOS device, you might not know that iCloud syncs all of your bookmarks and opened tabs between your Mac and iOS devices for the Safari browser. To make it work you need to enable Safari under iCloud settings on your various devices. This is done in the Settings > iCloud on iOS, and under System Preferences > iCloud on the Mac.


To view the shared tabs on the iPhone, tap the Tabs button on the button-right, and then scroll pass the open tabs in Safari until you see the list of synced tabs shared to your iCloud account. Your Mac computer or other iOS devices don’t have to be on in order to see the last synced tabs.

Safari iCloud tabs

On the iPad version of Safari, tap on the cloud icon in the top right and your list of synced tabs will appear.

Safari iCloud

Listen To Video In Background

If you’ve ever been annoyed that you can’t continue to listen to a downloaded video in Safari after you close the app, there’s actually a cheeky workaround you need to know about. Start playing the video and then minimise (home button) Safari. Now open Control Center (by swiping up from the bottom of the screen) and hit play to resume the video.


To get this to work for YouTube videos or music, you will need to open and play YouTube videos in the Safari app, instead of the iOS app for YouTube (which used to work but not any more).

Quickly Access Your Tab History

On both the iPhone and iPad versions of Safari, you probably know that the bookmarks button is also where you go to access your history of visited pages.

Safari history 2

But if you want to just view your current tab’s full history, tap and hold the “back” button of the browser. This also works for the “forward” button if you’ve hit back a few times.


Search Within a Webpage

Safari uses a combined search and URL field for inputting searches and addresses, but you may not know that the same box is used to initiate search within a webpage. To do this, tap inside the URL field and then type your search term (the webpage will be hidden) and wait.


Instead of tapping the Go button, scroll down until you see “On This Page” and tap on the search result. Your page will pop back up with the search term highlighted in yellow on the page, with controls for quickly moving to other instances on the page.

Make Text More Readable

Safari for the iPad includes the Reader feature found in the Mac version of Safari. If the webpage is Reader friendly, the Reader icon consisting of four horizontal lines, will appear on the left side of the URL/search field. Tap on the icon and the downloaded article will be stripped of ads and other surrounding data, leaving you with the text and some images for a more pleasant reading experience.

Safari reader

Add to Home Screen

In addition to your bookmarks, you can also save a webpage to your to your device’s home screen. To do this, open the website you want to save, tap on the share button (a square with an arrow pointing up) then tap Add to Home. A shortcut to the webpage will be added to your home screen, where it can be quickly tapped opened again in Safari.


Final Thoughts

The iPad makes browsing the web feel like reading a paper magazine. When you make use of all included features, you can get even more out of the mobile web browser. Let us know what you think of the above highlighted features, and please share with us your suggestions and tips for using Safari.

Do you use Safari on your iPhone or iPad? Add your own tips to the comments, below.

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  1. Joe
    July 22, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Any chance on making the tabs easier to see/read? or is that not allowed on a mac?
    This low contrast pallet really hurts my eyes.

  2. Tasha
    March 30, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    My daughter is autistic and tends to have 20 tabs of the same thing open is there a way to limit the number of tabs she can have open at once

  3. artie
    February 21, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    When I want to delete individual sites from my Website Data list on Safari Advanced, I can do so, but when I call up the Website Data listings again, they have all returned. Any way to keep some of my previous history private? Some sites I would rather not be there for anyone else to see. (I know, it's obvious those are the sexy ones.)


    • Preben Lang
      June 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Browse in privacy mode. It is posible on google chrome for ios. That way, no cookies and browser history is stored.

  4. Stephanie
    May 15, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks for your useful tips on Safari. I just downloaded Yosemite and have the following question: Can I move the + sign that's used to open a new browser window to the other side of the screen? It's now all the way on the right. Alternately, is there a way to add on the left side another icon used to open a new window?

  5. monster
    March 4, 2015 at 11:37 am

    one question does clean history can found it?

  6. monster
    March 4, 2015 at 11:25 am

    can we just clean safari history more easy like can i just clean history delete (not clean all)

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 4, 2015 at 10:02 pm

      If I'm understanding you correctly, you can select show history from the Safari menu, and then selectively delete downloaded pages.

  7. DJ Sam Soul
    July 28, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Great article.

    One question--or recommendation for iOS8--is in regard to iCloud tabs. It is great that I can view tabs on the iPad, iPhone or MacPro, but it is really syncing if I can't close the tab from any device?

    In other words, if I want to view an open tab from my iPad on my MacPro, iCloud allows me to do it. However, I cannot close that open tab from my iPad by using my MacPro. Thus, I need to reopen my iPad to actually resolve the open tab. I think this is something worth addressing in future OSs.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      July 28, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      Good point, DJ. Yeah, the devices don't sync and update in that way. You can use use a third-party app for controlling your iPad from your Mac, but it can't be done via iCloud. I wonder if iOS 8 will have that capability. Thanks for your feedback.

  8. Kinega
    July 26, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Useful article. Didn't know about the find in page function, many thanks

    • Bakari Chavanu
      July 28, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Kinega, thanks for the feedback. Appreciate it.

  9. Nicolas C
    July 26, 2014 at 12:06 am

    I started my transition to Apple a couple of years with iPad Mini then iPhone now MacBook Pro and have never looked back.

    Reading your article on 10 things you can do with Safari, has brought me further insight, I too can't wait for IOS 8 and OS X Yosemite in the autumn

    • Budsby
      July 26, 2014 at 1:45 am

      You are of many, and I am one of them.
      I started about 5 or 6 years ago by buying an iMac.
      Simply love it as much more superior.
      Since then iPhone, iPad, AppleTV

    • Bakari Chavanu
      July 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Nicolas, I appreciate the feedback. And yes, Yosemite will definitely have some useful features for making the Mac even more useful. Thanks for being an MakeUseOf reader.

  10. amir76kh
    July 25, 2014 at 1:22 am

    knew all of them

    • Bakari Chavanu
      July 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Amir76kh, you sound like an iOS power user. I knew there would be readers who were already familiar with tips. Thanks for your response.

  11. Pranay Parab
    July 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    This is a useful article Bakari, but I don't like the headline. I think 10 Ways to Make the Most of Safari on iOS better suits the article. I recently got myself an iPad (iPhone user for eight months) and I find the iCloud tab feature very useful. Eagerly waiting for Continuity in iOS 8.
    I've been using YouTube to stream music for some time, thanks to the trick you've written about.
    I've been using Safari exclusively on iOS throughout and I still didn't know about tab history and Find within page! Thanks for taking the time to do an in-depth article on this. I learned something new today. :-)

    • Bakari Chavanu
      July 25, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      Pranay, thanks for your feedback. It's always good to know when readers find an article useful. And yes, I agree yours is a better title.