Latest iPadOS 15 beta makes big changes to Safari

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Latest iPadOS 15 beta makes big changes in Safari
Apple isn’t exactly walking back some of the biggest changes in iPadOS 15. But it’s giving users to option to do so.
Screenshot: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apparently responding to criticism of the Safari redesign in iPadOS 15, a beta released Tuesday makes significant changes to the layout of the Safari web browser. The newest iteration gives users the option to view the Address Bar very much like it looks in iPadOS 14. But those who prefer can keep the new compact view.

Everything old is new again with Safari in iPadOS 15 beta 4

Among the major changes in iPadOS 15 is redesign of Safari. This emphasizes browser tabs and collects these into Tab Groups. iPadOS 15 beta 4 doesn’t change this, though it does give users a retro option to work with tabs.

Previous betas included a compact Safari Address Bar with open web pages shown as browser tabs, and the URL and the page name combined. Many commonly used controls moved within menus.

Apple tinkered with this design in beta 3 earlier in July, but Tuesday’s beta makes the most dramatic changes yet.

A new Safari setting allows users to toggle between the compact view and a more traditional one, which shows browsers tabs on a separate row from the Address Bar. This makes room for easy access to buttons users are familiar with in iPadOS 15, including Share, New Tab, and Downloads.

But, unlike with iPadOS 14, it’s not possible to hide the Tab Bar. Browser tabs are apparently fundamental to Apple’s design and users can not avoid them.

Compact Tab Bar (above) and the Separate Tab Bar (below)
Apple calls the two viewing options in Safari the Compact Tab Bar (above) and the Separate Tab Bar (below).

The be clear, the Safari browser still includes many other new features from earlier iPadOS 15 betas. Most notably, Tab Groups haven’t gone anywhere. But these are optional — iPad owners don’t have to organize their browser tabs this way.

The Safari redesign has been a lightning rod of criticism, and Apple is clearly listening. macOS Monterey beta 3 from earlier this month made a similar change for Mac users, allowing them to separate the Tab Bar from the URL. So Apple is giving iPad and Mac users the option to take advantage of its changes to Safari, but not — for the most part — forcing them.