How to use Safari Tab Groups to take control of your browser tabs | Cult of Mac

How to use Safari Tab Groups to take control of your browser tabs

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How to get organized with Safari Tab Groups
Use Safari Tab Groups to arrange all those browser tabs you have open..
Photo: Cult of Mac

Keeping large numbers of browser tabs open is such a common habit that Apple created a system to organize them. Safari Tab Groups let you put open tabs into logical collections so you can more easily work with them. And the same groups are available across all your Apple devices.

The system gets a little complicated. But here’s how to get started with Safari Tab Groups.

Organize your web browsing with Safari Tab Groups

I currently have 33 tabs open. And that’s a small number compared to some people. Many of these I’ve recently opened and will close soon, but others I access so frequently there’s no point in ever closing them. For years, I just kept a bunch of browser windows open. Then Apple invented Safari Tab Groups in macOS Catalina, iPadOS 15 and iOS 15, giving me — all of us — a better way to organize them.

Some of the browser tabs I have open are for work, others are for my personal life. That’s an obvious way to organize them. An advantage of Tab Groups is that you can name the groups, making them easier to keep track of.

To be clear, when you switch away from a group, every window in it doesn’t close — they remain open but hidden in the background. You can safely navigate between groups without being concerned that you’ll have to keep reloading pages.

How to create Tab Groups

If you haven’t used Tab Groups before, all your open tabs are in a single unnamed group. This is the default space for new tabs to open from outside Safari.

Safari Tab Groups on Mac
Here’s where to look for the Sidebar button, the Add New Tab Bar button and the Tabs button in macOS.
Graphic: Apple

You can create a new group by hitting the Add Tab Group button. It looks like a plus + sign inside of a couple of squares. You’ll find this at the top of the screen after you’ve opened the left sidebar.

Pressing the button gives you two options. You can create a New Empty Tab Group or create a New Tab Group from X Tabs. The second option puts all the tabs you currently have open into the new group.

Once you make your choice, you’ll be asked to name the new group. Do yourself a favor and pick a logical name — the whole point here is to get organized.

When you are in the group, you’ll see its name at the top of the screen. You can tap on it to create additional tab groups, or move between the ones you have open.

Create a Tab Group on your Mac and it’ll automatically appear on your iPad and iPhone, as long as they all use the same Apple ID. That’s one of the big advantages of this system — you can easily switch devices and pick up where you left off.

How to work with Tab Groups

Safari Tab Groups on iPad OS
Here’s where to look for the Sidebar button, the Add New Tab Bar button and the Tabs button in iPadOS.
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

As I mentioned before, Safari in macOS Catalina and iPadOS 15 has a sidebar on the left primarily to display and organize Tab Groups. With the sidebar open, click/tap on the name of the Tab Group you want to view.

Alternatively, click/tap on the name of the group you’re currently using where it’s displayed in the toolbar. Apple calls it the Tabs button. That will open a drop-down window with a list of all the open groups. Click/Tap on the one you want to open.

If you’re on a Mac or an iPad with a keyboard attached, you can quickly switch between Tab Groups with CMD-SHIFT-UP and CMD-SHIFT-DOWN.

Moving a single open tab between groups is easy. Tap and hold or click and hold on the name of the tab you want to move in the tab bar. That will open a pop-up menu with Move to Tab Group as one of the options. Hit that and a second pop-up window will show a list of your Tab Groups. Select one and the tab will disappear — it’s moved to the new group, leaving you still looking at the current group.

What about iPhone?

Safari Tab Groups are also available on iPhone. But the handset’s small screen compared to Mac and iPad requires some design changes. For example, there’s no left sidebar.

Safari Tab Groups on iPhone
Here’s where to look for the Tabs button and the Tab Groups button in iOS.
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

All the features of Tab Groups are available via the Tabs button in the toolbar. Hit it to display all open tabs as tiny windows. On the bottom of the screen is the Tab Groups button labeled with the number of tabs you have open. Tap on it.

That opens a pop-up window showing all your tab groups. Tap on one to go to it. This is also where you’ll find the option to create a New Empty Tab Group or create a New Tab Group from X Tabs.

Choose whichever Safari organization system works best for you

Safari on iPad and Mac still allows you to open multiple windows. And don’t confuse Safari windows and Tab Groups. They’re distinctly different. You can switch between Tab Groups in a single window. Or have the same Tab Group open in multiple windows.

It can be a bit confusing. But all that’s happening is Apple is giving you multiple options for organizing your browser tabs. You could ignore Tab Groups and put your tabs into separate windows. Choose the system that works best for you.

If you need more advice, check Apple’s support webpage for using Safari Tab Groups on Mac.