Apple updates macOS Safari with a new look, but you can turn off the big changes

Apple updates macOS Safari with a new look, but you can turn off the big changes
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Apple has released a redesigned version of Safari for macOS Big Sur and Catalina. The update, announced as part of the upcoming macOS Monterey, was released the same day as iOS and iPadOS 15, bringing the web browser’s new look and features across Apple’s platforms.

To update to the new Safari 15, you can go to System Preferences > Software Update, where it should automatically refresh and show up. Unlike updates to macOS, you shouldn’t have to reboot your computer after updating Safari.

The development behind this version of Safari has been interesting. The full OS update that it was originally a part of, which also brings features like Universal Control and Quick Notes, isn’t here yet, but Apple decided to ship the new Safari anyway. For those who have upgraded to iOS 15, that’s a good thing — it means that you can immediately use tab groups across all your devices. The update also includes features like better tracking protection and automatic switching to HTTPS for sites that support it.

Apple’s original vision for Safari 15, which has been toned down slightly over the beta period.
Image: Apple

While the Safari update brings new features, it also brings a new design. Apple’s made several changes to it since it was announced (though not as many as it’s made to Safari for iPhone), tweaking it to be less starkly minimal. Looks-wise, it’s still a major change from Safari 14, but there are preferences that you can tweak to walk back some of the more distracting changes. If you don’t want websites to be able to change the color of your tab bar, you can go to Safari’s preferences > Tabs, and uncheck “Show color in tab bar.” If you want your tabs to be on their own row, you can switch from Compact mode to Separate.

Left: Compact tabs with website color. Right: Separate tabs without website color.
The “I prefer the old Safari” config.

Unchecking “Automatically collapse tab titles into icons” turns the tab bar into a sort of carousel when you have too many of them. I certainly don’t prefer it, but it’s an option if that’s your sort of thing.

Unchecking the “automatically collapse tab titles” box hides the true chaos.

While Safari 15 takes a bit to get used to (I’m still getting over the learning curve myself), Tab Groups is a great feature to share between my iPhone and computer. Safari 15 also comes with the usual host of security updates, though none seem too severe. After you update, be sure to let us know what you think of the new design — is it a breath of fresh air or just another refresh that you’ll grudgingly get used to?


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