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How to use tabs and private browsing in Safari for iPhone and iPad

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How to use tabs and private browsing in Safari for iPhone and iPad

Source: Luke Filipowicz / iMore

Tabs in Safari let you keep multiple web pages open so you can switch between them or refer back to them whenever you want to. You can open links in new tabs, so you don’t lose what you’re currently surfing, and you can even go into Private Mode so nothing you search for or navigate to can come back to haunt you.

Safari has been around for a while, and there’s a lot to learn — especially for power users. As a first-party app, there are some excellent iOS features Apple’s browser can offer, and it integrates seamlessly with your other Apple devices, making it the best iPhone web browser for most folks.

How to open a new tab in Safari on iPhone and iPad

Note: We have our Safari Tab Bar at the top of our iPhone screen, but all the steps in this guide work if you have yours at the bottom. For more on moving the Safari address bar, check out our guide: How to change the Safari address bar on iPhone.

  1. On an iPhone, tap the show pages icon in the bottom right of the screen (it looks like two squares). (On iPad, you can skip this step).
  2. Tap the + button.

    How to open a new tab in Safari: Open Safari, tap the show pages icon, tap the + iconSource: iMore

Alternatively, tap and hold the show pages icon, then tap New Tab. You can also open links you come across in a new tab below.

  1. Tap and hold (long press) the link you want to open in a new tab.
  2. Tap Open in New Tab (or Open in Background on iPad).

    How to open a new tab in Safari: Tap and hold on a link in Safari, tap Open in New TabSource: iMore

If you’re on an iPad, you can open a link in a new window with Split Screen in Safari. Instead of tapping Open in Background, you just hit Open in Split Screen to make it happen.

How to switch tabs in Safari on iPhone and iPad

  1. On an iPhone, tap the show pages icon in the bottom right of the screen (it looks like two squares). (On iPad, this looks like four squares and appears in the top right of the screen).
  2. Tap the tab you want to view.

    How to switch tabs in Safari: In Safari,  tap the show pages icon, tap on the tab you want to open.Source: iMore

You’ll also benefit from Mac-like tab dividers beneath the URL field on the iPad’s larger display. You can tap these to switch between tabs too.

How to close a tab in Safari on iPhone and iPad

  1. On an iPhone, tap the show pages icon in the bottom right of the screen (it looks like two squares). (On iPad, this looks like four squares and appears in the top right of the screen).
  2. Tap the X in the top right of a tab to close it. (You can also touch the card and swipe to the left to throw it away).

    How to close a tab in Safari: In Safari,  tap the show pages icon, tap the X on the corner of the tab you want to close.Source: iMore

While the above steps work on an iPad, you can tap the X next to your tab in the toolbar to close it and save yourself an extra tap.

How to quickly close all tabs in Safari on iPhone and iPad

  1. On an iPhone, tap and hold the show pages icon in the bottom right of the screen (it looks like two squares). (On iPad, this looks like four squares and appears in the top right of the screen).
  2. Tap Close All X Tabs.

    How to quickly close all tabs in Safari: In Safari, tap and hold the show pages, tap Close All X Tabs.Source: iMore

How to view recently-closed tabs in Safari for iPhone and iPad

  1. On an iPhone, tap the show pages icon in the bottom right of the screen (it looks like two squares). (On iPad, you can skip this step).
  2. Tap and hold the + button to bring up the Recently Closed Tabs menu.

    How to view recently-closed tabs in Safari: In Safari, tap the show pages icon, tap and hold the + icon.Source: iMore

How to view tabs open on your other devices in Safari on iPhone and iPad

Safari’s iCloud Tabs feature lets you quickly and easily access web pages you’ve already opened in Safari on any of your other Apple devices — iPhones, iPod touches, iPads, or Macs. Here’s how to use it.

  1. On iPhone or iPad, tap the URL field in the Safari status bar.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see tabs open on your other devices.
  3. Use the drop-down menu to select your device.

    How to view tabs open on your other devices in Safari: Tap on the URL field, scroll to the bottom of the page, and select the correct device from the drop down menu to see tis open tabs.Source: iMore

Each device linked to your iCloud account is sorted alphabetically by its name; if you don’t see your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, make sure you sign in with the same Apple ID credentials. Tabs created in Private Browsing mode do not appear in iCloud Tabs, so you won’t see those.

How to use Tab Groups in Safari

In iOS 15, Apple added a new tab-based feature for Safari in the form of Tab Groups. These are a neat way to collect several tabs together and organize them to make it easy to find them all again. It also saves you from leaving a ton of tabs open for reference later.

We have a dedicated guide on how to use Tab Groups in Safari, so check that out to get the most out of that new feature.

How to use private browsing in Safari on iPhone and iPad

Private browsing works just like regular browsing, except Safari won’t cache your search terms or add the pages you go to your browser history. Here’s how to open private browsing on iPhone or iPad.

  1. On an iPhone, tap and hold the show pages icon in the bottom right of the screen (it looks like two squares). (On iPad, this looks like four squares and appears in the top right of the screen).
  2. Tap Private or New Private Tab.

    How to use private browsing in Safari: In Safari, tap and hold the show pages, tap Private or New Private Tab.Source: iMore

To exit private browsing mode, press and hold the show pages icon and tap Close This Tab to return to your previously open regular tabs.

You can also start and stop a private browsing section from the sidebar menu on the iPad.

Keep on top of your tabs or go private with Safari on iPhone

As you can see, using Safari on iPhone and iPad is similar to using Safari on Mac. However, the interface has some differences to account for smaller screens and touchscreen input. Hopefully, with the above guidance, you’ll be well on your way to browsing Safari like a pro on your iOS devices.

Updated June 2022: Updated for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15.



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