Everything you need to know about the new Safari in macOS Monterey

Everything you need to know about the new Safari in macOS Monterey

Apple introduced macOS 12 Monterey during WWDC21, back in June. The first developer beta was released later that day, along with those for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and tvOS 15. Whether you have the latest MacBook Pro or a slightly older, less capable Mac, macOS 12 Monterey will bring big improvements to our favorite desktop machines later this fall. A notable change is the mightier and more colorful Safari in the latest macOS update.

What’s new

Streamlined tab bar

Safari-macos-12-monterey-0

The new tab bar takes up less space and adjusts its color depending on the webpage you’re visiting. This color flow makes it seem like the page is actually filling up the entire Safari window and offers a cleaner look. If you miss the old tab bar design, you may switch back to the old one in Safari Tab Preferences.

By default, the new Compact mode is chosen, but you can always switch to Separate mode if you change your mind. Personally, I use Compact mode because it allows more web content to be viewed at once.

If you dislike the new color adjustments that are based on the pages you’re viewing, you may also turn that setting off from Safari Tab Preferences. Just toggle Show color in tab bar on or off.

Redesigned tabs

Safari macos 12 monterey tabs

Tabs now have more rounded corners and a more defined look. They smoothly expand and shrink as you close and add new tabs respectively. This way they’re always stretched just enough to fill the tab bar, offering a more uniform appearance.

More menu

Safari macos 12 monterey menu

To simplify the UI (user interface) further, Apple has hidden some buttons behind a 3-dot more menu. Now the Share, Bookmark, New Quick Note, Privacy Report, and Reader View buttons are accessible through this 3-dot menu. If you’d rather have one (or more) of these buttons in a more visible location, you can always edit the toolbar and add them for faster access.

Tab Groups

Safari macos 12 monterey tab groups

Most of us have separate web pages for our personal and work lives. For the longest time we could create a bookmark folder to categorize our frequents, but that wasn’t the fastest or most convenient way to access the right tabs at the right time. This is where tab groups come into the formula.

Tab groups — as their name suggests — are bundled webpages of our own choosing. You can give them a name to make recognizing what category they belong to easier. Once you add tabs to a group, they’ll remain there, even after you quit Safari, until you close the individual tabs inside a certain group.

Once you set a group up on one device, it is synced across all of your updated Apple devices. It has to be one of my favorite features on macOS 12 Monterey because it makes separating my entertainment and work tabs an effortless process. I’m always a single click away from switching “profiles” back and forth.

Redesigned sidebar

Apple has redesigned the sidebar in Safari on macOS 12 Monterey. The new sidebar includes the Start Page, your Tab Groups, Received Links (Shared with You), and Collected Links (Bookmarks and Reading List). The new sidebar makes accessing these sections easier and hides them away when they’re not needed so you get more web browsing screen real estate.

New privacy protections

Apple has been taking its privacy approaches to the next level for a few years now. New ways to keep users’ data safe are always getting added to new releases. An example of that is iCloud+ features that offer VPN and hide-my-email services to paying users. However, non-paying users also get new privacy protections with the latest Safari. Your online privacy is protected through Intelligent Tracking Protection which prevents trackers from profiling you through your IP address.

HTTPS upgrade

When you visit an HTTP website that supports HTTPS, Safari now automatically upgrades you to the latter because it’s more secure.

Autofill 2FA codes from Keychain

Safari macos 12 monterey keychain

macOS 12 Monterey also includes the ability to add time-based 2FA (2-factor authentication) codes to Keychain. So now when you are signing into a website, you just Touch ID, and Safari will fill in your email/username, password, and 2FA code, if required. This makes the signing in process a hassle-free one. You no longer have to keep third-party apps to manage and store your 2FA codes.

Bottom line

Combined with the major macOS 11 Big Sur redesign, Safari becomes an even more powerful web browser on macOS 12 Monterey. The previous release introduced the Start Page, where users find the content they might want to visit before they even start typing.

The Start Page bundles your iCloud Tabs, Favorites, Frequently Visited, Shared with You, Privacy Report, Siri Suggestions, and Reading List. It also lets you set a custom background so you add more personality to your web browser. The best part? It syncs to all of your updated Apple devices, so you don’t have to set it up manually on each device of yours.

While Safari still lacks some features that some rivals offer, it’s slowly becoming a solid opponent to the rest. It offers an objectively minimalistic UI, webpage translations (requires macOS 11 Big Sur or later), Tab Groups, Extensions, and more. At this point it I use it as my sole browser, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by not using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, for example.


macOS 12 Monterey has been in beta testing since June. It is expected to be released later this fall. It’s common for Apple at this point to release major macOS updates a few months after the rest of their operating systems. This is due to the complexity of macOS and to ensure users don’t get a rushed, buggy build that ruins their experience with this OS. If you’d like to get your hands on the beta right now, you can sign up for the public Apple Beta Software Program for free.

What are you excited for the most in Safari on macOS 12 Monterey, if you haven’t already installed the beta? Do you use Safari as your primary browser? If not, what browsers do you use and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

About author

Mahmoud Itani
Mahmoud Itani

Mahmoud is an Istanbul-based Beiruti who has always sought freedom through writing. His hobbies include keeping up with tech news, writing articles about Apple devices & services, crocheting, meditating, and composing poetry. You’ll likely find him jogging at a park, swimming in open water, brainstorming at a coffeehouse, or merely lost in nature. His personal pieces are available on his website, MahmoudItani.com, and he can be reached via [email protected] or the provided social links.