How to use Safari’s new tab bar in iOS 15 if you want

Apple will now give you the choice in iOS 15 to stick to the old style of Safari tabs or to adopt the new tab bar. Before avoiding the new one, though, try it out.

It’s not that the redesigned tab bar in Safari for iOS 15 has vastly better functionality on any website than before. It has a new way of moving between sites, but in reality what it does have is a different approach, an unfamiliar design.

Apple wants tabs to get you out of the way and that’s commendable. It’s more than commendable that Apple has brought the new Tab Groups feature to iOS 15, it’s brilliant and it’s different. Everyone loves tab sets or just has no reason to know they’re there.

Considering that no one can use Safari without using tabs, so a major redesign is a very big and very inevitable deal. Or it was until Apple introduced the option to revert to the old design.

It is not yet available in the public beta, but it is in the latest developer version. It is likely, therefore, that it will arrive at the official version, although it will be interesting to see if Apple will make the new design the default or not.

If it does, there will be annoyed people who will have to search through the settings to fix it. And if not, if the official version of iOS 15 makes the old card design the default, no one will ever use the new one.

And that’s a shame because once you’ve gotten rid of the muscle memory that makes you reach to the top of the screen to switch sites, Safari’s new tab bar is fine. It is also good.

How to switch from the old to the new board design

Again, at the time of writing this is only in the developer beta, not the public one. But it’s coming and it will be the same switch that developers see in Settings.

On your iPhone, go to Settings, then scroll down to Safari. There is a simple switch, which shows an icon for Tab bar, one for Single card.

Choose between the new and old Safari design in iOS 15

Choose between the new and old Safari design in iOS 15

Tap what you want and you are good to go. Don’t change it too quickly, give the new tab bar a chance.

How to use the new tab bar in iOS 15

When you open Safari, the page you see first is the site you were last reading and there is now a floating bar at the bottom. That bar contains the site address, as well as a Share button and one that has to do with rearranging tabs.

How to access a new site

  1. If the bar disappears, tap and pull on the site to scroll and reactivate the bar
  2. Tap the current site address
  3. When it is highlighted, tap the small Delete button on the left
  4. Start typing a new address, or a new search term, and hit Go

It all seems clear, sensible and easy, and it is. Except how the tab bar sits at the bottom of the page and you probably have many, many years of experience reaching the top of the screen instead.

It will take some time to unlearn, but there is a plus in the new tab bar. You might like it for that too, it’s a revised way of moving between tabs.

View the new tab bar and you can scroll through the open tabs

View the new tab bar and you can scroll through the open tabs

How to move between tabs on the tab bar

  1. Bring up the tab bar
  2. Press on it, then swipe to one side or the other
  3. You will immediately move to the next tab, assuming you have more than one open.

You have more than one tab open, you have many more. We are not judging.

And so this scrolling is much faster than before. Previously you would have to tap the tab button, find what you want from the thumbnail images, then tap to access the tab you were looking for.

Yet you can still do it. Open that tab bar, tap the tab button on the far right, and you get a view of all your tabs. Rather than the old style of Rolodex thumbnails where you had to move back and forth to see what you want, it’s now a Photo-style grid.

From that grid, you can tap to access any tab. You can also tap on the little Delete button to completely get rid of the card.

What you can’t do, unfortunately, is drag the tabs to arrange them. You can hold down on any tab and get a menu that offers some sorting options, but they’re limited.

The new Tab Bar is also a convenient path to iOS 15's excellent Tab Groups feature

The new Tab Bar is also a convenient path to iOS 15’s excellent Tab Groups feature

Your choices are for Arrange the cards by title, oa Arrange tabs by website.

Except, if that seems a little limited, something else the new design offers is the ability to organize tabs more. This is going through the Tab Groups feature, but as you hold down on any tab’s thumbnail, you get two particularly key options.

If you have six tabs open, pressing and holding on one gives you a menu that allows you to move all those tabs into an existing group. And you also have the option to move them all to a new group.

What you can’t do is choose some of the tabs and move them, it’s all or nothing. Or at least it is currently. Maybe we already know something that will be in iOS 16.