Getting started with Safari

Throughout these lessons I’ve casually thrown around such phrases as “launch Safari” and “when you do this, Safari will open and take you to….” And I’ve felt reasonably confident in doing so because, after all, if you’re currently sitting in front of a Mac there’s a very good chance that you’re reading these words within Apple’s Web browser.

Still, that doesn’t mean that we can skip over Safari, particularly given how much time you’ll spend with it. So on to Safari we shall go. In this lesson I’ll examine Safari’s major interface elements.

The view from above

When you first launch Safari, it takes you to Apple’s home page. You’re welcome to leave it as the page you’ll always see when you launch the browser, but you can change that setting. I’ll show you how to do that when we later talk about configuring Safari. For the time being, let’s take a tour.

At the top of the window you’ll see the name of the site you’re visiting. In this case, ‘Apple’ appears as the title. Below the title are the Back and Forward navigation buttons, the Share button, the search/address field, the Refresh button, and the Reader button. Below that is, by default, the Bookmarks Bar, which includes Reading List, Bookmarks, and Top Sites buttons in addition to buttons for any preconfigured sites or folders; by default, these items include Apple, iCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Yahoo links as well as News and Popular folders. (Folders are identified by the downward-pointing triangle next to the name, which hints that when you click such an item, a list of associated bookmarks appears below.)

Safari's default toolbar

On the far right of the Bookmarks Bar is the plus (+) button, which you use to add a new tab. Clicking this button exposes the previously hidden Tab Bar. As should be clear, the Tab Bar allows you to have multiple sites open in a single window. To move between them, simply click the appropriate tab. To close a tab, hover your pointer over it and click the small X that appears on the left of the tab. By default, when you create a new tab you’ll go to the Top Sites view, which displays a grid of thumbnail images that represents the sites you’ve recently opened or frequently visit.

Using the search/address field

When you first start using Safari, your primary avenue for making your way from site to site is the search/address bar. If you’re accustomed to an older Web browser, you may wonder what this search-slash-address business is about. Prior to Safari 6 (the version that ships with Mountain Lion), the browser included two separate fields; one was for entering addresses such as “http://www.macworld.com” and the other was for searching the Web using terms such as “iPhone,” “Constantinople,” or “muskox.” The two are now combined into a single field.

When you type something in the field, you’ll see a list of suggestions. In many cases the suggestions are for search terms. Select one of these terms, and by default Safari will take you to Google’s search page, where you’ll find a list of results.

Safari will autofill websites you've visited previously.

However, if you’ve previously visited a website with a matching name—macworld.com, for instance—that site should appear as the first suggestion (called the Top Hit) and be entered into the field. Press Return, and you’ll go to that site. If you’re looking for a specific website but its name doesn’t appear as a Top Hit (because you haven’t visited it before), wait for the list of suggestions to appear. Near the bottom of the list you’ll spy a ‘Go to Site’ entry, followed by the words you entered. Select it to go to that website.

One thing you’ll want to be careful about is banging on the Return key too quickly, particularly when you’ve entered a Web address that Safari is aware of. If Safari hasn’t had time to retrieve the address from its History (a repository for sites you’ve visited in the past) and you press Return, you’re likely to end up at Google rather than at the site you entered. Patience is a virtue in such cases.

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