Three ways to pass web pages across your Mac, iPhone, and iPad

Apple now makes an abundance of options available.

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I used to dream that QR Codes would be the magical glue that would allow the easy passage of content among digital and analog devices. Want to read a web page on your phone that you’re viewing in your desktop browser? Just snap a picture of a QR Code on the page, and voila! it appears on your mobile device.

The reason for this hope was that it once was hard to move URLs around, unless you used URL shorteners, and even then it often involved careful retyping. Apple got on top of this years ago with Handoff, a set of features that rely on Apple’s Continuity framework—which pulls together Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and proximity—to let you hand the state of an app off among Macs, iPhones, and iPads, including a web page in Safari while Safari is the active app.

AirPlay is also part of that mix, letting you send or receive all sorts of documents and items, including photos, iWork files, and web pages. And iCloud adds yet another option: making the state of open tabs on each device logged into the same iCloud account accessible to every other device in that set. (And QR Codes work, too!)

Here’s how to send a web page to or among your devices.

Handoff

While viewing a page in Safari for macOS or mobile Safari and Safari is your foreground app, you can also open the page from your other devices. (This also works with any other app that supports Handoff, and for which you have the same app on the two devices engaged in Handoff.)

  • In macOS, a Safari icon appears on the Dock: at left, if the Dock is on the bottom of the screen; at top, if the Dock is displayed at right. The icon is overlaid with an icon of the device on which the page is open, while a floating label shows Safari plus a generic label like “From iPhone” or “From Mac.” Click it to open the page in Safari.

  • On an iPhone, swipe up and the Handoff notice appears as a lozenge that features the Safari app icon, the label “Safari,” and the actual name of the device handing off. Tap it to open it in Safari.

  • On an iPad, the icon appears at the right side of the iPad app dock, looking quite similar to how it appears on a Mac. Tap it to open the page in Safari.

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macOS shows an overlay in the Dock with the app name and device type, but not the device name, that’s available to hand off a page.

If you have Safari frontmost on two or more of your other devices, only the page associated with the device you most recently interacted with appears.

AirPlay

In Safari on any Apple platform, tap the Share button and tap AirDrop, then tap the device with which you want to share the Web page. In iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, you can also tap on the top raw of the share sheet an icon that shows previous AirDrop destinations (overlaid with the AirDrop icon).

When the other device receives the page, it opens it automatically if you’re logged into the same iCloud account. If not, that device offers a prompt to open the page.

iCloud bookmarking syncing

iCloud can sync various elements of Safari across your devices if you have it enabled. In macOS 10.14 Catalina, turn on iCloud Safari sync in the Apple ID preference pane in the iCloud settings. In macOS 10.13 Mojave and earlier, look in the iCloud preference pane. In iOS and iPadOS, you can enable or disable it in Settings > user name > iCloud.

iCloud syncs information about open tabs on your devices, but doesn’t open them. Instead, you have to look to find them:

  • In Safari for macOS, click the Show Tab Overview button in the upper-right corner of the screen, which looks like two overlapping squares. Safari reveals all current tabs at the top as window thumbnails. Look or scroll down, and all other synced devices’ open tabs appear under their names. (They are sometimes slightly out of sync, I’ve found.) Tap any of those links to open the Web page.

  • In Safari for iOS and iPadOS, tap the Tabs button in the lower-right corner of the screen (iOS) or in the upper-right corner (iPadOS). Like on the Mac, this reveals open tabs on the device, but swipe up to reveal the list of Web pages open in tabs on your other devices. Tap any link to open it.

QR Code

The dream of the QR Code never died for me—nor, apparently, Google in Android and Apple in iOS and iPadOS. Both major mobile operating system makers added QR Code support in their camera apps a few years ago, letting you point the camera at a code, have it automatically recognized, and be offered the opportunity to open an embedded Web page link. (QR Codes also embed Wi-Fi network information, contact cards, and much more.)

You may find QR Codes in the wild, though they sometimes appear on Web pages in digital media. To scan a QR Code, make sure that in iOS or iPadOS that at Settings > Camera, Scan QR Codes is enabled.

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A QR Code can embed a Web page URL. The QR Code can be in a digital medium or splashed on a billboard.

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