It seems a distant memory now, but pre-2007 and the launch of the original iPhone, browsing the web on a mobile device was tiresome and frustrating. Websites built for mobile devices were basic and clunky, lacking thoughtful design or intuitive interfaces. Steve Jobs summed it up best during the iPhone Keynote, describing the mobile web as the “baby internet.”
Safari changed the landscape of the mobile internet, ushering in a desktop-class browser on a mobile phone and making it easier to consume information across the web. The first version of mobile Safari was built upon the OS X iteration, at the time version 3.0. The rendering engine behind Safari, called WebKit, is considered the fastest and most efficient available. It’s packed with features, and tightly integrated with iOS, enabling users to save web pages on the homepage, share bookmarks and history via iCloud, save passwords via Keychain and much more. It’s easy enough to learn without any form of instruction, but still contains some powerful features, as we’re about to explain…
Entering web URLs
Open Safari for the first time and you’ll see it’s in-built bookmarks and the address field at the top of the screen. To visit websites, just tap on the address field and enter an URL via the on-screen keyboard. Tap the blue Go button on the keyboard to visit the site.
Searching the web
The address bar in Safari also acts as a search engine. So to search the web for any question or search term, just type your query into the address bar at the top of the screen. As you type into the address bar, notice that Safar offers search suggestions in real-time. Tap on a suggestion or the blue Go button on the keyboard to confirm your query. You’ll then see results appear on Google’s website.
Show the control panel
While browsing the web Safari will automatically hide the control panel at the bottom of the screen. This gives web pages more room to show content and images, but it makes going back a page or accessing tabs and bookmarks more difficult. To quickly restore the control panel, tap anywhere along the bottom of the screen. You’ll see the panel slide back into place.
Go back a page
Here’s a great Multi-Touch tip: to go back to the last page, swipe your finger from the very left side of the screen inwards. You’ll see the previous page appear beneath the current one, and with any luck it won’t have to reload itself. You can also go forward a page by swiping inwards from the right.
Tabs make it possible to have more than one website open at a time. This is useful for when you need to keep a page open for reference while reading another, or for quickly accessing a site on regular occasions. To open an addition window, tap the tabs button in the very bottom right corner of the screen. You’ll see the current page zoom and angle downwards, and a selection of buttons will appear at the bottom of the screen. Tap the plus icon to open an additional tab. To close a tab, tap the small x button in its top left corner, or swipe the tab window to the left using your finger.
Using iCloud it’s possible to sync tabs across all your devices. These include the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac. Tabs are automatically synced using your Apple ID. To access them tap the tabs button in the bottom right corner of the screen, then push the current tabs upwards. You’ll see a list of iCloud tabs slide up from the bottom of the screen.
It’s a great idea to save your most frequently visited pages as bookmarks. This saves you repeatedly entering the same web URL on a regular basis. To access your bookmarks, tap the Bookmark button in the control panel at the bottom of the screen. To delete existing bookmarks, tap the Edit button at the bottom of the bookmarks panel, then tap the small red delete icons. While editing bookmarks you can also re-arrange them by dragging the small handles to the right of each bookmark.
To add a new bookmark, tap the Share button which is centred at the bottom of the control panel, then tap the Bookmark option. A panel will slide up the screen enabling you to edit the bookmark name and location.
You can browse the web without saving any history, searches, passwords or field entries by enabling Private Browsing mode. To do this, tap the Tabs button in the bottom right corner then tap the Private button. Safari will ask if you would like to keep the existing window/s open or close them. Tap whichever option is relevant to your needs. You’ll then notice the Safari interface change color from white to grey. To disable Private Browsing mode, re-open the tabs window then tap the Private button again.
Change the default search engine
By default Safari searches the web using results from Google. This is probable suitable for most users, but if you’d rather search using Yahoo! Or Bing, open the Settings app, select Safari then tap the Search Engine option. From the following panel you can change the default search engine.
Share a page
Sometimes it’s helpful to share a website with friends and family. Safari offers a wealth of sharing options, including the ability to email web pages, send an URL via the messages app, share a site onto Twitter and Facebook, wirelessly beam a page to others sharing the same WiFi connection and much more. To access these sharing abilities, tap the Share icon at the bottom of the screen (it looks like a square with an arrow pointing upwards out of it). You’ll see the share panel slide up the screen, with icons and shortcuts to each sharing ability. Tap on whichever is most suitable for your needs.
Turn on pop-ups
Pop-ups are the bane of browsing the web, often taking the form of full-screen adverts that beg for your attention. Safari automatically blocks pop-ups from appearing on your device, but you can turn them on by opening the Settings app, selecting Safari, then toggling off the Block Pop-ups button.
Clear your web browsing history and cookies
If you need to clear your browsing history, open the Settings app, select Safari then tap the Clear History button. This cannot be undone, so only tap this button if you’re sure that you wish to erase your recent browsing history.
Similarly, from the same Settings panel you can also clear cookies and data. Cookies are small pieces of data stored in Safari that tell a website of your previous activity on the site. This can be used to keep you logged into a site or show relevant content while you browse.