The iOS version of Safari has always been a mobile browser. That’s great for smartphones, but it isn’t the best for a tablet or hybrid experience like the iPad. That’s now fixed that in the new iPadOS software update.
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Apple has made several significant changes to the way Safari on iPadOS works. In a nutshell, they all allow you to have much more of a desktop-like browsing experience on your iPad. That’s a big deal, so here are all of the refinements you can expect.
Safari on iPadOS won’t just function more like a desktop browser — it’ll also look like a desktop browser to the sites that you visit.
That’s because Safari will now identify itself as a desktop browser to web servers. Essentially, that should mean that every website you visit will automatically show the desktop, rather than mobile, version.
It sounds like a small and basic change — and it is. But it means a completely different browsing experience for users.
For one, it eliminates one of the barriers from using an iPad as a computer replacement. Open up Gmail, Facebook or YouTube in iPadOS Safari and you’ll see the same exact sites that you would if you opened them in a Mac.
Apple has optimized its Safari inputs to touch. That means you’ll be able to access all site elements with your finger like you would a mouse (and with a new accessibility feature in iPadOS, you can actually use a mouse).
Lastly, instead of needing to explicitly “Request Desktop Website,” iPad users will do the opposite if they choose.
A slew of new Safari keyboard shortcuts on iPadOS
Power users are often huge fans of keyboard shortcuts. And to hammer home the fact that Safari on iPadOS is essentially like its counterpart on macOS, Apple has added a slew of keyboard shortcuts to the app.
As long as you have an external keyboard connected to your iPad, you’ll be able to take advantage of the keyboard shortcuts. That goes for Apple’s own Smart Keyboards, as well as various third-party Bluetooth and wired options.
Like on macOS, the keyboard shortcuts will easily allow users to navigate webpages, access certain functions, or just open a new tab really quickly. Some of them rely purely on keys, while others combine keys with screen taps.
While Apple says there are more than 30 keyboard shortcuts to use in Safari on iPadOS, here’s just a sampling to get you started.
- New Private Tab: Command + Up Arrow + N
- Open link in background: Command + Tap
- Use selection for Find: Command + E
- Open link in new window: Command + Option + Tap
- Add link to Reading List: Up Arrow + Tap
- Open link in new tab: Command + Up Arrow + Tap
- Paste without formatting: Command + Shift + Option + V
- Dismiss web view in app: Command + W
- Zoom in: Command + Plus
- Zoom out: Command + Minus
- Save webpage: Command + S
- Toggle Downloads: Command + Option
- Download file from link: Option + Tap
A download manager that finally works
The lack of a download manager and mediocre support for locally stored data are two things that have been seriously hampering the iPad from becomign a laptop replacement. That’s no longer the case in iPadOS.
Safari now has a full-fledged download manager. You’ll find it on the Safari toolbar. If you’re also a Mac user, it’ll look vaguely familiar — which makes sense, since it’s kind of a clone of the Safari for macOS download manager.
In practice, the manager means you can more easily save various file types to your iPad without needing to work with the Share sheet. Just download a file and it’ll head straight to the Downloads folder.
Click on the Download Manager, you can also see a list of your active or recent downloads. You can also cancel larger downloads that are in progress by clicking the X icon — if you change your mind, you can resume them by clicking the refresh icon.
By default, iPadOS will send files to the Downloads folder, which is actually just a folder in iCloud Drive.
But you can actually edit where downloaded files end up. Just go to Settings —> Safari —> Downloads and you’ll see an option to save downloaded files “On My iPad.” From here, you can create and edit a new folder to keep your downloads.
Smaller Safari Toolbar Improvements
The previous three improvements are the big features that should allow the iPad — and the Safari app — to become a lot better for productivity. But there are other, smaller refinements of the iPad version of Safari.
For example, the Safari toolbar has been tweaked slightly with some handy options. There’s the aforementioned Download Manager icon, as well as a text icon in the URL bar that will let you adjust the size of text on a website.
If you often upload photos to websites or other platforms using your iPad, you’ll be happy to know that Safari now has a baked-in option that lets users resize photos to Small, Medium, Large or Actual Size. Yes, it’s the same submenu that pops up when you send an image via Mail.
Some improvements aren’t strictly Safari-based, but will significantly enhance how you use the browser.
It keeps getting mentioned in iPadOS coverage, but the ability to have two instances of the same app open side-by-side is a major change. For Safari users, it means you could have one Safari window open to Google Docs right next to another Safari window with research material. That’s basically groundbreaking for the tablet.
What are some of the key iPadOS features you are looking forward to?
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.