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Safari 5.1 in Snow Leopard and Lion

Apple released Safari 5.1 along with Lion (Mac OS X 10.7), but it’s not only for Lion users: the 5.1 update is also for Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) machines. The Safari update is automatic with a Lion install; other users can update Safari through Apple menu  > Software Update.

Safari 5.1 is not a major update by any means, but it has several additions and interface tweaks that you should know about. My favorite is the Reading List—at least, it is until further notice.

Some Safari 5.1 changes are for only Lion users because they involve Lion interface changes:

  • Full-screen mode
  • Resume (opening windows the way you left them when you last quit Safari)
  • Multi-touch and other new gestures (detailed below in “New Gestures”)

Other OS-related changes to Safari involve system-wide things such as whether you turn on scroll bars and how you change a window’s size. Also unique to Lion is Reading List integration (detailed below in “The Reading List”), which lets you add an emailed link to your reading list.

All users of Safari 5.1 can avail themselves of:

  • The new Downloads pop-over that replaced the Downloads window (detailed below in “Downloads”)
  • The new, very handy, Reading List that provides a way to deal with the “I’ll-look-at-it-later-when-I-have-time” scenario (detailed below in “The Reading List”).
  • Other, smaller changes as described below in “Little Changes.”

You can review the new Safari features—including many under-the-hood improvements—at But note that the page lists Safari features, including the ones introduced in Safari 5. To see what’s new in Safari 5.1, look for the little “NEW” notice next to the feature name.


When I have limited time to read a (paper) magazine, I skim the short articles and turn down the corners of pages for interesting long articles so I can easily get to them later. Safari 5.1’s Reading List lets you do an analogous procedure with Web sites that you want to go back to read when you have time.

To work with the Reading List:

  • Add the current page to the list: Choose Bookmarks > Add to Reading List (Command-Shift-D). When the Reading List is open, you can click the Add button at the top of the list to add the page. Or, best of all: Shift-click a link on any page to quickly add it to your Reading List.
  • Open or close the list: Click the eyeglasses button at the far left of the toolbar to open and close the list, or choose View > Show/Hide Reading List (Command-Shift-L).
  • Work with the list: Read a page by clicking it in the list, which also turns its title gray. Use the All and Unread buttons at the top of the list to toggle between the entire list and just the items you haven’t read yet.
  • Remove pages from the list: Hover over an item in the list to see its Remove button and click the button. Delete the entire list by clicking the Clear All button at the top of the list.

All these procedures work even if you have the Reader window open (which lets you view the main “article” on a Web page without distracting buttons, other controls, and advertisements). Not all Web pages are designed with a main article that can be viewed in Reader (Wikipedia’s home page, for example); but if you’re looking at something in Reader and click something in the Reading List that can be displayed in Reader, the clicked page loads into Reader. Tip: In Lion, in Apple Mail (and purportedly other applications, although I haven’t found one yet), you can Control-click a link and choose Services > Add to Reading List from the contextual menu to—you guessed it—add the page to your Reading List.


Lion’s full-screen mode for applications is not especially effective in Safari for most users, for two reasons:

  • Most Web sites have a built-in maximum width, so no matter how wide your window, its contents take up only, say, just over a thousand pixels of your 1920-pixel (21-inch iMac) or 2560-pixel (27-inch iMac) screen. So, a wider window does nothing for you.
  • If the Web page contents expand in width to match a wider window, you’re left trying to read impossibly long lines of text.

If you’re using a laptop, a maximum-width Web page window doesn’t look so bad: it presents plenty of white space on each side of the content, but that seems to me to be somewhat restful on the eyes, overall. Full-width content, however is still quite uncomfortable to read.

Here are the full-screen details:

  • Enter full-screen mode: Click the double-diagonal arrows at the far right of the toolbar.
  • Access the toolbar and bookmarks bar: Move your pointer to the top of the screen, and both slide into view. (The tab bar remains on the screen all the time.)
  • Exit full-screen mode: Slide your pointer up to reveal the toolbar, and click the diagonal arrows (on a blue background now) at the far right.

Note that although the bookmarks bar is hidden in full-screen mode, the built-in shortcuts that access its first nine bookmarks (Command-1 through Command-9) still work.


The Downloads window is gone. Totally gone. In its place is a Downloads button at the far right of the toolbar which provides: a cute visual effect of an icon jumping from the page into the button when you click a Download button on a site; a miniature progress bar right in the button to keep you informed of the download status; and much of the functionality of the Downloads window.

Click the Downloads button (you don’t have to keep it pressed) to see a pop-over with a scrollable list of your downloads. This functions the same as the old Downloads window in these ways:

  • You can click the magnifying glass next to an item to navigate to it in the Finder.
  • You can cancel a download in progress by clicking its Cancel button, and you can resume it at any time (you don’t have to be on the download page) by clicking its Resume button; these buttons appear automatically for an item being downloaded or for a download that has been interrupted.
  • The list is only a list. It does not reflect the contents of your Downloads folder; it provides a list of current and recent downloads. You can clear the list by clicking its Clear button, but the overall control of how long something remains in the list is set in Safari Preferences (Command-comma), in the General Pane.

I already miss the Downloads window, which let me keep track of simultaneous downloads: the pop-over doesn’t stay open if you click in the Safari window, or on a tab, and the Downloads button doesn’t indicate the progress of multiple downloads.

Instead, we get the dubious benefit of being able to drag something right out of the Downloads pop-over list to someplace in the Finder, without having to jump to the Downloads folder first. But perhaps I think it’s dubiously beneficial because I’m on a laptop; on a large screen where you can see a Safari window and anything in the Finder, it might be handy (unless you’re in full-screen mode).

Tip: If you don’t have a Downloads button in your toolbar (mine disappeared once when I returned from full-screen mode), choose View > Customize Toolbar and drag the Downloads button from the dialog back into the toolbar.


Lion provides new gestures for Safari for users of Magic Trackpad, Magic Mouse, and later-model laptops:

  • Pinch zooming: Pinch in and out to zoom out and in (no, that’s not a typo—pinching in makes the page content smaller, which feels natural, but also means you’re zooming out). Unlike the “steps” you get when you enlarge or shrink the window content when you use the View menu’s Zoom In and Zoom Out commands (Command-plus and Command-minus), pinch-zooming provides a smooth gradation that lets you get exactly the size you want. Another advantage of pinch-zooming over the menu commands is that the zoom is centered around the position of your pointer instead of the center of the page. On the downside, a pinch-zoom enlarges both the content and the window, sending the edges out of sight, off the screen; the Zoom In and Zoom Out commands enlarge just the contents, rewrapping as necessary to keep everything within the confines of the window.
  • Tap zooming: A double tap with two fingers alternately zooms the window content larger and smaller, but there are two sometimes tricky things involved. First, if you have a two-finger tap set to open a contextual menu in the Point & Click screen of Trackpad preferences, the speed of this two-finger double tap is important so you don’t inadvertently pop up the menu; a little practice may be necessary. Second, a two-finger double tap seems to first zoom in, enlarging the content, while the second one returns it to normal size; but, that’s not always the case. If you’re already zoomed in, with the View > Zoom In command, for instance, a two-finger double tap returns the window content to its original size.
  • Swipe to previous and next pages: The Previous and Next buttons at the left of the toolbar let you revisit pages you’ve viewed in the current tab (their keyboard shortcuts are Command-[ and Command-]. You can use a two-finger horizontal swipe instead, and you’ll see the page you’re re-viewing slide on or off the screen (depending on the direction of your swipe). I’m neither the first nor the last person to note that this procedure would be better if it were assigned to switching from one tab to another instead from one page to another.

Your setting in the Scroll & Zoom screen of Trackpad preferences for Scroll Direction affects which direction you have to swipe in order to move to the Previous or Next page.


Here’s a roundup of some of the smaller, though bound-to-be appreciated, changes in Safari 5.1.

New Tab Positioning

Time was—way back in Safari 5.0—that Command-clicking a link on a page added a tab for the linked page at the far right of the Tab bar. Now the new tab appears directly to the right of the current tab, which makes far more sense, since related tabs will be ganged together.

I have found, however, that this doesn’t always work, particularly with Wikipedia pages, where some Command-clicks put the new tabs to the right of the current one, and others add them to the end of Tab bar. But it works most of the time, and is very convenient.

Specify “Start” Or “Contains” for Page Searches

The Find command that searches within a page—Edit > Find (Command-F)—will highlight even partial words, so searching for ion also finds Lion. But now you can restrict an in-page search to either full or partial words.

After pressing Command-F, type your search term in the search field in the Find banner. Then, click on the magnifying glass icon in the field and select Contains or Starts With from its menu. The setting remains even if you switch pages before you do another search.

Note that Contains, of course, includes words that start with your search term, while Starts With is not restricted to whole words: lion also finds lionhearted.

Close-Window Command Unconfirmed

I started this section by referring to small “thought bound-to-be-appreciated” changes. I take it back, at least for this change, because this is the opposite of appreciated.

Previously, you’d get a confirmation dialog if you closed a window that had multiple tabs; this was a setting in Safari’s Tab preferences. It’s gone: the setting and the confirmation both.

Sure, you can use History > Reopen Last Closed Window, but why should you have to? If Safari had changed the Undo command to encompass an accidentally closed window as well as a closed tab, that would have been reasonable. But to not check with you before closing a multi-tab window? Ridiculous! Unfortunately, many users are totally unaware of the Reopen command. (That wouldn’t include you, of course, because if you’re reading this update, you thoroughly read Take Control of Safari 5 and remember every bit of it.)

Private AutoFill

Safari’s AutoFill feature is a boon to many—including me, since I do more online than in-person shopping, and repeatedly typing the same name/address/whatnot information would be a pain. But a website can access that AutoFill information as soon as it appears in the fields—before you click any Submit or Continue button. (I was unaware this until Apple explained why they added this Private AutoFill feature!)

Safari 5.1 prevents this little privacy gaffe by putting an extra layer of security in place: type something in an online form (the beginning of your first name, for instance, in a First Name field), and you’ll get a little pop-up menu with one or more suggestions as to where Safari might grab the information from (Address Book or the record of other forms you’ve filled out, for instance). Click in the menu, or press Down arrow to select something from it, and you get a pop-over showing the information that’s going to be filled in. Click the AutoFill button, or press Return to activate it, and then your information goes into the webpage form. (This may sound like a cumbersome number of clicks or steps, but it’s very smooth and quick.)

Privacy Settings in Safari Preferences

In a convenient, if perhaps hair-splitting, reorganization of Safari preferences, Safari 5.1 separates privacy-related options from security settings, which remain in the Security screen. Choose Safari > Preferences and click the Privacy icon to access options for blocking, checking, and deleting cookies, caches, and other items that can be stored on your Mac by a Web site.

Some sites want to know where you’re located, but Safari 5 gave you a way, in the Security screen, to block access to that information. In Safari 5.1, the location-revealing options are expanded and moved to the Privacy screen. Your choices are to be asked once each day by any given site, to give perpetual access or denial based on your answer to an initial request for the information (“Prompt … one time only”), or to automatically deny access to all info-seeking sites.

New “Hooks” for Extensions

You won’t see these added capabilities directly in Safari 5.1, but you’ll get their benefit when developers start using them to create extensions, because Apple has made it possible for them to hook into these features:

  • Reader: If a Web site can be viewed through Reader, an extension can detect that capability and automatically open the Reader overlay window.
  • Menus: An extension’s toolbar button can have a drop-down menu.
  • Popovers: A popover (like the one from the new Downloads button) can drop down from an extension’s toolbar button.
  • New “events”: An extension can respond to user actions with windows, tabs, and the Address field.

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)