8 Powerful Features of Safari That Few People Know About

Safari is an excellent browser for many reasons; its speed, clean aesthetics and ease of use are attractive from the outset. In addition to these obvious strengths there are a few extremely attractive features of Safari that most are unaware of.

  1. Browsing and Search Snapback

  2. URL Path Navigation

  3. Web Inspector

  4. Activity Window

  5. Inline Dictionary

  6. Selection to Speech

  7. Quick Notes

  8. Email Page Link

Browsing and Search Snapback

Search snapback allows you to instantly jump back to the original search you made after clicking on a bunch of results. So if you originally searched for programming, and you clicked on a bunch of Wikipedia links and didn’t find what you want you can, with one action, instantly get back to the original Google results.

There are two ways to do it; you can click the little orange arrow to the right of the search as seen above, or you can use the keyboard shortcut — option-command-s

You can do the same thing with browsing as well, but it works slightly differently. If you type an address into the URL bar and go to that page as your initial page in a tab or window, that page is marked as your snapback page. You can then go anywhere else and snapback to it by hitting the orange arrow or by using the keyboard shortcut — option-command-p

You can also set a new snapback location by marking a current page as your snapback location. The fastest way to do that is with the keyboard shortcut — option-command-k , but you can do it from the history menu as well.

URL Path Navigation

It’s also possible to view and navigate through the various levels of a nested site using Safari. So on my site, for example, I have the root, then /study, then various pages. Well from one of the nested pages I can right-click the title of the page and see exactly where I am on the site. And from there I can navigate up if I want to.

Web Inspector

With the latest version of Safari (3.1) you can now inspect HTML and CSS elements right from your browser. The functionality is similar to the Firebug extension for Firefox, and gives you all sorts of information that’s helpful during web development and design.

To enable the functionality just go to Preferences –> Advanced, and select Show Develop Menu in Menu Bar. Once you’ve done this you can then right-click on various elements in the browser and select Inspect Element.:

Activity Window

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The Activity Window is visible by going to Window –> Activity on the menu bar, or via the shortcut — option-command-a. This functionality lets you see what pages, images and scripts are downloading behind the scenes when you browse the web. Open a few pages and check out the Activity Window; it’s surprising how much goes on when you click a single link.

Inline Dictionary

Safari, being a Cocoa app (OS X), allows us to instantly define words we find. Simply highlight the word and hit the ctrl-cmd-d shortcut. So if I highlight the word “functionality” in Safari and hit the shortcut, here’s what I get.

Selection to Speech

This is another one that Cocoa affords us and is therefore available in Safari. It’s probably not useful on a day-to-day basis, but it’s great for showing OS X off to those who have yet to see the light. When in Safari, highlight any portion of text and select Services –> Speech –> Start Speaking Text. The amount of power we have from that Safari menu, through Cocoa, is just staggering.

Quick Notes

One of the really powerful features of Safari is the ability to instantly capture text to a note-taking interface — in this case Stickies. When you’re browsing and need to capture a bit of information, simply highlight the text in question and click shift-cmd-y. This will take whatever you had highlighted and pull it into a Stickie note for safe keeping.

Email Page Link

Another task that’s frequently performed is emailing the link to the current page you’re on. So normally when you want to send the link to a friend it takes multiple steps, but you can copy the link and paste it into a new email in a single keyboard shortcut — shift-cmd-i.:


I think these features, combined with the obvious ones, make a pretty strong case for Safari being the best browser out there. If we could just get a few bits of functionality from Firefox and/or Opera it’d be a done deal. Also, many thanks to the commenters on the original article who pointed out the features that I included in this expanded version.: