The Safari Browser Refreshes Tab Design

Apple’s newly redesigned Safari web browser is now available, so I’ve been trying out the refreshed “tabs”, among other things, on my iPad. While still adjusting to the updated design, I’m loving the changes so far.


Tab Trials

These aren’t the tabs you’re looking for.

When iOS and iPadOS 15 were undergoing beta testing during this past Summer, early reviews made Safari’s compact tab layout seem dire. After a few iterations, the public version of Safari landed. I wondered how bad the tabs really were and wanted to try them myself, so once my devices were updated with the new release, I set Safari on my iPad to the Compact Tab Bar. I didn’t do this because my 10.2” screen real estate was insufferable; I was simply curious to use the renewed Safari tabs as Apple had initially envisioned for the update. Being optimistic, I figured Apple’s intended tab redesign was good.

I wanted to think different.

Looking at the new ”tabs”, I realized they’re really the same as the URL address bar, just more narrow while more tabs are open. So I thought, I’m looking at web pages, not tabs. To explain better, here’s an excerpt from an article titled, ”Safari 15 isn’t bad, just misunderstood”:

“The tabs are the address bars of other pages you have open. You’re not switching tabs, you’re switching pages. This is also why the title bar and toolbar take on the same background color as the page you’re on. The entire Safari window is the page. When you switch from one page to another, it all changes to match the new page.“

Jeff Kirvin
Safari settings. Compact Tab Bar, please.

Thinking Differently

It’s only been a week, but I don’t think the compact tab design is merely a novelty; I genuinely like the radical tabs, though some reviewers still don’t. On the plus side, it’s good that Apple has provided options in Settings, letting users choose their preferred tab style. I turned on Compact tabs — I call them tab capsules — which combine a tab’s button with the URL bar; the “Omnibar” is really living up to its name. I also enabled “Show Color in Tab Bar.”

Visually, tabs have soft rounded corners, and the tab bar suggests minimal elegance. The active tab is darkened or lightened, making it easy to identify. With multiple tabs open, although the website name is truncated due to narrow width tabs, I haven’t had trouble knowing which tab I’m on or which one to switch to. Each tab has a colored Favicon, and part of the URL title is visible most of the time. These show enough to know where in the world wide web I am — with one exception, using iPad in Portrait mode with more than a handful of tabs open. To help, a simple pinch-in gesture shrinks the current tab to reveal all open websites in a tabs overview page, which shows each web page’s content and name. It’s easy to switch tabs there.

Tabs overview page in a grid.

Functionally, the tabs work well enough. Because the URL bar and tab are now combined, some previously exposed buttons hide in an overflow menu — the ellipsis /three dot button. When accessing a button, an ideal design minimizes extra gestures or taps to save time and be efficient. But an extra tap or two isn’t that big of a deal; the iPad remains a wonderful modern touch-based computer, easily accessible and user friendly. So despite a few functions living behind the ellipsis button, the Safari redesign remains nice to use.

Whimsy Works

The new compact tab bar also presents something special Apple has been known for: whimsy. The company’s software designs have sometimes been called whimsical, featuring fun things like animations. In that light, the tab capsules are delightful to swipe back and forth as they tug on the rubber-banding animation and bump into each other.

Another cool feature of Safari’s refreshed tool bar is simply color; it will now match the main color of the website being visited. This appealing aesthetic blends the tab bar with the website better, making it look and feel more native to the particular site. This color-matching complements the web page rather than contrasting from it. I like the holistic look, and although the tool bar and tabs change color, I don’t lose my location or wonder where the tabs are.

Below are several examples of websites showcasing the color-matching of Safari’s new tool bar. In particular, notice how the Six Colors site, with its constantly changing color gradient, is rendered. Safari matches the color in real-time, as it is changing, and automatically adjusts the font color from white to black and back again. It also subtly applies a lighter or darker active tab fill-color so that the text stays legible.

Six Colors with white text.
Six Colors with white text.
Six Colors with white text.
Six Colors with black text.
Six Colors with black text.
Six Colors with black text.
Starbucks
Target
Nintendo Life
Wikipedia
Psychology Today
Apple
Amazon

Overall, the new compact tab bar is great. It’s not perfect — tabs get a bit too cramped in portrait mode — but Apple did a good job in its design and implementation, thinking through different points. I even like the new pull-down-to-reload gesture to refresh the web page.

The change that I’m still adjusting to is Tab Groups. I had looked forward to the new Tab Groups feature above all, and I’m glad to have them. They change the way I surf the web, and while they add a bit of complexity to Safari, the trade-off is worth it because grouping tabs together and switching between them as needed reduces the bulk of tabs open in the compact tab bar. This improves visual and mental clarity for better focus on the current web task. More clarity yet mild complexity is a fair enough deal.

Finally, I’m also enjoying Safari’s other new features like the new Start Page that is customizable. I also plan to try Extensions, which are new to Safari; I’ve got my eye on Grammarly.

So what are your thoughts about the new Safari tab design? Do you go compact or separate? Color-matching or not? And do Tab Groups help or hurt your web surfing?

UPDATE: Credit to John Gruber at Daring Fireball for surfacing the article by Jeff Kirvin.

Using The iCloud Web Apps

Does anyone really use Apple’s iCloud web apps in a browser? Well, I do! Besides using the default apps on my iPhone, I use iCloud a lot since I don’t have a Mac or iPad (for now). Apple’s web apps, albeit simplified, work soundly in both Microsoft’s Edge and Google’s Chrome browsers. Go figure.

Apple’s computing philosophy is to use native apps on-device. The “cloud” is only meant to sync your data between your devices, working auto-magically in the background. It’s more of a process than a place. Yet you can access most of your stuff via your modern browser of choice.

iCloud web apps

Altogether, there are twelve (12) iCloud web apps to use at one convenient web site:

  1. Mail
  2. Calendar
  3. Contacts
  4. Reminders
  5. Notes
  6. Pages
  7. Numbers
  8. Keynote
  9. iCloud Drive
  10. Photos
  11. Find Friends
  12. Find iPhone

To make these web-based apps work more like native ones, I like to create a browser shortcut with an icon on my taskbar. But I’ve found all the icons across the apps are the same: a gray Apple logo. The lack of differentiation isn’t helpful, so I just have one shortcut for all of iCloud.com.

In the middle of my Chromebook’s taskbar is the Apple logo!

taskbar icons

The iCloud.com web interface is typical of Apple: clean, simple, and organized. The features within each app are somewhat limited to the basics. But that is kind of a feature in itself; it’s by design. Keep it simple. Use just what you need. For the most part, I find they get the job done.

I rely on the Notes app, for example. It does a noteworthy job! (I had to that.) With folders and sub-folders crammed full of notes, they always sync between my iPhone and iCloud.com without problems. I think I’ve seen only a couple random hiccups here or there over the years. Overall, I trust my data is stable. And, yes, also secure.

If you have never given the iCloud.com website a chance, I think you’ll be surprised by what it offers.

Of course, if you already have multiple Apple devices and thus no need to ever look at iCloud in a browser, then you should already know how reliable it is. Why? Because it’s more than a website; it’s the service keeping all your on-device data up to date.

Now, I will mention a sore spot for many. Apple gives you 5GB of free data storage on iCloud. Free is good, thank you! But 5 gigabytes isn’t enough for storing photos. I subscribe to one of Apple’s larger storage plans, which I think are good values.

So what’s your experience with the iCloud site? Do you use it a lot or seldom? Do you have the unfortunate experience of sync issues with the iCloud service? Did you ever use MobileMe before iCloud replaced it?


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Evernote Is Ever Better

We live in a world of mobile apps. Many companies make different types; pick your favorite! As a nerd, I like trying out apps. And I’ve flip-flopped again. In search of the ‘perfect’ Notes app, I went from Evernote to Keep and…I’m back on Evernote!

Evernote_Lockup_Primary_RGB

Noteworthy Return

First of all, I had rediscovered Evernote last October with enthusiasm. Read about that here. Then I kept being drawn to Google Keep. Check it out.

But now I’ve been spurred to switch back to Evernote full-time. The catalyst was the company announcing its totally new app for iOS.

Naturally, this nerd took note.

Looking at Evernote again, I liked what I saw! There were some new-to-me things:

  1. The web interface looks and works better than ever. That’s not hyperbole.
  2. The Android app widgets are great.

Web App

Since refinding Evernote last year, I knew the company was updating the browser interface. Yet it had a few issues – growing pains – so I felt I couldn’t rely on it. That was a bummer. But now it looks like all those issues are fixed; the web-app experience on my Chromebook has been stable and consistent.

The refreshing layout is attractive: clean, elegant, and simple enough. And its features are great too. For example, it has basic text editing options that Google Keep lacks. Also, it has…folders! Of course, they’re called, “Notebooks.”

One of the biggest yet most basic reasons I’m back on Evernote is to utilize its folder system to store my notes. You know, because – a place for everything and everything in its place. The approach is simple: notes in notebooks (and notebooks in stacks if you like).

Also, there’s a tagging system, so besides organizing notes into broad notebooks, I can label notes with more detail. This lets me sort stuff into categories and sub-categories. And it comes in handy for filtering or searching, so I can find the notes I need.

Tags and Notebooks help me order my mixed thoughts; they’re a sweet combo!

In contrast, Google Keep has only a labeling system to sort notes – no folders at all. It’s less ordered and looks like a big spread-out pile of colored post-it notes. I get it, but it’s just not how my brain works. I like simple, but not oversimplified.

Widgets

On my Android smartphone, the Google Keep widget is practical but ugly. While appearance is subjective, I think there’s some objective fact to this. The translucency, tight text, and limited empty space all make it look like a phone book clipping (remember the Yellow Pages?)

On the other hand, the Evernote widget is pleasing to view. Not only does it look very nice, it’s highly customizable! You can tailor your Evernote widget in a number of ways.

For example, besides choosing what notebooks you want to see or save notes to, you can change the widget color, which action buttons appear, arrange their order, and show/hide images or tags.

Web Clipper

The Web App and Widgets are fantastic. And I’ll add one more thing – Web Clipper. It’s just awesome! Web surfin’ and note nerdin’ are super nice with this powerful and elegant capability. It’s easy to learn and use, giving you several options to capture content from a website and make a note of it.

Grab a whole site, grab only a windowed portion of it, or just grab the link to it. And you can add tags and remarks right in the clipper window. The clipper makes it easier to note things without jumping between two apps.

evernoteProduct-UI-Google-Pixel

#Everbetter

Evernote is a company dedicated to one thing – notes! It’s their singular focus, so they aim to excel and achieve success at it. All their eggs are in the notes basket; they don’t want to drop it.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft offer fine Notes apps, but note-taking is not their bread and butter. These big companies want to offer everything so they can be your one-stop provider, trapping you in their ecosystems – walled gardens. It works, but I think it’s easier to trust a company and service that’s purpose built to provide the thing you need.

Evernote’s popularity and utility have fluctuated over the years. But course correction began in January 2019. Ian Small, CEO, has led the company on a huge and sincere effort to fix things for the better. And for the future.

There’s even a dedicated behind-the-scenes video series on YouTube that shows what and how Evernote is improving; I enjoyed it!

Entrusting your personal thoughts to a notes app and service is as important as backing up your kids’ pictures to a photos app and service.

Evernote’s committed effort to earning my trust, and my notes, is noteworthy.


What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Pocket In My Pocket

Big Pocket

We’ve got a lot of cool little technology solutions these days. There’s an app or website for everything, right? Well I’m back to using one that I’ve always liked – Pocket.


There’s A Plug-In For That

What is Pocket? It’s a read-it-later type of service. Anywhere you find something to read online, you can share it to Pocket and read it at a later time, even offline. It’s super-handy!

Despite that, I was reluctant to once again rely on Pocket because I prefer having a reading list built into my web browser. Safari on iOS spoiled me on that.

So for the longest time, it really bugged me that Google Chrome did not have such a basic feature. (Caveat: a point of disparity, Chrome on iOS does have a reading list feature built-in, but not the “full” browser on my Chromebook!) But then again, it kind of does.

If Chrome does not have a function built-in, then there’s a good chance there’s a plug-in for that! Sure enough, Pocket has an excellent one for Google’s excellent web browser.

Once the Pocket plug-in is plugged-in installed, a small button is added to Chrome; it’s a cinch to use. Just click it.

To read whatever you saved, you can either go to the Pocket website and login, or you can use the Pocket app on your phone. Both options are nice and offer plenty of useful features.


It’s In My Pocket

Although I lean towards using only first-party software (i.e. going all-in with Google only apps and services), using third-party tech solutions is often a great experience; Pocket is no exception.

It always works. So you can rely on it. It’s great having a dedicated app for saving articles to read later. I was using Google Keep at first, along with the Chrome extension, and tagging stuff “Read Later.” It works, but Pocket works nicer.

If you think of something useful that you would like your computer or browser to do, just realize there’s either an app or a plug-in or a similar solution that will meet your needs quite well.


What’s your favorite handy tech solution? Do you read stuff later or knock it out in the moment? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!