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.

About Apple’s California Streaming

This week was the ”Superbowl for nerds.” Apple held its annual September event where it showcased the newest iPhones to debut in Autumn. This year sees iPhones 13, which are incrementally better than last year’s iPhones 12. With them, Apple is releasing updated iPads and the latest Apple Watch iteration.

I viewed Apple’s live video announcement — California Streaming — a fast-paced deluge of features packed into a superlative-laden presentation. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m more or less an Apple Fanboy, but it felt a bit like drinking kool-aid with too much sugar. With that small gripe out of the way, here are my personal thoughts as a mobile-computer consumer.


iPad mini

Apple_iPad-mini_ipados-homescreen_09142021

Going from 7.9” to 8.3”, the mini has more screen, yet it remains mini! That’s a solid win in my book. I think most people want as much display as they can comfortably fit in a pocket or hold in one hand. Apple does this via removing bezels and extending the display to the edges of the device. Samsung’s approach is to fold the screen in half! I think I prefer Apple’s method: it’s simpler, more elegant, more affordable, and less likely to break.

The iPad mini basically got all of the iPad Air’s features, but it also got a $100 price hike over the previous mini, which is a bummer. I was thinking about buying my wife her own iPad mini for Christmas, but now it’s more out of reach. Then again, it comes in my wife’s favorite color: purple.

iPad

Apple_iPad-10-2-inch_Family_09142021

I love the iPad! As I type this blog post, I’m enjoying my 8th gen iPad, which I bought in the Summer. I had figured the 9th gen iPad would not get a significant upgrade, and that’s basically what happened. This newest iPad got 3 updates: a wider front camera that follows people to keep them in frame (Center Stage), the A13 chip to replace the great A12, and a True Tone display that, in my experience, is nice but not a big deal.

The one other update that is worth shouting about is that Apple finally bumped the entry priced $329 iPad from a paltry 32GB of storage to 64GB! For that low price, often on sale for $300, I think anyone can now enjoy a viable and enviable Apple tablet. In addition, the $429 iPad now packs a generous 256GB of storage — nice!

iPhone 13/mini/Pro/Pro Max

Apple_iPhone-13-Pro_Colors_09142021
Apple_iphone13_design_09142021

There’s isn’t much for me to say here except that, like most people, the latest iPhones’ camera improvements are more than welcome. I especially am excited about the iPhone 13 Pros getting a Macro photography capability, preferring both the ultra-wide and macro features over the zoom/telephoto features. In addition, the newest iPhones 13 get better performance (not that they were lacking) and longer lasting battery life — what good is all that CPU power if the phone has no battery power at all?

With new phones, I like that the previous few years’ iPhones, which are still excellent devices, now sport a lower price than ever. Those now “older” phones — still for sale as new — make some of the best tech from Apple available to more and more people. Upgrading my iPhone 8 Plus, for example, to last year’s iPhone 12 versus the 13 would save me $100, yet I’d still get a significant update.

Apple Watch 7

Apple_watch-series7_lineup-01_09142021

When it comes to the Apple Watch, I see two sides to it: the fitness side and the smart side. This year’s version 7 does not see much new for either side. Yet while some pundits have panned this year’s Watch as a minor update, I was quite excited for it. Sure, it’s not a huge step up, but it’s better nonetheless. What matters to me is that when I eventually upgrade my current 40mm Apple Watch SE, I’ll see an even bigger display boost when I opt for the now larger 45mm size. Otherwise, I think it performs like my current watch, but it’s vast screen will make using it easier and more enjoyable.

Another welcome change will be the always-on display that’s now much brighter; I presume it doesn’t degrade battery life. Most surprising of all, though, is the new on-screen keyboard! I’m skeptical that it will work well. I suspect the bigger watch size will be easier to tap the tiny letters on. Even without a keyboard, I find voice dictation totally reliable, but it will be nice to try the keyboard once I upgrade in the distant future.


Overall, this year sees Apple making incremental and iterative updates. The biggest changes come to the smallest iPad: the mini. While this might not be an exciting and “revolutionary” upgrade cycle, the progress Apple is making by pushing forward in smallish steps is nevertheless welcome and positive gain. Growth in life only sees spurts during adolescence. Generally, life grows by slow and steady consistency. Apple is a mature company, and all the hardware products announced this week are likewise mature.

The other side of Apple’s coin is more interesting to me this year: software. Next week, Apple will release the public versions of its latest operating systems. I’m eager to install the newest iOS and iPadOS software. Many of the features, like focus modes or multitasking buttons, will make current devices more capable or efficient. Shiny new hardware is fun and functional, but the integrated software is also key to giving nerds, geeks, and ”normal” people the tools they need to apply their talents.

Whether being productive and creative, organizing photo albums, or surfing the web, I’m glad to see Apple steadily improving both its devices and apps that make such tasks simple, elegant, and delightful. Here’s to another year of Apple gear.

Apple And Gaming Stuff

Well, hello there September blogosphere. While I’ve been somewhat scarce from the blog lately, that must mean I’ve been so busy with life experience that I’ve stockpiled stacks and piles of content in draft to write, right? Sounds good to me, but that’s inaccurate. No doubt, I’ve been mobile computing (iPad!) and gaming (RPGs!), but that’s only the half of it. I’ve also spent energy writing elsewhere and took a week off from everything for a big family vacation. Next thing you know, I’m flipping the page on the wall calendar and yearning for cool Fall temps to finally blow away the Texas Summer heat.

This month is bringing more cool stuff than just the Autumnal Equinox. First, next Tuesday is Apple’s first Fall event where they tell everyone what to spend their money on next, like new iPhones, maybe new iPads, or Apple Watches too. Oh, and how about new AirPods? Mobile tech is getting a boost this Fall for sure. My current iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods are working well. In fact, just yesterday I had my iPhone 8’s charge port repaired at a local shop. No longer must I wiggle the charging cord in the port and hope it sits securely enough to juice up; now I just set it and forget it. The port is a physical or mechanical point of failure, subject to wear and tear over time, and is probably why Apple rumors suggest future iPhones may be port-less, relying only upon wireless Qi charging. I have my doubts, and I’m pretty sure this month won’t see such ”courageous” advancement when Apple announces iPhone 13 or 12S or Year Model 2021.

The other new nice thing-a-ma-jig coming this month is an RPG. I’m excited to soon buy the physical edition of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom – Prince’s Edition for Nintendo Switch! While it’s not a direct sequel to the the first game, it still features sublime Studio Ghibli-esque art design, youthful fantasy, and some other differences to earn a hearty play-through. I think the battle system may even be improved – very nice. Of course, the timeless dilemma is ever present with this upcoming release: when to play it. Can I pause life and disrupt the space-time continuum in order to play and finish all the awesome games available, namely the RPGs on my backlog? I wish.

Gaming has been fun lately. I continue to enjoy Fantasian Part Two; it’s become more addictive lately. But I’ve also gotten sucked back into Pokemon TCG. And then another fun game recently grabbed my attention: Asphalt 8 and 9. Ok, that’s two games, but they’re kind of the same thing. Apple Arcade launched Asphalt 8, which my kids enjoyed on vacation. So then we downloaded Asphalt 9 on the Switch, and instead of catching all the Pokemon, we’re now collecting all the exotic sports cars. Yeah, I know, it’s a racing game, not an RPG, but it does have stat boosts when upgrading car parts, and each race is like an action-battle system where you can crash other cars in order to win first place. That’s a stretch, but the Asphalt games are no less fun to play.

Anyways, this blog post is sort of a catch up for things of late. I hope to write more in the near future; I have some draft ideas slated. Here’s to the Fall being more fun and exciting than the Summer of 2021.

Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag Impression

There’s a new man-bag in town. Call it a satchel, cross-body bag, or a tablet bag…or heck, a man-purse or murse; call it what you want, it’s my everyday carry bag (EDC). Most important and exciting of all, it’s the Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag, and it’s finally here!


Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag in Burnt Orange

Good things come to those who wait

I waited months for the pre-order to open and then more months for production and shipping to complete until — at long last — my EDC bag of choice arrived in a small brown box off a big brown truck.

Previously, I had spent many weeks researching and shopping online in a quest to find the best bag. Tom Bihn was the best bag maker at the best prices I found. The expert pack company has the widest selection of bag sizes and colors to suit my tastes. I especially like the modular organization system that revolves around the O-ring (please watch the linked video to really see it in action). In each bag are one or more O-rings to which a variety of pouches attach. It’s a simple yet smart and flexible way to keep any bits and bobs tidy; nobody likes a cluttered contents compartment.

Here’s my EDC. (The Android phone placeholder let my iPhone take the picture.)

Sizing Matters

Settling on the right-sized cross-body bag wasn’t easy. I wanted a bag big enough to fit a 10″ iPad. Though concerned a bag that size might be too large for everyday carry, my worries became unpacked. Using the bag on a few normal outings, I’ve found it fitting. I like the ample roominess inside; it lets me easily reach my forearms into it for optimal item retrieval, and it’s spacious enough to hold a small water bottle — something Texas summers requires. That said, I’ve also thought it would be nice to see a Mini Cafe Bag — sized to fit an iPad mini or other 7″ tablet — and I might like to upgrade someday to the Medium Cafe Bag. Having extra room seems extra nice, yet it might be too much.

Delight in Details

Besides its comfortable size, my favorite traits of the Small Cafe Bag are:

  • Strong yet supple shoulder strap.
    • Almost like a car’s seat belt but narrower and smoother.
    • It also has an effective strap pad with tiny grip nubs to minimize shoulder slipping.
  • Simple yet sufficient compartments.
    • There are only 3 (front, back, and main); they’re not overloaded with pockets or dividers.
    • 1 stuff pocket and 3 pen pockets grace the main pouch.
  • Fine quality materials.
    • Firm yet flexible fabrics in and out.
    • They feel very nice yet tough.
    • 525 ballistic outer and 210 ballistic inner.
  • Attractive colors.
    • Burnt orange, gray, and black.
    • I love the burnt orange!
Inside view of the Small Cafe Bag main compartment, featuring: 3 pen pockets, 1 large pocket, and 2 O-Rings. Note the interior color is gray — not black as in a dark cave wherein lurks unknown danger — so it’s easier to see and find what’s inside.

My EDC Kit Fit Out

Primary Compartment

Everyone fits out their everyday carry kit differently. My Small Cafe Bag‘s main area carries an iPad plus four organizer pouches (detailed below) snapped onto the two O-Rings. Also tethered by a key strap are my…car keys.

Snugly tucked into the primary compartment’s stuff pouch are a tin of Altoids and a Leatherman Sidekick multi-tool, or it also neatly fits my JBL Go Bluetooth speaker when needed. The three pen pouches hold two Bic 4-color ink pens and eventually an Apple Pencil.

Back Pocket

Though this open pocket on the back of the Small Cafe Bag is large enough to accommodate an eReader or small paperback, I normally use it for only one thing: my iPhone 8 Plus. Located on the back, it stays against my body while wearing, which makes it feel somewhat secure despite being open on top. And since I access my phone often, it’s nice to quickly and easily slip my phone in or out. It can lay vertically or horizontally, and there’s room for other items when needed. The other use of this open pocket is quickly storing the shoulder strap when hand carrying the bag.

There’s one small challenge worth mentioning here. The handle strap on top of the bag somewhat overs the back pocket and sometimes hinders access to it. It’s minor and easily managed, but it might be the one imperfection of an otherwise ideal EDC bag. This little issue also might be solved through usage over time, causing the handle strap to become set in an upright position. As it’s new, the strap lays flat and down toward the back pocket’s opening.

Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag in Burnt Orange
Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag in Burnt Orange – back pocket

Front Pocket

This is the only zippered compartment in the Small Cafe Bag and is tucked under the main buckled flap, so I find it’s the best place for my “wallet” (also with its own zipper). My wallet is tethered with a 6″ Key Strap. The front pocket also contains other thin or flat items: trail mix bag, almond butter, and a mask.

Pouches

I’m super happy to embrace Tom Bihn’s O-Ring system with organizer pouches. To arrange my accouterments, I have 4 add-ons clipped to O-rings throughout, tailored to my daily essentials:

  • Clear Organizer Pouch.
    • This replaced my old-school bi-fold leather wallet to carry cards and some cash.
  • Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Small.
    • The quintessential sunglasses pouch.
  • Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Super Mini.
    • AirPods case goes here.
  • Q-Kit – Mini.
    • This cool little taco-shaped pouch holds my spare EarPods (neatly coiled in a plastic snack bag), Advil, Burt’s Bees lip balm, and a spare key.

The nicest aspect of all these pouches is their matching colors: burnt orange and gray. (There are many other colors to choose from.)

Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag with organizational pouches tethered.

Freudian Slip

Another add-on package to mention — a packet-full-o-pockets — is called the Freudian Slip. It’s a custom tailored insert for the Small Cafe Bag that features several pockets and a handy looped pull-strap on top. While I don’t know if this insert will fit in the bag along with an iPad, I’d like to try it in the future (in Cloud gray of course) since it might be useful to have in lieu of the iPad sometimes. I’ve also wondered if the Freudian Slip would be a better option than separate organizer pouches clasped to O-Rings. Then again, the Slip also has its own O-Ring too. Also, it has a large enough pocket to contain an iPad mini/7″ tablet or eReader.

A Tablet Bag

I categorize this bag impression under Mobile Computing: Accessories because carrying a tablet requires things like a case, sleeve, or a bag — often a combo of those. An EDC bag large enough to lug a lightweight laptop replacement (iPad) is an essential accessory.

The Small Cafe Bag, though little enough for everyday carrying, is large enough to house an iPad or similar 10″ tablet (or a Nintendo Switch). Given that, I designate it as a Tablet Bag. I make this distinction because in American culture, traditionally it has been acceptable or “normal” for a male to carry either a backpack, briefcase, or a laptop bag, but anything smaller has often been deemed inappropriate for a male.

Tradition is nice and all, but times change. Since a cross-body laptop bag is acceptable for men, then why not a cross-body tablet bag? It’s smaller but not necessarily less masculine. While there are several bag makers on the market that provide solutions for anyone to carry tablets among everyday essentials, Tom Bihn makes the one I like best. The Small Cafe Bag is an excellent tablet bag and EDC bag.

Oh, and by the way, I love the burnt orange color!

If you fancy a full preview of the Cafe Bags from Tom Bihn, watch this video here.


Update: 7-31-21

Here are various photos of the Small Cafe Bag with a 10.2” 8th gen. iPad in a Fintie case. Given that the 10.2” iPad measures 9.8”x6.8”, I think an 11” iPad Pro, measuring at 9.74”x7.02”, would also fit the bag (depending on the size of a case, if any). I plan to use the Logitech Combo Touch keyboard case (in the Fall) and may share another update with photos of that as well.

iPad in case on Small Cafe Bag
The encased iPad appears too large for the Small Cafe Bag, but it fits very well.
Encased iPad in Small Cafe Bag
Small Cafe Bag with iPad and organizer pouches.
iPad in case inside Small Cafe Bag empty
Small Cafe Bag with an encased 10.2” iPad.
iPad in case inside Small Cafe Bag full
Small Cafe Bag stuffed with an encased 10.2” iPad and organizer pouches. It’s a good fit; contents are manageable.

iPad in case in Small Cafe Bag back pocket
In a pinch, the encased 10.2” iPad fits the back pocket a bit squeezed. It stops about 1/2” above the bottom of the pocket due to the shape.

Apple’s WWDC21 Inches iPad Forward

This week, Apple’s keynote at WWDC21 showcased a wide array of iterative and innovative software enhancements to its ecosystem of digital devices. The iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac are all becoming better, yet there are signs of feature creep. If true, it’s unsurprising and unfortunate, but I’m excited for some of the new and improved things. Apple’s overall focus and purpose, perhaps the theme of WWDC21, is privacy; the company wants your personal data to remain private. While overall this is a good thing, my focus is iPad.


Apple announced a tall and wide stack of stuff in the opening keynote. A big question and expectation going into the keynote concerned the evolving stance of iPad. Would Apple finally remove the training wheels of restriction from iPadOS and let it ride freely as a “real computer?” Many tech geeks, like me, had waited and wondered. Answer: it depends on who you ask.

I saw promising upgrades to iPad that I’m happy for, and if it persists as more of a tablet computer and less of a “real” computer, that’s fine with me — Apple, and others, still sell real laptops and desktop machines too. The most important changes to iPad affect its multitasking system; it’s being somewhat simplified with visible buttons in addition to its invisible gestures. Users can see windowing options (they’re discoverable) via a new button and choose one with a simple tap. No longer must normal people become power users and memorize a convoluted bunch of finger gymnastics to invoke multi-window layouts.

That said, since the previous multi-tasking methods remain intact, the new button set-up, though simpler in itself, is an addition atop an already complex system of windowing on iPad. This is construed as feature creep and upsets the balance between simplicity and capability. Such imbalance introduces complexity, antithetical to iPad, which threatens to become more convoluted and less elegant. Apple continues to slowly yet steadily evolve iPad to become “more” or “better” yet keeping its position between a smartphone and a laptop. Adopting the best of both ends of the mobile computing spectrum while mitigating compromise is a tricky endeavor. Failure incurs disdain with labels for iPad like, “just a big phone” or “not a laptop replacement.” Conversely, the better Apple succeeds, the more magical iPad becomes.

iPad has other new tricks up its sleeve. Like on iPhone, one welcome change lets widgets be placed anywhere. There’s also a new bigger sized widget that makes better use of iPad’s large display, letting users see more content at a glance. How useful this is remains to be seen, but I think it will aid productivity. iPad now has the App Library too. Like its phone cousin, the auto-categorized groups of apps appear in a full screen array when a user swipes past the last homepage. The App Library can also be quickly accessed from any homepage via the Dock, which is great for easily selecting any additional app for multitasking.

Other new features coming to iPad match those new to iOS 15 for iPhone. Some faves I’m excited for are: tags with custom smart folders in the Notes app, EXIF metadata in the Photos app, live locations of family in the Find My app, and tab groups in Safari to name a few. Inexplicably, the Weather app and the Calculator app remain missing from iPad, as if to offset feature creep with feature disparity.

The popular tablet designed in California is getting incremental updates this year, which isn’t half bad, considering it’s already a fantastic computing device. Prior upgrades gave iPad full mouse and cursor control, making it more computer-like than ever. Apple’s ongoing progress with iPad while maneuvering it along the mobile computing midline is laudable. Though imperfect or slightly disappointing to some tech enthusiasts, Apple’s overall strategy is sound and admirable. I miss my iPad Air 2 and plan to buy a new iPad later this Summer.