Friday, August 11, 2017

Safari Should Display Favicons in Its Tabs

John Gruber:

Once Safari gets to a dozen or so tabs in a window, the left-most tabs are literally unidentifiable because they don’t even show a single character of the tab title. They’re just blank. I, as a decade-plus-long dedicated Safari user, am jealous of the usability and visual clarity of Chrome with a dozen or more tabs open. And I can see why dedicated Chrome users would consider Safari’s tab design a non-starter to switching.

I don’t know what the argument is against showing favicons in Safari’s tabs, but I can only presume that it’s because some contingent within Apple thinks it would spoil the monochromatic aesthetic of Safari’s toolbar area. I really can’t imagine what else it could be. I’m personally sympathetic to placing a high value on aesthetics even when it might come at a small cost to usability. But in this case, I think Safari’s tab design — even if you do think it’s aesthetically more appealing — comes at a large cost in usability and clarity. The balance between what looks best and what works best is way out of whack with Safari’s tabs.


I really can’t say this strongly enough: I think Safari’s lack of favicons in tabs, combined with its corresponding crumminess when displaying a dozen or more tabs in a window, is the single biggest reason why so many Mac users use Chrome.

It’s not even really monochromatic. Unless you turn on “Reduce transparency,” Safari will use color to show an unreadable blur of the top part of the page beneath the toolbar and tabs. And it will also bleed the colors of your desktop picture underneath the Bookmarks sidebar. To my eye, it’s ugly, non-functional, and harder to read. But can Safari use shapes or colors to help you identify which tab is which? No, it won’t let you do that.

Update (2017-08-14): See also: Hacker News.

Update (2017-11-27): Faviconographer (via John Gruber):

Faviconographer is a little utility that displays Favicons for the tabs you have opened in the current Safari window, just like almost every other browser does it. This helps you navigate between them more quickly.

It uses the accessibility APIs to find the locations of the tabs on screen.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

"To my eye, it’s ugly, non-functional, and harder to read"

It really is. The blurred colors always remind me of an old CRT TV that needs degaussing. I'm not sure why Apple felt the need to copy Windows Vista.

The other thing stops me switching to Safari is pinned tabs behaviour: in Chrome a tab is pinned to the current window only, in Safari pinned tabs appear in *all* windows. I find Safari's behaviour really annoying. If I open a new window it's because I want a new context (say a particular research topic), I don't want this polluted with the tabs I've pinned to my main browser window. I can imagine why people might prefer Safari's behaviour (e.g. pinning Spotify to all windows), but it should at least be a user preference.

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