How to Disable the Colored Safari Toolbar in MacOS Monterey

Apple caused a bit of controversy when a colorful toolbar was added to the Safari browser in macOS Monterey. Some liked the change, while others were outraged enough to switch to Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or even Microsoft Edge.

Fortunately, Apple made some quick tweaks to this feature, and it’s currently an option that can be turned on or off depending on your preference. The change has to happen in two places, and it’s not easy to find because it’s tied to another new feature in macOS Monterey called Compact Tabs.

It is doable, however. Here’s how to disable the colored Safari toolbar in MacOS Monterey.

How to Quickly Disable Safari Tab Color

The fastest way to remove Safari tab bar color in MacOS Monterey is to disable compact tabs, as the color feature is only possible when this option is enabled.

Step 1: To do this, open the Safari menu at the top left, then select Preferences to reveal options.

How to open Preferences on MacOS Safari.

2nd step: Click it Tabs button at the top of the Preferences window and adjust the Tongue layout to Separate. This will immediately disable the color in the toolbar and all tabs.

Safari tab layout options include Separated and Compact.

How to Disable Color Without Losing Compact Tabs

It is also possible to disable the color of tabs and toolbar while keeping the layout of compact tabs. To do this, open Safari Preferencesthen click on the Advanced at the top of the window to see a few features that most people wouldn’t use, as well as options like tab controls that ended up in this section for unknown reasons.

Under the Accessibility heading, uncheck the option labeled Show color in compact tab bar to turn off the color while keeping the Compact Tabs. It would have been more logical to place this control in the Tabs section, but maybe Apple got tired of hearing color complaints and decided to put this option further out of sight.

MacOS Safari's advanced preferences include a color tabs option.

What are Safari Color Tabs?

For many websites, everything will look the same even with this feature enabled; However, some websites have a background color or header that will be picked up by Safari and used in the toolbar and tabs area.

The idea is to make the page look more complete and elegant. It’s also an instant reminder of which website is being viewed. While this is a cool and useful feature, it’s better to have the option to try it than to be forced to use colored tabs.

What are compact tabs in Safari?

Compact tabs are an interesting way to save vertical space in the browser window. This is especially important when using a MacBook where screen height is limited. This is true for most laptops due to a wider aspect ratio than a standard computer monitor.

Compact Tabs frees up a little more space for displaying websites by combining the toolbar and tab bar into a single row. Compact tabs are also the only way to see a website’s color in the tab bar and toolbar.

Safari Compact Tabs reduce the space available for many tabs.

What’s wrong with compact tabs?

The biggest downside of using Safari’s Compact Tabs option is the reduced space available for tabs. This means that with multiple tabs open, it becomes more difficult to find a particular one. It also requires a more precise mouse to select the correct tab. Given the tendency for open tabs to multiply by dozens or more, this is an unfortunate side effect of an otherwise great feature.

One way to help reduce the number of tabs open at once is to use Safari tab groups, which were introduced at the same time. It’s a way to create collections of related tabs while limiting current tabs to the topic of interest at the moment. The combination of compact tabs with tab groups makes it an attractive solution and provides more vertical space.

Why is Safari’s color tabs option not working?

In most cases, MacOS Monterey automatically decides when to use the color or system default, even if the color tabs feature is enabled. This means that a large number of visited websites will not change the color of the tab bar. Instead, the toolbar and tab bar will be light gray or dark gray depending on whether dark mode is enabled.

Website developers have a way to control this behavior, however. There is an HTML meta tag named “theme-color” which can be used to set the color used by browsers that support themes and have the feature enabled. MacOS Monterey and the Safari browser will honor this setting if both compact tabs and color tabs are enabled in Preferences.

The arrival of a colored toolbar for Safari in macOS Monterey was a controversial feature. While it brings a certain liveliness to web tabs, the requirement to also use compact tabs makes it less useful than it could have been, cutting down on space in what can often be a tab bar very cramped. Using this feature with tab groups helps alleviate this problem, but requires a degree of organization that can feel unnatural when casually browsing the web. That’s right Apple made it an optional feature that can be disabled with a few clicks.

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Steven L. Nielsen