How to Get More Space in Safari with Compact Layout

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One thing I always look for on my desktop computers is to get the cleanest and most minimal work environment possible, so that I can work more efficiently and can optimize the screen real estate with which I have to work. This can be especially important when working with a smaller screen (such as a MacBook Pro 13″), where every inch of extra space can make a big difference.

Since I spend most of my time in a web browser, it’s important that I can optimize this tool to suit my needs perfectly. Suffice it to say, when I discovered a way to save a little more space with macOS Safari, I jumped at the chance and succeeded.

What I’m talking about is Safari’s compact layout. Now, I’ll warn you that this layout isn’t for everyone, as it moves the address bar to individual tabs, which might get a bit cluttered for some. However, you can avoid too much clutter by using Safari’s new Tab Groups feature (which I covered in “How to Use Safari’s Tab Groups Feature”). Tab Groups will prevent you from having so many tab groups displayed in Safari that they become too small to deal with in the compact view.

Before I show you how to enable Safari’s compact view, take a look at how it appears (Figure 1) with only four tabs open.

A view of Safari's compact layout.

Figure 1: Safari Compact Layout displays four tabs with the ZDNet tab having focus.

Image: Jack Wallen

How does the compact view work?

When you enable compact view, it gets rid of the static address bar and places it in each tab. In fact, you won’t see the address bar until you open a new tab (Figure 2).

Safari showing ZDNet in a Compact Layout tab.

Figure 2: A new Safari window displays the address bar almost as usual.

Image: Jack Wallen

Take this tab on a trip to the land of ZDNet, then open another tab. The address bar appears next to the new tab. If you click on the original ZDNet tab, you will see that the address bar now appears in this tab and disappears in the previous tab (picture 3).

A ZDNet tab has focus, so it reveals the address bar again.

Figure 3: The address bar keeps moving!

Image: Jack Wallen

The compact layout effectively moves every element into a single toolbar, which cleans up the interface and gives you a bit more space to view web pages.

Enabling compact layout

1. Open Settings

Open Safari, then click Safari > Preferences.

2. Enable Compact Layout

In the Preferences pop-up window, click Tabs, then select Compact from the two layout options (Figure 4).

The Safari Preferences window opens to the Tabs section.

Figure 4: Switch to compact layout in Safari preferences.

Image: Jack Wallen

Once you’ve changed, close the Preferences window and enjoy the new compact layout.

This layout might take you some getting used to, but the extra space you’ll gain in Safari is worth the learning curve. Of course, if you don’t like the compact layout, just go back to Preferences > Tabs and select the separate layout to go back to the standard option.

The compact layout might not immediately make you more productive, but the cleaner your browser interface, the more efficient the environment can be. And even if you don’t like the layout at first, give it a day or two before rejecting it. You might find this layout is exactly what you were looking for to improve the way you work with your macOS browser.

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Steven L. Nielsen