Tips and Tricks: Ten Safari long-press shortcuts for iPhone and iPad

Safari for iPhone and iPad is an incredibly capable mobile web browser despite its simple, straightforward user interface. It is the browser of choice on iOS — in large part because it is the one pre-installed — but very few people know everything you can do with Safari.

Much of Safari’s advanced functionality is hidden behind ‘secret’ long-press gestures that you can’t really know about unless you try randomly … or someone tells you. We’ve rounded up all the Safari long press tips and tricks below, so you can take advantage of all the different shortcuts and features it offers.

You might know about a few of these, but this is a comprehensive list of the various long-press actions hidden inside Apple’s mobile browser.

Some have been around for a long time, and at least one is brand new to iOS 11.

These shortcuts apply to iPhone and iPad, so you can use the tips on both phones and tablets. The iPad has a couple unique actions related to the Split View Safari mode.

Long press on the Back/Forward buttons

If you are browsing around the web, clicking through links, you are implicitly building a navigation stack of pages for the current tab. Your browsing will get added to the overall History but you can actually drill-down and see the history of pages on a per-tab basis … using a long-press.

After browsing a little, hold down on either the Back or Forward buttons to show a History pop-up panel. If you press on the back button, you can see the breadcrumb trail of pages that you tapped on to get to the current page.

Similarly, long-press on the forward button to see all the pages that you have navigated away from to get back to the current page in the tab. If you’ve meandered into the depths of Wikipedia, for instance, this shortcut is a quick way to return to the source article.

Long press on the Bookmarks button

On Safari for iPhone and iPad, the normal way to add a bookmark for a webpage is to press the Share toolbar button and scroll through the activity pop-up to select the Add Bookmark option. Using a long-press, you can do the same thing more quickly.

Long-press on the Bookmarks button (which tapping on normally takes you to view your bookmarks) and a new action menu appears. The modal features options to Add Bookmark or Add to Reading List. Saving to Reading List is immediate, whilst tapping the bookmark option will open the usual options view to confirm the name and Favorites folder location.

Long press on the Tabs button

The Tabs toolbar button is located on the right side of the screen, either at the top on iPad or bottom on iPhone. Tapping it launches the carousel view of preview cards for all the open tabs. However, you can also long-press it to reveal several more options.

Without entering the tab screen, a long-press on the button reveals an action sheet. You can close all open tabs in one tab or close the current tab. You can also quickly open a new tab, either in a normal window or jumping to Private Browsing mode.

If you long-press the Tabs button on iPad, you can also see options for Split View tabs. You can ‘Open Split View’ if you are currently in full-screen mode, or vice-versa and merge back down into a single view, without having to worry about dragging and dropping tabs to the side of the display.

Long press on the Add Tab button 

If you accidentally close a tab and want to get back to it, the standard flow would be to open History and scour through for the web page in the list. You can speed this up considerably with a long press shortcut.

Press and hold on the Add Tab button (+ symbol) to view Recently Closed Tabs. These are the pages that were last opened before a tab was closed. It can come in handy if you accidentally swipe a tab into oblivion or just remember there was something else you meant to check.

The Add Tab button is always visible on iPad; on iPhone, find the + button in the tab overview screen by first tapping on the Tabs button.

Long press on Done button in Tabs View

If you are already in the Tabs overview screen and want to delete all the open tabs, you can long press on the Done Button and hit ‘Close All N Tabs’ button in the menu that pops up.

iPad users will also see an option in this menu to Open Split View or Merge All Tabs if Split View is already active.

Long press on a link in a webpage

Tapping on a link in a web page opens it. If instead of tapping you long-press a link, you can access a variety of actions. For starters, the action sheet includes the full URL of the link you have activated, so you can get a better idea about where it will take you.

You can Open it, Open in New Tab or even Add to Reading List without ever opening it. You can Copy the URL to paste into another app, or press Share to reveal the full system share sheet. iPad users can also start a Split View Safari right from this menu.

If the link is related to a third-party app, the action sheet will also include an ‘Open in [App name]’ to interpret the URL as a deep link.

Long press on an image in a webpage

You can also long-press on images to save them to your photo library or copy them to the clipboard. If the image is hyperlinked, the pop-up menu will also include the standard link shortcuts as described above.

Note that some websites intentionally disable user interaction on images. In these cases, a tap or long-press will do nothing at all.

Long press on Favorites icons

From the Favorites grid view, which shows by default for new empty tabs, you can drag to re-arrange their order. If you instead simply press down on them, Safari will show a context pop-up menu to Delete or Edit the highlighted site.

For example, if a page appears in the Frequently Visited section that you don’t want to see anymore, you can just long-press on it and tap Delete to remove it.

Long press on Reload button

After a page has finished loading, you can long press on the Reload button to find a couple neat shortcuts. You can reload the page and ask Safari to pretend it is a desktop website. This is especially useful on iPad where some sites continue to serve iPad users with website designs optimized for phones. It isn’t a foolproof feature, but it does work in many places.

If you have a Content Blocker installed, an option will also appear here to ‘Reload Without Content Blockers’.

Long press on Reader button

New to iOS 11, it is actually possible to have Safari automatically launch Reader for select domains. This means you can view a particular website without distractions, in the streamlined reading-focused Safari Reader interface, automatically every single time.

To enable this, navigate to a page that supports Reader. Then, long-press on the Reader icon (three lines) in the URL bar. This will open a pop-up to enable Automatic Reader View. You can choose to enable it just for the current website domain or on any website you visit. Enabling this option means every page will open in Reader view if it is available, and you will have to tap to disable it every single time.

So, there are ten things you can do in Safari with long-press gestures, most are shortcut actions but some are only available with a press-and-hold. Let us know what new Safari features you learned about in the comments below.

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