All about pinned tabs in Safari within El Capitan

24 September 2015, 07:18

Easily the most useful new feature in El Capitan is Safari’s pinned tabs. Typically, Apple isn’t the first company to implement pinned tabs but it is the first to get it right. To create a pinned tab, just drag a standard tab to the very left of the tab bar, and it’ll be converted automatically. Reverse the procedure to convert a pinned tab to a standard tab.

Useful things about Safari pinned tabs:

  • Pinned tabs remain across restarts of Safari/reboots of the computer
  • Clicking a link within a pinned tab, to take you to a different site, opens the site in a NEW tab rather than letting that site take over the pinned tab — put simply, pinned tabs are protected
  • Pinned tabs load when you first click them after starting/restarting Safari, so there’s no startup crush of the browser trying to grab megabytes of site data all at once
  • If you click a bookmark of a site you’ve already got pinned, Safari will switch you to that pinned tab rather than open a new instance of the site in a new tab (you can override this by holding down Cmd + Shift)
  • If you click a bookmark of ANOTHER SITE while viewing a pinned tab, or enter a URL, Safari will switch you automatically to a new tab (and a fresh tab is always available to the right of the pinned tabs if you’ve no non-pinned sites open)
  • A pinned tab can only be closed by right-clicking and selecting the option from the menu, or converting it back into a standard tab
  • Pinned tabs can’t be “torn off” the tab bar and converted into standalone Safari windows.

There’s a handful of things to watch out for though.

  • If you pin, say, the URL “” and then click a bookmark for which the URL is “” then you won’t get switched to the pinned tab. The pinned tab system isn’t clever enough to recognise different URLs for the same website, even if the URLs are similar. Therefore you’ll need to ensure you pin only the bookmarked URL
  • Be careful to pin the main entry point of each site. For example, I pinned Facebook while viewing a gallery of images. Therefore, each time Safari opened, the pinned tab went straight to the gallery of images
  • Pinned tabs don’t appear to be frozen if not on view, but they also won’t be refreshed unless the site has some mechanism to do so itself (i.e. some clever javascript, like some news sites). Therefore, one thing you’re probably going to want to do when switching back to most pinned tabs is click the Refresh button
  • Pinned tabs don’t remember their “silent” setting (that is, clicking the speaker icon in the URL field/tab to silence a tab). So if you pin a tab that’s ordinarily noisy but silenced, it’ll be noisy again when you reopen Safari
  • Pinned tabs aren’t available in the Private Window mode of Safari.

Know better?