How To

How to Set Up a Custom Start Page in Safari 14

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It’s useful to have quick access to the websites you visit often, and in Safari 14, you can create a custom Start Page with your favorites, sites you visit often, and much more. Not only can you configure this on your Mac, but your favorites sync via iCloud to your other devices, so you can access the same sites easily on your Mac, iPhone and iPad.

Here’s how you can make your start page really useful in Safari 14.

Adding Favorites

The new Safari Start Page on Mac has several sections, but the most important one is your Favorites, the websites you visit often and want to access quickly.

To add a website to your Favorites, click and hold the + button at the left of the Safari address bar, then choose Favorites. When you do that, the site gets added to the Favorites list; you’ll notice that individual Favorites don’t display in this dialog, only folders. You can add a favorite to a folder by clicking that folder. (If you want to create folders, go to Bookmarks > Edit Bookmarks where you can organize your bookmarks and put them into folders to make them easier to manage.)

If you want to add favorites on iOS, tap the share button at the bottom of the Safari window, then tap Add to Favorites.

As you can see to the left, I’ve got a number of folders in my favorites; they allow me to organize the websites I visit often, and to access them from the new Start Page. It displays individual websites, then a Bookmarks folder; when I click that folder, it displays all its sub-folders. This is what my Start Page looks like:

If I click the Bookmarks folder on the Start Page, it gives me quick access to the other folders you can see in the screenshot just above.

You can edit your favorites by choosing Bookmarks > Edit Bookmarks. On iOS, tap the Bookmarks icon at the bottom of the Safari window, then tap Edit. If you see your Reading List or History, tap the Bookmarks tab, which is the one at the left.

In both cases, you’ll see a list of bookmarks, and you’ll be able to edit their order by dragging them around (on iOS, you have to first tap Edit at the bottom of the screen), and you can delete them as well. On Mac, right-click a bookmark, then choose Delete; on iOS, when you’re in Edit mode, you’ll see little red symbols that you can tap to delete bookmarks.

You can also edit your bookmarks. You may want to change the name that displays; some websites display long names. Or you may want to edit the URL, such as if you’ve saved a URL to a page on a website, but you want to change the bookmark to the top level of that site. To do this, on Mac, right-click and choose Rename or Edit Address; on iOS, tap a bookmark when in Edit mode to make changes.

Customizing the Start Page

Now that you’ve got favorites set up, it’s time to customize the start page. Choose Bookmarks > Show Start Page. You should see all your favorites, as well as a section showing frequently visited websites. At the bottom right of the Start Page is a small settings icon; click this.

You have seven options:

  • Favorites: These are the favorites you set just above.
  • Frequently Visited: These are sites you visit often; some will be favorites, and others won’t. They change over time as you visit more sites frequently. By default, Frequently Visited websites show thumbnails, but I find these aren’t very practical. You can change to show icons, as in the screenshot of my Start Page above, by right-clicking on any of the Frequently Visited sites and choosing View as Icons. Note that your Frequently Visited sites are different on each of your devices.
  • Privacy Report: This tells you how many trackers Safari has blocked in the last seven days; click the Privacy Report section to see a more complete report showing blocked trackers over 30 days. Read Understanding Safari’s New Privacy Report for more about this new feature.
  • Siri Suggestions: These are suggestions based on content in Messages, Mail, and more, that you might want to bookmark or add to your Reading List.
  • Reading List: These are pages you’ve saved to read later. To add a website to the Reading List, choose Bookmarks > Add to Reading List; on iOS, tap the Share icon, then tap Add to Reading List.
  • iCloud Tabs: These are tabs and windows open in Safari on other devices where you’re signed in with the same Apple ID. If you have multiple devices, click the header and you’ll see a menu allowing you to view tabs from a different device.
  • Background Image: You don’t have to use the drab gray of the default Start Page. You can choose a background image to make the page more colorful. Choose one of the images in the settings, or drag a photo to the start page to set it as the background. If you click + in the Background Image section, this opens a dialog in your Desktop Pictures folder, and you can choose from a number of Apple’s default desktop wallpapers here. One tip: choosing a very busy image will make it difficult to read the names of your bookmarks. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see a Solid Colors folder, where you can choose from a number of colors if you want a simpler page background.

You can also right-click on the start page to enable or disable any of the above elements. And, from the contextual menu, you can choose Clear Image to remove the background image, or Choose Background to change the image.

Using the Custom Start Page on All Your Devices

The beauty of the new Start Page is that it syncs across your devices via iCloud. To use this when you open new windows or tabs, go to Safari > Preferences > General and choose Start Page for new windows and tabs.

On iOS, go to Settings > Safari, then, in the General section, tap Favorites. Tap Favorites again to tell Safari to display your Favorites; by default, it also shows Frequently Visited websites when you create a new tab. It does not, however, offer all the other options available on the Mac.

You may find, as I have, that having consistent favorites on the Start Page across devices makes using the web a lot easier. I always know how to access the sites I visit often, and having more bookmarks accessible from a folder in my Favorites also lets me easily find the pages I want.

About Kirk McElhearn

Kirk McElhearn writes about Apple products and more on his blog Kirkville. He is co-host of the Intego Mac Podcast, as well as several other podcasts, and is a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, TidBITS, and several other websites and publications. Kirk has written more than two dozen books, including Take Control books about Apple's media apps, Scrivener, and LaunchBar. Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. View all posts by Kirk McElhearn →