As much as iPad’s form factor and touch interface are ideal for browsing the web, Safari – the browser included in the iOS – comes to us with many desirable features left on the design room floor. It’s fast and stable, but it’s also limited and locked-down.
No add-ons. No plug-ins. No third-party enhancements.
And for the most part I’ve learned to overlook these shortcomings – but I have also been experimenting with ways to make Safari on the iPad better in spite of them. So far my best, most straightforward advice is to use the Bookmarks Bar.
The Bookmarks Bar
In Safari, bookmarked sites or pages are added to the main Bookmarks list you access by tapping the book icon near the top left of the screen; this is standard. But there’s also the optional Bookmarks Bar, a shortcut toolbar that makes things a bit easier if you’re a frequent user of bookmarks:
By default, the Bookmarks Bar only appears when you tap Safari’s address bar to enter a URL. But you can keep it at the top of Safari’s screen at all times; to turn on this feature, go to the main iPad Settings app and select Safari from the list on the left. In the Safari Settings menu, toggle Always Show Bookmarks Bar on:
Using the Bookmarks Bar
Normally, when you bookmark, or save, a web page in Safari on the iPad, its bookmark appears in the main Bookmarks list you see when you tap the book-shaped icon:
But as you can see, there are two sub-folders already in the Bookmarks list, one labeled History and the other Bookmarks Bar. Any bookmark you save to this second folder will appear as a one-tap text shortcut in the Bookmarks Bar so you don’t have to use the drop-down Bookmarks list when you want to visit the site.
To illustrate, I’ve turned on the Bookmarks Bar in Safari on my iPad. Since I haven’t yet added anything to the Bookmarks Bar folder, the bar is empty:
Now I want to add a bookmark for the iPhone Edition News Center. So, while looking at the page in Safari, I tap the right-arrow icon and select Add Bookmark:
This brings up a menu to edit what I’d like to label the bookmark, where it points to on the web (its URL), and where I would like to place it. At the bottom is a field labeled Bookmarks by default:
If I left the Bookmarks folder selected, the iPhone Edition News Center would be placed in the default Bookmarks location. But if I tap that field and select Bookmarks Bar instead…
… the shortcut will be added to the bookmarks toolbar at the top of Safari.
If you only have, say, five or six sites or pages you want to quickly navigate using the Bookmarks Bar, this is likely as far as you’ll need to go. But what if you have many more sites you frequently visit and want a way to quickly move from site to site?
Folders of course!
Using Folders in the Bookmarks Bar
By creating folders in the Bookmarks Bar, you have a more organized way to manage a large number of favorite sites. Rather than bare links appearing in the Bookmarks Bar, labeled drop-down menus (folders) appear which contain links. You can create about seven main folders for the bar, each containing multiple links.
Since I read a lot of tech news, I’ll create a Tech News folder in my Bookmarks Bar. To do this, I’ll tap Bookmarks > Bookmarks Bar, and then the Edit button:
Tap the New Folder button. Give the folder a title (in my case Tech News), make sure the bottom field reads Bookmarks Bar, and then press Done (on the keyboard).
Now a new folder is available in my Bookmarks Bar:
If I want to add a new bookmark to the folder, I visit the page I want to bookmark, tap the right-arrow icon at the top of the screen, tap Add Bookmark, and then change the location to Tech News, and tap Save:
You can also create folders within folders. For example, you could have a main folder on the Bookmarks Bar called Tech News, with a sub-folder called Mobile, each containing multiple links.
I’ve found the Bookmarks Bar very useful and, in the absence of some must-have plug-ins like Shane Liesegang’s Morning Coffee, it’ll have to do. Folders and simple shortcut organization can make a big difference and save a lot of screen taps.
If you’ve found a way to make bookmark management on the iPad easier, please let me know.
Matthew Nichols, Products Editor
This article was updated on April 18, 2011, to reflect changes in the iOS and Safari on the iPad. Additional clarification of several steps was also added. Thanks, Sherman!