Safari 15 for Mac comes with a tab redesign that’s led users to complaints about the way the browser indicates which tab is active, among other things.
I despise the new tabs even when the “Show color in tab bar” and “Compact” layout settings are turned off. They don’t look like tabs. They look like buttons…
The “Separate” layout, with “Show color in tab bar” off, is the closest you can get to Safari’s previous tab design. These new “tabs” waste space because, like buttons, they’re spaced apart. Tabs that look like real-world tabs aren’t just a decorative style. They’re a visual metaphor. My brain likes visual metaphors. It craves them. And my brain is very much comfortable with the particular visual metaphor of tabs in a web browser window. Buttons do not work as a metaphor for multiple documents within a single window. Thus, trying to use the new Safari 15 on Mac (and iPadOS 15, alas), I feel somewhat disoriented working within Safari. I have to think, continuously, about something I have never had to think about since tabbed browsing became a thing almost 20 years ago.1 The design is counterintuitive: What sense does it make that no matter your settings, the active tab is rendered with less contrast between the tab title and the background than background tabs? The active tab should be the one that pops.
Apple has also inverted its shading of tabs, with an active tab now having darker shading and inactive tabs having lighter shading. The change has annoyed Gruber and other users, as evidenced by this Reddit thread with nearly 1,000 upvotes.
In a Safari 15 window with two tabs open, especially from the same website, Gruber said determining which tab is active is basically a guessing game. Gruber acknowledged that it is easier to discern the active tab when more than two tabs are open, but he said the confusion with exactly two tabs should have been reason enough to scrap the design change.
“I can’t tell you how many times I closed the tab that I needed because of this,” one Reddit user expressed in frustration.
Unfortunately for users who do not like the new design, Apple has not made any changes to the shading of tabs in either the Safari 15.1 beta or the latest version of the experimental Safari Technology Preview browser.
MacDailyNews Take: It’s a garbage change for the sake of garbage change, we guess.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. – Bert Lance
Here’s how the tabs used to look when they actually worked (click or tab for larger image):
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