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How to organize Safari tabs using tab groups in iPadOS 17

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Safari tab groups have been in iPadOS for several years, and can really help you organize pages you've browsed. Here's how to use them in iPadOS 17.

Tabs in Safari in iOS and iPadOS allow you to open multiple web pages at once - with each page in a separate tab. This makes reading quicker.

A few years ago, Apple added Tab Groups to Safari in iOS and iPadOS, which allows you to group tabs by category into groups with names you define. Each tab group has a name you give it, and you can add multiple web pages in tabs to each group.

Tab groups in iPadOS provide convenience by keeping multiple open tabs organized and under control.

In iPadOS 17, Apple lets you use tab groups in multiple ways. You can:

  1. Create new tab groups
  2. Add new web pages or favorites to existing groups
  3. Switch between tab groups in the sidebar
  4. View tab groups in the Start Page pane
  5. Pin tabs
  6. Search tabs

Apple calls groups in the Favorites sidebar "Tab Group Favorites".

Getting started with tabs in Safari on iPadOS

To use tab groups in Safari for iPadOS, you'll first want to open one or more web page tabs in Safari.

You can do this by tapping the + button at the top right corner of Safari, by opening an existing bookmark from the Safari Favorites page, or by opening an existing Start Page or Home Screen shortcut you've saved which points to a web page.

Or you can click the + button and then type or paste in a web URL at the top of the Safari window.

Once you have multiple web page tabs open in Safari, you're ready to create tab groups or add pages to existing tab groups.

Creating tab groups in Safari

To create a new tab group in Safari on iPadOS, first tap the sidebar icon in the upper-left corner, then tap the button to the right with the + in it:

Tap the sidebar icon (left), then tap the

This presents a menu containing a single item; New Empty Tab Group. After you tap it, note the "Done" button on the right.

Tap "New Empty Tab Group".

Next, you'll be prompted to enter a name for the new tab group, so add a name and then tap Save. This adds a new tab group with the new name in the sidebar on the left:

Give the new tab group a name.
Give the new tab group a name.

At this point, you now have a new tab group which automatically contains all the tabs you had open when you created the new tab group. You can repeat this process as many times as you like - creating multiple tab groups, each containing a different set of open tabs.

To switch between tab groups, simply tap one of the named tab groups from the list in the sidebar on the left. This switches between sets of open web page tabs all at once.

You can hide and show the sidebar at will by tapping the icon in the upper left corner of Safari repeatedly.

Tab group favorites in the Start Page

After creating tab groups, if you now go to any Start Page in Safari by tapping the + button in Safari's upper right corner, then tap any tab group in the sidebar, you'll now see a tab group favorites section with the same name at the top of the Start Page above all individual favorites.

If you tap other tab groups in the sidebar, the Start Page's tab group favorites section changes to the name of the tab group and displays a large + button in it.

If you tap the large + button, you'll be presented with a Bookmarks menu containing several items, one of which is Tab Group Favorites:

Bookmarks with Tab Group Favorites.
Bookmarks with Tab Group Favorites.

If you tap this menu item, a submenu will be displayed showing all tab groups by name. This allows you to select any bookmarked tab in a tab group and add it to the tab group you started with.

This can be a bit confusing at first, but once you've done it a few times, you'll get the hang of it.

Select any bookmarked tab from any tab group from the submenu to add it to the current tab group.
Select any bookmarked tab from any tab group from the submenu to add it to the current tab group.

At the end of each of the displayed tab group submenus in the Bookmarks sheet above is a list of all currently bookmarked tabs in each tab group. Selecting any one bookmark from the Bookmarks sheet will add it back to the tab group pane on the Start Page where you began (next to the original large + button you tapped.

One important thing to note here is that merely having tabs open in any tab group is different from bookmarking them in a tab group.

Moving, pinning, closing, and arranging tabs in tab groups

Back in Safari's main window, if you press and hold on any open tab, you'll get a small popover menu that contains several items:

  1. Copy
  2. Pin Tab
  3. Move to Tab Group
  4. Arrange Tabs By
  5. Close Tab
  6. Close Other Tabs
Press and hold a web page tab to get the popover menu.
Press and hold a web page tab to get the popover menu.

Selecting Pin Tab moves the tab to the far left of Safari's window, pins it there, and adds a thumbtack icon to the tab. This lets you know that the tab can't be moved until you unpin it.

Selecting Move to Tab Group presents several options:

  1. New Tab Group
  2. Start Page
  3. Names of all existing tab groups

From this submenu you can either create a new tab group like you did above, send the tab to the Start Page, or move it to any existing tab group by name.

Selecting any tab group name from the submenu closes the pressed tab and sends it to that tab group.

Use the submenu to move tabs to other groups, arrange, or close them.
Use the submenu to move tabs to other groups, and arrange or close them.

If you select Arrange Tabs By it displays a submenu with two options: Arrange Tabs by Title and Arrange Tabs by Website

Arranging tabs by title sorts and repositions the tabs alphabetically, while arranging tabs by website reorders them so all tabs from each site are ordered next to each other.

If you select Close Tab it simply closes the pressed tab taking no further action.

If you select Close Other Tabs it closes all the other open tabs in the current tab group except the one that was pressed.

Adding tabs to tab groups Favorites manually

Once you have all your tabs and tab groups set up the way you like, you can also add any existing tab to any tab group Favorites list.

To do so, single-tap any existing tab, then tap the share sheet icon in the upper right corner of Safari's window.

This presents a popover with several items for adding the tab to Favorites, but now one of them is Add to "Name" Favorites where "Name" is the currently selected tab group in the sidebar.

Selecting this menu item adds the current tab to the currently selected tab group Favorites list. The next time you tap that tab group in the sidebar, the Favorited tab will show up in the tab group's Favorites section on the Start Page.

Tap the Share Sheet icon to add an existing tab into a tab group's Favorites.
Tap the Share Sheet icon to add an existing tab into a tab group's Favorites.

This can be a little confusing - you're essentially bookmarking the current tab into the Start Page, but only for the tab group indicated in the share sheet's Favorites popover menu.

Searching tabs

You can also search tabs for text you want to find. To do so, tap the small icon with two squares in the upper right corner of Safari's window.

This opens the tabs search pane and shrinks all open tabs into thumbnails. Any pinned tabs appear as page titles only with a thumbtack icon at the top of the pane:

Searching tabs.
Searching tabs.

Now you can type text into the search box at the top of the pane to search all open tabs.

Tap Cancel, then Done to return to Safari's main window.

Removing tab groups

To remove a tab group from your iPad or iPhone, press and hold a tab group by name in the sidebar, then select Delete from the popover menu.

You can also rename tab groups and show all tabs in a tab group in the sidebar from the popover.

The addition of tab groups in Safari makes opening and managing large sets of web pages easy. By organizing open pages by tab groups, and using tab group favorites, it's easy to switch between different sets of data with a few taps.

For example, you might have one tab group for work, one for personal use, family, entertainment, or research topics. When you want to switch contexts, just select a tab group to return to all the tabs you had open for that topic.

Tab groups make Safari and surfing the web on iOS and iPadOS devices much faster and more enjoyable.