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How to set up profiles in Safari on macOS Sonoma

How to set up profiles in Safari on macOS Sonoma

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You can now keep your browsing identities separate in Apple’s desktop browser.

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Vector illustration of a Macbook showing a Safari browser window.
The Verge

With macOS Sonoma, Apple’s Safari browser is catching up with Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and other competitors by introducing profiles: separate spaces that you can set up in the app to better organize your browsing.

Each profile has its own browsing history, cookies, website data, extensions, Tab Groups, bookmarks, and favorites. The idea is that you can have one profile for your job and another for personal use, for example, or different profiles for different projects you’re involved in at work.

In general, it means a cleaner and less cluttered browsing experience. Take bookmarks, for instance: you probably bookmark all kinds of sites for all kinds of reasons, and if you separate them out into profiles for business and leisure, they’ll be easier to find when you need to get back to them.

You might also want to create a separate profile for major undertakings like planning a vacation so that everything you’re collecting is kept in its own space. Once you’ve upgraded to macOS Sonoma, you’re ready to get started.

Creating profiles

Pop-up windows with Name field (Research typed in), a choice of symbols, a color field, and what to do with favorites.
Each profile has a name, color, and icon.

To create your first profile:

  • Open the Safari menu, and pick Create Profile (once you’re using more than one profile, this changes to Manage Profiles). 
  • You’ll get some info about how profiles work. When you’re ready, click Start Using Profiles.
  • For each profile you create, you’ll be asked to specify a name and a symbol for it as well as a color. You can call your new profiles anything you’d like — “Work,” say, or “Vacation” — the color is used on the profile’s toolbar button and on the default background of the profile’s start page. You can also specify a new folder for the bookmarks linked to this profile or use an existing profile.
  • Finally, you can choose what appears on newly opened windows and tabs using the drop-down menus: your start page, an empty page, the same page you just left, or sites marked as favorites. Click Create Profile when you’re done.

After you’ve created your first profile, all of the browsing data Safari has stored up to this point, including bookmarks and browsing history, is then moved to a profile called Personal — you can get back to this at any point to pick up where you left off before you started creating profiles. Safari treats this as your main or default profile going forward. (You can rename it if you need to.) You can create more profiles, but they will be treated slightly differently — we’ll get to that later.

Using profiles

Safari toolbar showing drop-down menu Switch to Profile leading to menu switching to three separate windows
You can switch profiles from the Safari toolbar.

Once you’ve created your profiles, here’s how to take advantage of them:

If the Safari sidebar is closed, you’ll see a drop-down menu to the left of the address bar at the top of the Safari interface. Open it up, and it lists the profiles you’ve created as well as the Tab Groups (if any) that you’ve set up inside that profile — this menu can be used to switch between both profiles and Tab Groups.

After you open the drop-down menu, if you’re on the profile’s start page, you have the option to either switch to a different profile in the same window or open a new browser window for a different profile. If you’re on an actual website, you only have the option to open a new window so that browsing histories stay separated.

Drop down File menu showing New Window leading to choice of three named windows.
If the sidebar is on-screen, select the File menu and then choose New Window to open a new window for any of your profiles.

If the sidebar is open, you don’t get the drop-down menu for profile switching. Instead, the name of the profile you’re currently using is shown at the top, and any Tab Groups that have been created are under that. You can still jump between Tab Groups from here as well as access your bookmarks and reading list.

The other way to jump between profiles, which you’ll have to use if the sidebar is on-screen, is to open the File menu and then choose New Window. The list that then pops out will let you open a new window for any of your profiles. You can jump between these windows in the normal way: by clicking and holding on the Safari icon in the dock.

Managing profiles

Safari’s Profiles settings menu with four named profiles on the left and choices for General and Extensions in the center.
Profiles can be managed from Safari’s settings menu.

To see and edit the profiles you’ve made:

  • Open the Safari menu and choose Manage Profiles.
  • You can get to the same screen by selecting Safari > Settings > Profiles
  • To add a new profile, click the + (plus) button on the left.
  • To delete one, select it from the list and click the - (minus) button.

Select a profile to customize it. Personal profiles limit you to changing the profile name, the profile icon, and the profile color — the favorites for this profile can’t be moved. The new tab and new window options are under General on the settings dialog.

Other profiles you’ve created (other than the Personal one) will have a second Extensions tab. Head here to manage the extensions that are active for the profile. Extensions installed through any of your profiles will automatically be enabled for all the profiles you’ve set up, so you’ll need to manually disable any that you don’t want running with a particular profile.

Extensions can’t be removed from this screen, only enabled or disabled. To completely uninstall an extension from Safari, switch to the Extensions tab in the settings dialog, select the add-on, and pick Uninstall. The Extensions tab is also where you manage the extensions for your main Personal profile.