How to use the Safari Develop Menu on a Mac

Control caches, check website performance, and get better website responses with these simple tools.

Apple, Mac, OS X, macOS, macOS Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Safari, Safari Develop Menu
Credit: Jonny Evans

It may be aimed at developers but most Mac users should spend a little time getting to know Safari’s Develop Menu. This is because it provides tools most Mac users will need from time to time.

What is the Safari Develop Menu?

Because most of the tools offered within the menu are aimed at Web developers, you don’t see Safari Develop Menu by default.

To use it you must enable it in Safari Preferences. Click on the Advanced tab and check the box beside the phrase “Show Develop menu in menu bar” at the bottom of the pane. You will now see a new Menu item appear between your Bookmarks and Windows menus.

Most Mac users won’t need to make use of all the tools it provides, but what follows are some tasks most Mac users may find useful from time-to-time. You can find out more about the other tools it provides here.

You can empty Safari caches

If your Safari browser becomes slow or some websites fail to load it is possible that cache files have become corrupted. These files contain website data such as images and templates and are collected by Safari in an attempt to speed up page load times. Use the 'Empty Caches' command to get rid of this data, which may sometimes improve browser performance.

You can swiftly launch websites in different browsers

If you visit a website that doesn’t seem to want to work with Safari because some web designer failed to read the memo that explains how the Internet is built using shared standards, then you can quickly launch that site using another browser you may have installed on your Mac. Just choose ‘Open Page With’ and select the alternate browser you would like to use.

You can pretend to be using a different browser

It’s quite useful to be able to open a stubborn page in an alternate browser, but you can also try to convince websites that you are already using a different browser using Safari Develop Menu.

Select ‘User Agent’ and you will see a drop down menu listing a range of alternate desktop and mobile browsers including Safari, Internet Explorer, FireFox and Chrome.

Select one of these and Safari will try to convince the website you are trying to visit that it is one of these alternate browses by sending a different user agent.

(The user agent is a string of text your browser sends that lets the site know which browser you are using). This doesn’t always work but you’ll often find sites that claim not to support Safari actually do, once you use this trick.

You can figure out why some sites suck system resources

If you’ve ever visited a website that is poorly engineered with lots of orphaned code or what not then you may have seen that site impact your whole web browser. Eventually you need to restart it. That’s not such a big deal but it is annoying.

If you think you have come across such a site you can get the evidence you need:

  • Just visit the site and choose Start Timeline Recording.
  • Hit refresh and you’ll see a visual real time representation of what happens when you try to load that website.
  • Or use Web Inspector to see all those elements in one place or to identify image/video files on a site.

You can see what a site looks like on an iPhone

Just choose ‘Enter Responsive Design Mode’ and you can take a look at how the site you are on looks on different Apple devices.

One more thing

Safari also boasts a hidden debug menu. You access this using a Terminal script. It provides a range of useful commands, including the capacity to ‘Reset your Top Sites’, ‘Synch your iCloud History’ and to see all the resources used by any website you happen to be one. Here is what you need to know about the debug menu.

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