How to Show Back & Forward Buttons in Safari for iPhone

Aug 25, 2014 - 6 Comments

Safari Modern versions of iOS changed how Safari looks when a web page is loaded, particularly on the iPhone and iPod touch. To save screen space on these devices, all of the Safari navigation buttons disappear automatically once you start scrolling through a web page, hiding your standard back and forward features and other buttons. While this helps to reduce onscreen buttons and also aids in emphasizing the web page you are viewing on the smaller displays, it’s also rather confusing for some users to find the back/forward navigation, sharing, bookmarks, and tabs buttons to disappear, particularly if they aren’t familiar with how this feature works in Safari for iOS


The Navigation Back & Forward buttons in Safari for iOS, shown

In fact, some users interpret this as webpages either hijacking their browser in Safari on the iPhone, or even a bug or crash in the Safari browser for iOS. That’s not the case however, and despite not being the most obvious thing in the world, showing all of the navigation bar, including the back, forward, sharing, and tabs buttons in Safari for iOS, is actually extremely simple once you learn how to use and understand the feature.

Show Navigation Buttons in Safari for iOS

Can’t find the navigation bar in Safari? Here’s how to reveal it at any time on any web page in iOS:

  1. From the Safari app in iOS, tap on the URL bar on any webpage (the URL is the web address of the site, for example “osxdaily.com”)
  2. The navigation buttons: Back, Forward, Sharing, Tabs, are now visible across the bottom of Safari as usual

Show Navigation Bar and Buttons in Safari for iPhone

Now that the navigation bar is visible you can tap forward, back, summon browsing history, share or email a page, access bookmarking features, tabs, and access Privacy browsing mode, or even search on page.

Notice that if you start scrolling down or up a web page again, or tap on an image, the URL bar shrinks and the navigation buttons disappear again. This happens automatically, and tapping on the URL bar will again make them reappear.

Pretty easy, right? It is once you learn how this works, but even tech savvy users can struggle with this because there is virtually no indication that tapping on the URL is going to display the navigation bar of Safari.

I saw confusion with this firsthand when a longtime Mac and iPhone user was annoyed with her iPhone, complaining to me that it always was buggy when using Safari and that Safari became usable and “stuck” on a single webpage, so she preferred to use Chrome on the iPhone instead. After asking her to show me what was happening, I realized it was the automatically hiding navigation buttons that were causing her grief, and that Safari wasn’t crashing or stuck on a website at all. After showing this simple solution to her, she said “wow that is easy, but how would I know to do that?” and remarked that many of her friend and coworkers had the same complaint. Many of these issues are just a result of changing up the user interface and switching things after users have become habituated to a certain behavior, when it changes so dramatically (and is not obvious) and no longer works as before, many users are convinced something is broken or wrong.

This is obviously intended for iOS 7 and iOS 8, because prior versions of iOS always displayed navigation buttons and did not hide them automatically in the same way.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks

6 Comments

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  1. Dave says:

    Or alternatively just tap the bottom of the screen anywhere to bring up the navigation bar. I have learnt where each of the five shortcuts on the Navigation bar appear on the iPhone screen, and now just double tap the in the area of the shortcut I want. The first tap brings up the navigation bar the second tap operates the feature.

  2. Steve says:

    +1 tap the bottom of the screen – the easiest way!

  3. Les says:

    A million thanks for this note! I have struggled with a lot of scrolling to the bottom and tapping all these months!

  4. Uji Moto says:

    Great, has been struggling a lot.

  5. Mike says:

    Yeah, I discovered this feature… So I now have to press twice to get back rather than having the button available when required. Brilliant thinking from Apple; but it’s a cleaner interface and all else must be subservient to that. And apparently no setting to lock it in place. Apple has lost the plot with its ui idiocy and I’m about to move elsewhere.

  6. Paul says:

    The real question is, without jail breaking, can we set it to always show the nav bar. I’m an advanced user and I find it more annoying then anything that I need another tap to show it!

    I typically swipe left and right to get forward and backward but when I want to switch tabs, it become very annoying.

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