Preview Web Page Links in Safari for Mac with a Multitouch Tap Trick

Feb 23, 2016 - 26 Comments

Load a preview of webpage links in Safari

Have you ever been reading a webpage where another link is referenced, but you don’t want to click and follow the URL because you’re in the middle of an article? Of course you have, right? That’s practically a regular occurrence on the web. Fortunately for Mac users, web life is a bit easier, because rather than opening those links into new windows or into the background, you have a third option: previewing a web page link using a little known multitouch tap trick built into Safari for OS X.


In order to use this method to load a preview webpage of links, you’ll need a Mac with a modern version of Safari, a modern version of OS X, and a multi-touch compatible tracking surface, like a trackpad on newish MacBooks, a Magic Trackpad, or a Magic Mouse. The rest is easy, and just a matter of applying the trick at the right time and in the right place, follow along to see how this works. You’ll also need

Use a Three Finger Tap to Preview Web Page Links in Safari for Mac OS X

  1. Open Safari on the Mac if you haven’t done so already, then visit an example website (this one called osxdaily.com is great and you’re already on it!)
  2. Hover the cursor over any link embedded in a webpage like this one right here and apply a gentle three-finger double-tap on the trackpad – do not use a full click, just gently tap with three fingers without pressing down
  3. Wait a second or so for the hovering pop-up preview window to load the link – this little webpage preview popup is entirely navigable and interactive!
  4. Preview a web page link in Safari with a three finger tap

  5. Close the webpage preview by clicking away from the preview or by using another gentle three finger tap on the trackpad / tracking surface of the mouse

Here is an animated GIF demonstrating this feature:

Preview a web page in Safari for Mac with multitouch

Is that great or what? This is an incredibly useful trick for getting a quick glance at links in Safari for Mac OS X without needing to load the entire URL in a separate tab, window, or webpage. Instead, preview the link, and if it looks like something you’d be interested in, click on it as usual to load that webpage. Easy, useful, and just about guaranteed to improve your productivity and web browsing efficiency!

The video below demonstrates the three-finger tap for previewing a few links on a webpage, as you can see it will preview complete web pages, but also video links (where it even loads the video!), audio links, images, and everything else on the other end of the URL.

If the preview window looks familiar, you may have seen something similar in our walkthrough on how to view webpages in Spotlight for Mac.

Many Mac users know that a three-finger tap can also define a word or get movie details too, so don’t forget those wonderful tricks either. Happy browsing!

If this isn’t working for you, be sure you have “Look up & data detectors” enabled with a three-finger tap in the Trackpad and/or Mouse settings of OS X. Here is what the setting looks like in Trackpad System Preferences:

Three finger tap data detectors and lookup Mac trackpad

Oh and for iPhone and iPad users, there are a few similar tricks in iOS Safari as well, though they work a bit different and require 3D Touch. We’ll cover those in another article, but a trick that doesn’t exclusively require 3D Touch at least allows iOS users to preview the URL of a link before opening it, similar to the hovering trick in desktop browsers.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

26 Comments

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  1. Dina says:

    Nope, nothing is happening.

    • Thin Mints says:

      Works for everyone but you. USER ERROR.

      Three finger tap on THIS: Thin Mints are the best girl scout cookies, don’t even deny it.

    • Paul says:

      Dina, you must have a multi-touch trackpad or multitouch mouse, with a modern version of OS X. You may have turned off “Look up and data detectors” in your pointing device preferences if you do not see it and fit the requirements, but this feature is enabled by default in all new versions of OS X with Macs which natively support the feature.

    • Eveas says:

      If you have a newer laptop, it’s a single ‘force click’ over the link, not a 3-finger-tap.

  2. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Works great on Mac, works on iPhone with 3D Touch too.

    • Toby says:

      You post here enough to know better than throwing stones like that – it just makes you look bad. The article fails to mention that one needs the option Look Up & Data Detectors turned on, which is probably what Dina’s options missed.

  3. Brett says:

    Nice feature but you really should mention that you have to turn on Look Up & Data Detectors (three finger tapping) in System Preferences.

  4. Tigertype says:

    Excuse me for being observant, but the article clearly states that the data detector preference needs to be turned on, and even shows how to do it in a screen shot of the prefs panel. Mayhaps you should read the whole article before posting.

    • Toby says:

      Observant Tigertyper: the article was edited and updated with the newest info about data detectors, after other posters had trouble. That’s why I love the OS X Daily blog, they update their posts to be the most helpful and relevant of any Apple blog around.

  5. PerryD says:

    On my 2015 MBP with ForceTouch trackpad, it’s a ‘deep click’ that opens a preview…click and then press a little harder.

  6. BuffyzDead says:

    I enabled this feature with BetterTouchTool on my iMac’s.

    I use Better Touch Tool, with my Magic Mice to accomplish and entire range of gestures, including Volume Up/Down, Mission Control, Application Expose, Mute, etc.

  7. FastBill says:

    I have an Apple Magic Mouse on my iMac. The Mouse Preferences panel does not have any “Look Up & Data Detectors” option.

  8. Louise says:

    This is great, thanks!

  9. camiguin says:

    Thank you, this is a great hint. It works precisely as described in Safari, but for some reason in Chrome – the other browser I use – the gesture displays the dictionary entry of the word where the cursor was hovering, ignoring the whole link. It is obviously something related to Chrome itself, but I don’t know how to change it.

  10. Vloris says:

    Does work for the trackpad, but this article mentions it should work for a magic mouse as well.
    Nothing is mentioned though how it should work, and I can’t find a setting anywhere to get this to work with a magic mouse :(

    • D J Trumpkin says:

      Three Finger tap on a word to get a dictionary with the Magic Mouse multitouch surface, three finger tap on a link to preview it. Works with the Magic mouse 2 yes the weird charger model, too.

  11. Rob says:

    Works great, except that I don’t need to double-tap. The description in preferences for this feature clearly says, “Tap with three fingers”.

  12. Alan says:

    This is so useful! Thanks a lot.

  13. BM says:

    Sounds great in theory but it doesn’t work. My mouse control panel does not have a “Look Up & Data Detectors” section. OSX 10.11.3 and the App Store tells me this is up to date.

  14. JAMAR says:

    Works OK, but so does a single finger quick tap on trackpad – which is (for me) more efficient.

  15. Joe256 says:

    For those who do not have force touch trackpads as me (2009MBP), try to click the check box on and off, for me it has worked ! Thanks !

  16. Mo says:

    This trick seems to have disappeared with El Capitan! shame.

    • No says:

      This trick works in all versions of Mac OS X that support multitouch and previewing, including El Capitan (the screen shots are El Capitan, look at the windows) and all

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