How to Download PDF Files from Safari on Mac

Mar 24, 2020 - 1 Comment

Safari for Mac

Wondering how to download and save PDF files from Safari to a Mac? If you frequently encounter and work with PDF documents on the web, you might be interested in saving them locally to your Mac from time to time. With Safari, it’s easy to open, save, and download PDF files to the Mac.

The process is quite simple as this tutorial will demonstrate through several different ways to download PDF files to save them to the Mac from Safari.

You may have noticed that default Safari will automatically open PDF files that are clicked into in-browser windows. That can confuse some users at first, but it ends up being OK because if we’re looking to save a PDF file that makes it very easy to do as you’ll see.

How to Download & Save PDF Files from Safari to Mac

Opening PDF files in Safari on the Mac allows them to be easily downloaded and saved to the computer, here’s how the process works:

  1. Open Safari on the Mac if you haven’t done so yet
  2. Go to the PDF file in Safari that you want to save to the Mac
  3. With the PDF file open in Safari, pull down the “File” menu and choose “Save As”
  4. How to save and download a PDF file from Safari to Mac

  5. Name the PDF file and select the destination to download the PDF file to and then click “Save” to download and save the PDF file locally to the Mac at that destination
  6. Saving and downloading a PDF file from Safari to Mac

In the example image here, we’re downloading a PDF document of a study ( and saving it locally to the Mac desktop where it can be easily found.

How to Download PDF Files from a Link in Safari

If you want to download a linked PDF file in Safari to the Mac, that works the same as downloading any other linked item in Safari on the Mac:

  1. Right-click on the PDF file link and choose “Download Linked File As”
  2. Download linked PDF file from Safari on Mac

  3. Save the PDF file to the Mac destination as desired

You can use either method to download and save PDF files to the Mac.

How to Download & Save Linked PDF Files in Safari with Option Key

Another neat download trick for Safari that is lesser known is to hold down the OPTION key and then click the link to the PDF, or refresh the current URL if the PDF page is already open in Safari.

That will also download the PDF document directly into the Downloads folder as configured by Safari.

Note that saving a PDF file from Safari is completely different from saving a webpage as a PDF in Safari on Mac, the latter of which actually preserves the webpage as a PDF file and also saves it locally. It’s a bit redundant, but you can technically use that same save-as-pdf approach to an existing PDF too, which may be helpful in some situations if the PDF file you are trying to save is stuck in an iFrame or something similar that prevents easy access to opening, downloading, and saving the file directly.

And yet another neat trick; if you happen to forget where you got a particular PDF from but you want to know the source URL, you can retrieve a files original direct download URL using this Safari trick.

How to Make Safari Download PDF Files Instead of Opening Them

The download tips above will allow you to download PDF files from Safari, but you may still end up opening the PDF file in Safari too. If you want to download PDF instead of opening, you can try the following tricks:

  • If it’s a link that is clickable to access the PDF, you can simply hold the OPTION / ALT key when clicking the URL to download the PDF immediately

Another option to download a PDF instead of opening it within Safari is this:

  1. Load the PDF into Safari and then click URL bar
  2. Hold down the OPTION / ALT key
  3. Hit return (or refresh the PDF on display) to download the PDF

This will instantly download the PDF file to your Downloads folder, unless you changed the download destination in Safari.

Remember that Safari defaults to using the User Downloads folder on the Mac, but you can change the Safari download location if needed to suit your preferences.

These methods work on practically all versions of Safari for basically all versions of MacOS and Mac OS X, so it shouldn’t matter what software release you are on you will be able to open, download, and save PDF files to the Mac locally if needed.

Do you know of any other tips, tricks, or info about opening, downloading, and saving PDF files from Safari to Mac? Share with us in the comments!


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

One Comment

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  1. Chuck Reti says:

    An even easier GUI way to view and save PDFs in Safari:
    Many PDFs when clicked on will open in a separate Window or Tab.
    Hover cursor near the bottom and a small tool bar will appear, showing “Magnifying Glass” icons to Enlarge +, or Shrink – the page, and, two other icons that let you Open in Preview, or, Save to Downloads. (I’d attach a pic if I could!)

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