You’re browsing the web with Safari on your Mac. You come across a page that you want to save for future reference. How do you do this? Or, more to the point, what’s the best way to do this?
The answer is not as obvious as you might think. The answer is (as it is so often in life): it depends. Without working up a sweat, I came up with a dozen different ways to save all or part of a webpage. Each one has its own pros and cons. To help figure out which one is best for your situation, here are your choices:
1. Create a tab or open a new window
When to do it. Technically, you are not actually saving a page here. You’re merely keeping the page open in Safari. This works best when you don’t intend to keep the page around for any length of time. It’s just that you want to click a link to go to another website and wish to temporarily maintain easy access to the current page (without having to depend on the Back button).
How to do it. Control-click on a link. From the menu that appears, select Open in New Tab or Open in New Window. Alternatively, select Safari’s New Window or New Tab commands, located in the File menu; this opens a new page from which you can enter a URL in the address bar.
The main downside of this approach is that the page may get “lost” before you are done with it — if you have to quit Safari or if the program crashes. These days, however, such loss is easily avoided. If you have your Mac set to restore previously open document windows, the pages should return when you next launch Safari. Otherwise, I recommend the Sessions Safari extension for saving the current state of your browser. As a last resort, you can use your History list to locate lost pages.
A secondary downside is that Safari has a irritating tendency to periodically force a reload of currently open pages. If the page has any data that would be lost in a reload (such as entries to a form you are filling out), or if the page has been updated in the interim, the prior content will almost certainly be gone.
In any case, don’t use this technique to excess. To my dismay, my wife often keeps a dozen or so windows open in Safari, each with 8 or 9 tabs. This begins to slow down Safari, eventually to a point where the program becomes unusable.
2. Save the page as a bookmark
When to do it. With this method, rather than saving the page itself, you’re saving its URL. Still, this is ideal if you expect to frequently return to a page and typically want to see its latest content (such as the home page here at TMO).
How to do it. When the page is open, select Add Bookmark… from the Bookmarks menu. Or select the same command from the Sharing menu (accessed from the “arrow in a rectangle” icon in the Toolbar). After doing so, you select the bookmark to return to the page.
3. Save the URL as a “web internet location” file
When to do it. As with a bookmark, you’re just saving the URL here. However, you’re saving it as a file in the Finder rather than as part of Safari. As such, you can launch the page at any time simply by double-clicking the file’s icon. Assuming you don’t care if the page gets updated, the URL file has the advantage of taking up far less drive space than saving the actual page.
How to do it. From Safari’s address bar, click-hold on the mini-icon to the left of the URL and drag it to the Desktop (or other desired Finder folder).
The main downside of this approach, compared to saving the actual page, is that you have no offline access.
4. Save the page as a “Web Archive” file
When to do it. This is the method that I use most often. It’s great for when you want to save content “permanently” to your drive. For example, whenever I find an article with a OS X troubleshooting tip that I want to remember, I save the page as a web archive and put it in a Mac Tips folder on my drive. Now, any time I double-click the file, it re-opens in Safari, looking exactly (or almost exactly) as when I saved it.
Safari’s Save dialog
How to do it. Select Save As… from the File menu. Make sure “Web Archive” is the selected Format. Click Save. Done.
The potential downside here is that, if you want updated content (such as reader comments added to an article after you saved it), you won’t get it. Also, you may have a bit of trouble finding the page’s URL later (as the archive file does not preserve it). Lastly, this method is less than ideal if the content you want to save spans several pages (such as a long article from a magazine) and the site offers no option to display the content as a single page.
5. Save the page as a “Page Source” view
When to do it. This saves the page as HTML. While you probably don’t care to view the HTML code directly, you can open the file in a text editing app, such as OS X’s TextEdit, and see the page similarly (although not exactly) to how it looks in Safari. The advantage here is that, from TextEdit, you can edit the content. You can’t do this from a web archive file. Editing can be useful if you want to save most of the content of a page, but strip out items such as links and advertisements.
How to do it. Select Save As… from the File menu. Select “Page Source” as the Format. Click Save.
6. “Print” the page as a PDF
When to do it. This is an alternative to saving a page as a Safari web archive. You’ll prefer this if you want to be able to view the page in an app other than Safari — or save the page in a format that can be viewed on an iOS device.
How to do it. Select Print from Safari’s File menu. Click the PDF menu button in the lower left and select Save as PDF. If you want instant access to the PDF from your iOS devices, save it to a Dropbox folder (assuming you have one). I do this to have copies of documents, such as airline boarding passes, available from my iPhone.
Going in the other direction, if you have Printopia installed on your Mac, you can use the Print command in Safari on your iOS device to save a page as a PDF file back on your Mac. To do so, tap the Print button from Safari’s Share menu on your iOS device. Select the desired Printopia “virtual printer” option and tap the Print button.
7. Save to Reading List
When to do it. If you don’t like the idea of dozens of web archive or PDF files cluttering up your drive, Reading List is a great alternative. It’s also good for when you want saved files to be automatically accessible across both Mac and iOS devices, especially for offline reading.
Safari’s Reading List feature
How to do it. From the Bookmarks bar, click Safari’s Reading List button (it looks like a pair of glasses). From the column that appears on the left, click Add Page to add the current page to the list. Alternatively, you can select Add to Reading List from the Sharing menu (again, as accessed from the Toolbar icon). You can now select any of the Reading List pages to view them — even if you are not connected to the Internet.
Mobile Safari on iOS devices can also add items to the Reading List. To do so, tap the Sharing icon (at the top left of the screen) and select Add to Reading List.
If you use iCloud, Reading List items can sync across all devices that are logged into your iCloud account.
Although you can use this for long-term storage of articles, I don’t. Rather, I mainly use it when I want to read a page later — such as when I’m on a trip and save an article from my iPad to read later on my Mac. After reading the article, I usually delete it.
If you don’t like Safari’s approach here, try Instapaper. This software, which includes an archive function and a capability similar to Safari’s Reader feature, can be accessed from any web browser or from its own iOS app.
8. Copy text
When to do it. Sometimes you only want to save a snippet of text from an article, such as a quote. To do so, you needn’t save the entire page.
How to do it. Select the text you want to save and hit Copy. You know the rest. Otherwise, you can click-drag the selected text to your Desktop to save it as a clipping file.
9. Copy image
When to do it. The idea here is the same as for text. The only difference is that you’re saving a graphic image, such as a photo.
How to do it. Some sites (such as flckr.com) have specific options for saving images. When that’s not available, the solution is to click-drag the image to your desktop. Or you can Control-click on the image and select Copy Image from the menu that appears; you can then paste the image into a document of whatever app you want.
To save graphics from Safari on an iOS device, tap and hold your finger on the image; from the menu that appears select Save Image. The graphic is saved to your iOS device’s Camera Roll.
10. Take a screenshot
When to do it. Sometimes, because of the coding behind a webpage, click-dragging an image doesn’t work. In this case, you can still make a copy of the image, via OS X’s built in screen capture function.
How to do it. Press Command-Shift-4. Using the crosshair cursor, drag an outline around the image you want to save. Alternatively, you can use a third-party utility, such as Snapz Pro, which allows you take still shots and record video.
11. Download the content
When to do it. Sometimes what you want to save is not a web page but a PDF file or a QuickTime movie or some other media contained on the page. You can often save these items by directly downloading them to your drive (typically, they wind up in your Downloads folder by default).
How to do it. If you are viewing the media content as a web page, such as can happen with PDF files, the Save As… command may do the trick. Otherwise, Control-click the item or its link. From the menu that appears, select the appropriate command, such as “Save Linked File to Downloads” or “Save Linked File As” or “Download Video.” Finally, if no option to save the content presents itself (as may happen with YouTube videos and other streaming content), there are various apps and services that can work-around this; but that’s a subject for another article.
12. Print the pages
When do it. I already mentioned using the Print command to save a file as a PDF. Of course, you can also use Print to actually print the page to paper.
How to do it. From Safari’s File menu, select Print. From the sheet that drops down, select Print again. If the webpage requires several paper pages to print, you can select to print only the page(s) you want.