Safari 5: Managing Files with the Downloads Popover

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One of the features in Lion’s version of Safari 5 that has gotten, shall we say, mixed reviews is the Downloads Popover. I happen to think it’s pretty neat, but then again, I always hated the old downloads window. I’m a weirdo like that. In this article, we’re going to go over all of the things you can do with that tiny little button in order to manage your downloads more effectively. You won’t miss that ugly old window after this, I swear.

So to help me keep that promise, open Safari and click on the button to see your list of previously downloaded items (or hit Option-Command-L to bring it up). If you’ve cleared the list or haven’t ever downloaded anything in Safari, you won’t see that button at all (and the keyboard shortcut’ll give you a big bag of nothing), so go find something to download if that’s where you’re at. 

The menu itself isn’t very complicated, as you can see. If you double-click on any item in the list, you’ll open the file in its default program or mount it if it’s a disk image, for example. There’s a Clear button to wipe out the history of what you’ve downloaded (good for some of my naughtier readers, right?). You’ll also notice a little magnifying glass next to each entry, which’ll take you right to the chosen file in the Finder.

There are a couple of helpful options that aren’t so easy to see, though. Firstly, as TMO’s eminent and brilliant John Martellaro already noted, you can drag the icon for any item from that list to put the file somewhere else, like on your Desktop.

Look, ma! I’m dragging! I’m dragging!


Secondly, if you right- or Control-click on one of the files, you’ll get a handy-dandy contextual menu. Most of the choices there are more easily done in other ways—why would you right-click and choose Show in Finder when it’s available right from the Downloads Popover?—but I really like using the Copy Address feature.

This’ll copy the address of that downloadable file to your clipboard, meaning you can send your tech-impaired family members a link right to the thing. This is much easier than having to tell them where on a webpage the download link is. If you don’t like bringing up that contextual menu, you can accomplish this same task by highlighting the file in your Downloads Popover and hitting Command-C.

The other useful selection from that contextual menu is Remove From List, which allows you to selectively take out offending items. Because nothing says “I’m hiding Internet activity from you” like a perfectly clean download list, am I right? Again, you can do this same thing without invoking the contextual menu by selecting the file in question and tapping the delete key if you like it better that way.

Finally, just because I think this is something everyone should know—if you’d like to change the default location where Safari puts everything you download, choose Safari > Preferences and click on the General tab. Change the “Save downloaded files to” drop-down menu to a more convenient place, and you’re ready to go on with your happy little browsing life. As am I now that this article is finished. Reddit, here I come!

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The Downloads Popup Menus is THE WORSE WAY IMAGINABLE to manage downloads. 

After a few downloads, it may not even show your last download in the menu.  And if you clear all of the listed downloads, the menu DISAPPEARS.  This prevents you from drag-dropping a file from a web-page to the download menu.  You also can’t even monitor multiple downloads without impairing your ability to view and open up other web-pages.


Bring back the downloads window.  Or at least place it on a window pane.

Stephen Keese

I don’t understand what Jameskatt is complaining about.  There’s a download icon always in my Dock where I can find everything that I have ever downloaded and not deleted.  There’s a download folder in the Documents folder that shows the same thing.  The download popover is convenient for launching installers that I just acquired.  I clear it regularly to be able to find current items easily and use the Dock icon for older items.

Melissa, your Copy Address hint was new to me and will be very helpful for the exact scenario you mentioned.  Thanks.


The only thing I really hated about the Downloads window was that it was persistent.  Luckily there were plugins like SafariStand to take care of that.

I also agree with jameskatt about it getting in the way of viewing web pages.  Not a big issue to me, since I usually just check it for a second, then close it again.  But the menu should be a separate moveable window or even a side drawer.  I guess Apple incorrectly assumed everyone would browse in Fullscreen mode.

I’ve never cleared anything from my Downloads popover menu, but not everything is listed.  It might be because I’ve moved things from the Downloads folder, but I really don’t know - it hasn’t bothered me enough to get me to look into it.  Either that, or it’s yet another example of illogical behavior in Lion, which is just another small example of why IMHO Lion is the worst OS release since Panther, maybe since Jaguar.

Melissa Holt

Melissa, your Copy Address hint was new to me and will be very helpful for the exact scenario you mentioned.? Thanks.

You’re welcome, Stephen! Thanks for reading.

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