What operating systems work with iCloud Tabs across devices?

One of the many elements you can sync across devices with iCloud are the tabs in Safari browsers. With Settings > account name > iCloud > Safari checked in iOS/iPadOS, Safari checked in the iCloud preference pane in macOS 10.14 Mojave and earlier, or Safari checked in the iCloud view of the Apple ID preference pane in Catalina or later, your tabs sync, as well as bookmarks and Reading List items. Apple goes so far as to name synced tabs “iCloud Tabs” and synced bookmarks “iCloud Bookmarks.”

mac911 macos icloud tabs Apple

In macOS, you can get an expansive view of on-device tabs and a list of those shared via iCloud Tabs.

With that enabled on a device, Safari items are synced and available on every other devices. Bookmarks and Reading List items are merged, while tabs have their own interface.

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Safari for iOS has a list that appears below tabs.

To access iCloud tabs:

  • In Safari for macOS, click the Tab Overview button, two overlapping squares, which typically appears in the upper-right corner of the Safari toolbar if you haven’t customized it, or choose View > View Tab Overview. Scroll to the bottom to see iCloud Tabs separated by your other devices.
  • In Safari for iOS or iPadOS, tap the Tabs button in the toolbar, and then swipe up to reveal tabs of other devices.

There’s one critical compatibility issue people have fallen afoul of: Apple changed the set of operating system versions that will sync together with the release of Catalina—as it did for calendar items and a few other categories.

If you’re using any newer operating systems, they all have to be in this range to sync together:

  • iOS 13 or later
  • iPadOS 13 or later
  • macOS Mojave 10.14.4 or later
  • Any version of macOS Catalina or Big Sur

However, if you have only earlier versions of iOS and macOS, you can also use iCloud Tabs with:

  • iOS 12 or earlier (iPadOS didn’t split off again until 13)
  • macOS Mojave 10.14.3 or earlier

You can’t cross that divide.

Troubleshooting is effectively zero. At various times, I will have iCloud tabs appear on all my devices or only on some. Right now, my iPhone shows the tabs of my iMac and MacBook Air, but the iMac shows no other devices’ tabs. You can try to reinvigorate syncing by toggle the on/off status of Safari in Settings or the preference panes above, or restart a device that doesn’t show other of your copies of Safari’s tabs. It rarely seems to help.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Robert.

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