Edit and use Safari 5′s Top Sites

Edit and use Safari 5′s Top Sites
Mac Tip #443, 30 June 2010

The Safari Top Sites feature gives you quick access to your favorite websites. Here’s how to change the size of the thumbnail previews, remove and add sites, and pin sites so they’re always handy.


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Control Top Sites settings in Safari Preferences

Top Sites displays thumbnail previews of certain websites, grouped on one page. Click a thumbnail to go straight to that site.

Safari Top Sites.

Safari Top Sites.

To choose whether or not to display the Top Sites page, and whether or not to display a link to the Top Sites page in Safari’s toolbar go to Preferences… under the Safari menu.

Go to the Bookmarks tab of the Preferences window and check or uncheck the item to Include Top Sites on the Bookmarks Bar.

Go to the General tab of the Preferences window and choose what should be displayed when opening a New Window or a New Tab. Choices include Top Sites, Home Page, Empty Page, Same Page and Bookmarks.

Click Top Sites in the Bookmarks Bar

Top Sites icon (enlarged).

Top Sites icon (enlarged).

One way to call up the Top Sites is to click the ‘grid’ icon in the Bookmarks Bar. After you click the Top Sites icon the Top Sites page is displayed.

Tip: if you click a page thumbnail and nothing happens, check to make sure you aren’t in the middle of editing the Top Sites page. See below for more information.

Edit the Top Sites page

To edit the Top Sites page click the Edit button at the bottom left of the window. Each icon gains an X and a thumbtack icon at top left.

Make your changes, then click the Done button to make your changes stick.

Change the thumbnail size

Preview thumbnails come in 3 sizes: small, medium and large. The larger they are, the fewer fit on the page.

To change thumbnail size enter mode as described above.

At bottom right of the Top Sites window choose your preferred thumbnail size. Small fits 24 pages into the page; Medium fits 12; and Large fits 6.

Remember to click the Done button to make your changes stick.

Remove pages from Top Sites

You may find pages in Top Sites that you don’t want to keep around. Enter mode as described above, then click the X icon for any page you want to remove. That thumbnail disappears and all the others shuffle position, pulling in a page from History to fill the gap.

Click the Done button to make your changes stick.

Pin a page

To ‘pin’ a thumbnail page to a particular position enter the Edit mode as described above. Drag the thumbnail to the desired position then click the thumbtack icon at top left of the preview. The thumbtack icon glows blue when it’s active.

Click the Done button to make your changes stick.

Add a page to Top Sites

To add a page of your own choosing to the Top Sites page open a new Safari window (File — New Window ).

In the new window enter the address for the new site and press Return to visit the site.

Then drag the favicon from the left-hand end of the Address Bar so it replaces a thumbnail in the Top Sites window. The site will open in that window. If you then go back to see all Top Sites, you’ll see your chosen website has taken its place in Top Sites.

You can also drag a link from a document or email message in the same way.

A dragged link won’t replace a pinned thumbnail, so make sure to drag the link on to a site that isn’t pinned.

The Top Sites page is very handy. Also watch how the thumbnails are able to update from the live sites.

For example, in my first screenshot Twitter was showing its Fail Whale page. By the time I finished writing this tip the thumbnail for Twitter was showing its normal set up recent updates.

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  1. alastair johnston-todd said:

    Why do some sites I visit appear on my top sites page without marking them as such?

  2. Margie said:

    When opening Safari, how can I tell Yahoo to go directly to my e-mail inbox without asking me for my password? I tell it to by-pass the password screen, but it doesn’t hear me…

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Have you saved the Yahoo password in Safari and told it to remember it? That’s not a terribly great idea, though. Better to have to enter your password to keep your email secure.

      Nothing ‘crucial’ or ‘private’ in your email, so it wouldn’t matter if someone else got into your email? Think again: someone could use your email account to send out spam, change passwords on other services, etc.

      Stay safe.



  3. Richard Serra said:

    I thought just clicking on Bookmark…add to..then Top Sites would add to the Top Sites…and it does.
    Trouble is, it seems to bump off other if they’re not pinned. Which leads to: How many top sites can I have, just 24, or is there a way to view more than that by another page, etc.

    Can’t find the answer to how many can I have.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      I’m afraid that by setting the icon size to Small you can have 24, and that’s the max. For the rest you’ll just have to use Bookmarks.



  4. Peter said:

    Adding and modifying Top Sites with latest Safari and latest Mountain Lion is totally broken.

    There is absolutely no way to modify Top Sites manually, it simply doesn’t work any more.

    I’ve repeatedly this on 4 different Macs, all running 10.8.2.

    Top Sites is broken.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Peter, are you sure you clicked the Edit button as described in the Tip? I just added a new Top Site to Safari on my Mac with Mountain Lion, removed a couple, and rearranged the order of others.

      • Peter said:

        Yes, I’m really not sure what the problem is, but I’ve been able to reproduce it on all of my Macs and one other.

        I’ve used Top Sites from the beginning, and am familiar with how to manually edit.

        What isn’t working is the dragging of a URL to create a new Top Site.

        I can pin and delete existing pages, but I cannot add new ones via URL drag and drop. Not from another window, or txt document.

        • Miraz Jordan said:

          Hmmm, OK. That’s odd. Well, my test showed it’s not Mountain Lion itself — it must be something on your system.

          Are you using any Safari plugins? Perhaps one is messing with Top Sites.

          How about if you Reset Top Sites (Safari menu – Reset Safari)? Does that help?



          • Peter said:

            I have tried Reset Safari > Reset Top Sites…no change.

            I find it strange that my 2011 MacBook Pro and my brand new out-of-the box 2011 Mac Mini both have this issue.

            I just noticed that I do have the Safari Extension Ad-Block turned on. I tried uninstalling that and turning off Extensions completely, to no avail.

            • Miraz Jordan said:

              One more thing to try. Open a web page in Safari as usual. Then choose Add Bookmark. Note that the first location you can add a bookmark to is Top Sites. Add the page.

              Does that work?

  5. Charlie said:

    I inadvertently deleted HOTMAIL from my top sites. NOTHING I do can bring it back. Can anyone tell me how to fix this problem, please? I have tried dragging the link into an empty space. NOTHING WORKS!

  6. Kayt Gordon said:

    I have lost the ‘Top Sites’ icon in Safari (version 5.1.7) and cannot access sites I have visited except to key addresses each time into the browser window. I am on a MacBook Pro running OS X version 10.6.8. How can I get the icon and the feature back?

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Under Safari – Preferences – Bookmarks make sure Include Top Sites is checked.

      Does that help?



  7. Mike said:

    I was wondering if there is a way to customise Top Sites to have more than 24 thumbnails in small view? It is a great way for me to see my clients sites at a glance and tell if there are any issues.


  8. Anh Thy said:

    I have just downloaded Safari 5.1.5. I think it is the newest version. However, i can’t find ‘top sites” button. I have tried to find it in customize toolbar and preferences, too but i can’t see it. Could you tell me where i can find it? I am using Toshiba laptop. Thanks a lot.

  9. Jen said:

    I’ve tried everything and it doesn’t work. Dropping and dragging doesn’t work, dragging the icon doesn’t work, is there somewhere to add to top sites manually? Thanks! Jen

  10. Robyn said:

    I am having the same problem as above! The pictures for my top sites are no longer showing up – just a black screen. I can still access the website by clicking on them, but I do not have the visual of where I am going!

  11. Tina Ritter said:

    Why are some of the pictures to sites that I have saved to Top Sites not showing up??? I don’t understand how some show and some don’t… Please HELP!!!

  12. Carolina said:

    1. Why won’t gmail or yahoo mail drag to my top sites?

    2. Some of the websites I drag will fall into my top sites but there’s no icon, is that normal?

  13. Rajon Rondo said:

    My home page is Google and I prefer to navigate from there rather than Top Sites. When I open a new tab is there a way to make Google open rather than Top Sites?

  14. Mayra said:


    I pressed the “X” button but now I want the site back. I’ve tried doing what you told, opening a new tab, typing the address and then dragging it into the Top Sites Edit tab, but it doesn’t work. In fact, It does show the “+” but then nothing happens.

    And, another thing started to happen. I was using Snow Leopard and everything was just fine with Top Sites, but after I upgraded to Lion, all the pre visualizations images from Top Sites were gone. Now, after two days, just 2 or 3 pre visualizations appear, but all the others are blank, with the URL there, if I click, the site opens normally, the problem is the pre visualization thing, because now I have to look for in each one to find the one I want, instead of just quickly visualizing it. And yes, I already opened all of them to see if the images would appear, but no success.

    So now, I’m not really into the Top Sites anymore, unless someone helps solve all that.

  15. Jeroen Akershoek said:

    I like Top Sites very much and use it all the time. Recently I’ve noticed a change in behaviour when it comes to sites where you have to login.
    I am already logged in at those sites, so it should just show the actual page. But instead it shows me a login page.

    For example LinkedIn. On Top Sites I see a preview of the login page. When I click on it Safari loads my default LinkedIn Homepage, no need to login. Then when I return to Top Sites it shows me the LinkedIn Homepage. After a couple of hours not returning to my LinkedIn page the preview in Top Sites reverts back to the login page.

    I though this happened when I upgraded to Safari 5.1. Because of other problems with that version I’ve reverted back to 5.0.5 but the problem with Top Sites still remains.
    Maybe it has to do with another MacOSX update, I don’t know. But if someone does know a solution, please let it be know here!

    Thanks, Jeroen

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      That’s interesting Jeroen. I wonder if it’s a deliberate security measure? After all, if you have to log in then there’s a degree of insecurity about showing a thumbnail of what’s visible after login. If some random passerby started looking at your computer screen the thumbnail could potentially give away the contents of a theoretically secure web page.

      I’m just speculating…

  16. Suzanne said:

    I’ve inadvertently deleted all the default sites on my Top Sites page. As a result, when I drag the favicon to the Top Sites window, nothing happens. How do I fix this?

    Thank you and kind regards,

  17. Terry said:

    I am also having problems finding the Top Sites option to add. I am running Win XP and Safari 5.0.5. I have followed the steps and the Top Sites option is not there.

  18. Aida said:

    I had my umail website as a top site in my safari browser.
    However, I accidentally clicked the X on it while I was editing my top sites and now safari won’t include it as a top site. I’ve tried to drag the umail favicon from one safari window to the “edit safari window.” But it won’t work. Any clues as to why?
    I’m using a Dell Microsoft Vista operating system but a safari browser.
    Thanks (:

  19. Howard said:

    Top Sites is a ONE feature that keeps me at Safari. I have 24 key sites I read every day and I can track updates and stay in touch. It is magic and has become an essential part of my online habit.

    Firefox and Opera have something similar BUT they do not have an updated indicator like Safari. THAT is the key feature.

    I just wish it were possible to edit the URL of each window. I have on page that has changed it’s address and following the only edit process available I cannot insert the URL into the same position as it used to be because they all move around when I try. It’s a real pain :-((

  20. Jas said:

    PS. when you’ve practiced patience long enough to get at least 2 columns how you want them, pressed ‘done’ and go elsewhere; there’s no guarantee that when you return th icons will be where you put them. I just tested this and it happened again! Can i upload a vid from my mobie or iPod to show you? Cheers

      • Sharon said:

        You can pin until you’re blue in the face, or until the pin is blue or not blue, not clear to me which color means what but I’ve tried it many, many times assuming any possible way of pinning I can think of and seriously, it works about 80% of the time.
        If you can’t recognize the problem, and therefore can’t help, I just want to give my thoughts to others with the same problem. If you get close to what you want, DON’T TOUCH IT. I had maybe 9 of 12 sites of where I wanted and was that way for quite a while, one day I knew what I wanted in the rest and wanted to complete the screen to look just like I wanted. Big Mistake. Can’t even get to stay back as good as I had before.
        This wonderful feature has some serious bug. Period.

  21. Jas said:

    hi Miraz, my top sites shuffle themselves every time i add a new one, or want to manually re-arrange them. i’m happy that you “haven’t experienced” this problem, but my Top Sites just do not stay where I put them.
    Since you’ve had a few queries about this; i’ve come from a PC to a brand new Mac and had th same problem with both; and your other suggestions haven’t worked, could i ask if you can find out how to disable this ridiculous game of tiles?
    Many thanks. Top sites is a good feature, th editing process is a time-wasting frustration.

    • VP said:


      I had the same problem and found that everything I tried to fix the problem through firefox didn’t work. I ended up downloading a firefox add-on called Fast Dial. Its pretty much the exact same as Top Site. You can even set it up to open in new tabs or as your home page etc.

      Hope that helps!

  22. John Gowans said:

    Thanks. In my orderly brain I organize my sites by Top and Bookmarks to the lesser visited sites, I’ll fill up Top sites and see if that helps. Happy New Year.

  23. John Gowans said:

    I find one thing about top sites frustrating and that is the inclusion of every site I visit appearing in Top Sites and the necessity of constantly having to delete them. I wish there was a way to stop this from happening.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      John, why does this trouble you and why do you feel you need to delete the sites? If you just ignore them what happens?

      An alternative is to fill all the slots with sites of your choosing, and pin those selections in place.

  24. Max Payne said:

    is there a feature to edit top sites in your own way like exampleclicking on it and you type a url and put an image url instead of the webpage picture?
    google chrome has this “dialup” extension which is very helpful and makes the dialup (dialup is another name for topsites) very tidy.
    you just click on a topsite (or dialup) page and asks you for the name (Youtube) , url (youtube.com) , image url (you just find it if there is need too) or there are saved images for famouse sites like youtube or facebook.
    Thank you.

      • Thijs said:

        And what is that way?
        I have the same problem too.
        Google Chrome has a really nice extension which allows you to chose your own pictures instead of the screenshots, is that possible with Top Sites?


  25. Joshua said:

    I’m having trouble enabling “Top Sites”. I can’t enable it in the preferences. It doesn’t even show up. I see “Inlcude Bonjour” but no “Include Top Sites”. I just installed the newast software, but I still can’t enable it. Any help?

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      If it doesn’t even show up, then I suspect you don’t, in fact, have the latest software. Are you running Mac OS X 10.6? If it’s an earlier version then you probably have a different version of Safari too.

      • maggie said:

        My top sites doesn’t show up all it says is include bonjour but i don’t have include top sites how can i get it back?

  26. VP said:

    I actually have a question… I’ve just finished pinning my top sites, then closed Safari and re-opened it only to find my site have re-arranged on me. Is this normal? And hotmail does not seem to be a friend of Safari top sites. Sometimes it disappears all together.


      • VP said:

        Miraz Jordan,

        Thank you for replying!! The problem is still occurring. Not only do my Top Sites rearrange but, Safari adds pages to my Top Sites without my choosing – sometimes replacing my chosen Top Sites. The new auto-added pages are always sub-pages from my chosen Top Sites but, its still frustrating to be constantly editing my Top Sites.

        I haven’t found any other comments describing this problem. Maybe it’s a Snow Leopard thing? I just upgraded.


        • Miraz Jordan said:

          VP, how about if you:

          1] Quit Safari
          2] Find in your Home folder the file: ~/Library/Safari/TopSites.plist
          3] Trash that plist file
          4] Start up Safari
          5] Add and pin your desired Top Sites.

          Does that sort out the problem? If not, we’ll just have to hope someone who reads this has a better suggestion.

  27. Paul Lanyi said:

    This a great tip page. I’m using Snow Leopard . . but forgot all about that Top Sites
    icon. What led me to research this was the fact Somebody ( Bing ? ) eliminated Yahoo and Google from my toolbar ! even though I indicated I didn’t want Bing as my default browser. But using Top Sites will eliminate that. Bad enough AT&T / Yahoo won’t allow me to read mail via MacMail ( though I can send via that. ) I really get peeved at how sneaky other sources can be about making changes on one’s computer if you accidentally click on something without fully understanding the consequences.

  28. Witthaya said:

    I can’t find the item ” Include Top Sites” on the Bookmarks tab of the Preferences window, too.

  29. Handy Mussotte said:

    I have a desktop and a lap top. The Desktop is the one with the issue. I cannot get Top Sites to appear on the toolbar. I’ve reset Safari and downloaded it many times and no matter what it’s nowhere to be found. I have the latest version on both but only the laptop gives me that feature.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Handy, have you done this step:

      “Go to the Bookmarks tab of the Preferences window and check or uncheck the item to Include Top Sites on the Bookmarks Bar.”

      What say you remove the various Safari prefs etc from the Desktop and replace them with those from the laptop?

      See your User’s Library folder: Safari folder and look in Preferences folder too.

  30. Dennis said:

    I need help.
    I have installed Safari 5 and I want to use the ‘topsites’ feature. I cannot find it anywhere…
    I have looked in the Preferences and then General.
    I have looked in the Preferences and then Bookmarks.
    I have gone to ‘Customize Toolbar’ to drag up the button.
    It does not exist. How do I get it?
    I am using Windows XP

    Thank you in advance,

  31. Thomas said:

    I can’t find my top sites button anywehre. Ive tried looking under preferences and everything. I unistalled and re-installed. What do I do. Please help

    • Billy said:

      I’m having the same problem. The button was there last night and when I turned my computer on this morning it had vanished. I’m the only 0ne using it so this has me confused!

  32. Lillian said:

    Thank you! The Top Sites ‘feature’ is the worst idea ever — especially at WORK.

  33. christine said:

    So before I understood how to use Top Sites I clicked the x on almost every site, thinking that it would only clear it from the page temporarily for me to input my own. Now I accidentally discarded all of my Top Sites. Is there any way to undo that?

    • Liz said:

      If you go to the settings drop-down menu (looks like a wheel of sorts in the top right corner of the page, right next to a drop-down menu for current page, which looks like a piece of paper) and click on Reset Safari, then uncheck everything except ‘Reset Top Sites’, then click ‘Reset’, it’ll fix that for you.

  34. a.c. wren said:

    i have a problem that i seem to cant find help for.i have no top site listed in the scroll box..just home,blank,and empty. i also have no choice to show or hide top sites in the bookmark tab..so what do i do–its really strange cause at work i have all that and i use the top site page–but at home i have none of that…

  35. Max said:

    I’d like to know how to make the positions of the saved pages on the Top Sites screen stick in Safari 5. Even after pushing down the blue pin they still move all over the place wen a new page is added. It then takes some work sliding them all over the place to get back to the arrangement I wanted. This happens every time a new page is added to Top Sites. It is frustratingly like playing a child’s game of ’tiles’.

    Secondly, how do you make Top Sites your home page so that the browser starts on Tops Sites every time you open the browser? THere seems to be no way off doing this in Safari 5.

    • Miraz said:

      Max, it’s a bit odd your sites move around. I just experimented with deleting one site I didn’t want and a potential site just zipped right into the empty slot. Nothing else moved.

      As for your question about making Top Sites the Home Page, read what I wrote above: “Go to the General tab of the Preferences window and choose what should be displayed when opening a New Window or a New Tab. Choices include Top Sites, Home Page, Empty Page, Same Page and Bookmarks.”

      Choose Top Sites.

      • Max said:

        Hi Miraz,

        Thanks for that. I was trying to enter “Top Sites” in the Home page field, I should have paid more attention to what you wrote.

        It sure is annoying that the sites move all over the place. I wonder why my Safari behaves differently. Theoretically, once I ‘ve added all the sites I want on Top Sites I should be able to leave it as is. The problem is getting them in place.

  36. PeterKS said:

    I have inadvertently clicked the X in the edit page against my webmail browser. How do I undo this action?

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      That’s a great question.

      1] Open *2* Safari windows and move them so you can see both.
      2] In 1 window *Edit* the Top Sites.
      3] In the other window visit the site you want to add to Top Sites (eg MacTips).
      4] Drag the URL from eg MacTips from the Address Bar of window #2 into the Edit Top Sites window. The page will be added to your Top Sites.
      5] Now pin that site if you wish and click Done on the Edit Top Sites window.

  37. Pat Rosier said:

    I am enjoying this tip. Have some bad Safari habits that mean I ‘lose’ a window I want open quite often. Using top sites is fun and I get in and out of those windows faster and with less frustration. Cheers, Miraz, for another great tip.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Thanks Pat. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed this one. I used to always open a tab or browser window as blank, but now I find I use Top Sites instead.

      Another reader pointed out by email that other browsers have or can do a Top Sites thing too, sometimes by installing an extension.

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