Unlike Chrome, Safari does not display favicons for open tabs.

This isn’t a deal breaker by any means because favicons introduce clutter and many of them are just horrid. I personally like favicons. If you’re coming from Chrome or are a Safari users who doesn’t keep too many tabs open (which makes the tab text unreadable), having favicons displayed in the tab area would serve as a great visual aid to help speed up navigation.

While favicons cannot be turned on or off in Safari preferences, a little third-party utility gets the job done. It’s called Faviconographer and written by independent German developer Daniel Alm who also did the time-tracking macOS app Timing.

You should be warned that this app basically hacks Safari and as such isn’t guaranteed to work on future macOS or Safari versions. “Given its dependency on polling Safari for information, Faviconographer may stop working at any time,” notes Daniel.

It also needs permission to access your Accessibility settings so it can locate Safari tabs.

Don’t worry, the software won’t hack your Mac nor will it inject any rogue code into other apps or manipulate the system files. Lastly, Faviconographer does not require administrator access.

How to get website icons in Safari tabs

1) Open the website Faviconographer.com and click the green Free Download button. Faviconographer has been tested to work on both macOS Sierra and macOS High Sierra systems, but some users also reported it to work on El Capitan.

2) Open the installer file “Faviconographer.dmg” from your Downloads folder, then drag the file “Faviconographer.app” to your Applications folder.

3) Unmount the installer disk volume.

4) Launch Safari.

TIP: If you see a message saying the app was download from the web, just click Open.

5) If you see a message saying the app requires permission to your Mac’s Accessibility settings, that’s an unfortunate but unavoidable concession in order to make the hack work.

Launch Faviconographer again to show its dialog again

But don’t worry, simply click the button labeled Open Accessibility Preferences or go to System Preferences → Security & Privacy, click the Privacy tab, choose Accessibility from the side menu and tick the box next to Faviconographer.app in the righthand section.

To stop showing favicons in Safari, quit the app.

The app’s preferences window includes some handy options, including boxes for choosing whether favicons are displayed in Safari’s tabs and/or for bookmarks in the Favorites bar.

The limitations of Faviconographer show at times, as explained further below.

Limitations and known issues

This app comes with some caveats.

  • Faviconographer currently only uses favicons, not “touch icons” or Apple’s SVG icon format for pinned tabs.
  • Favicons for websites you’ve never visited outside Incognito mode won’t be shown.
  • When showing all app windows while in Safari, favicons stay floating in place.
  • Favicon may also float in the wrong place when switching Safari windows, moving/resizing windows or dragging tabs around.
  • Faviconographer will only display icons for the currently active Safari window and only while the browser is the frontmost app
  • Under High Sierra, restoring a previous Safari session prompts Faviconographer to display only the icons for restored tabs after you have clicked them at least once (for all new tabs, favicons will be shown immediately).
  • Under High Sierra, one user had to delete their Safari preferences file to make Faviconographer work. If Faviconographer does not work out of the box for you after enabling Accessibility, please reach out to Daniel Alm so he can figure out a solution.
  • Faviconographer currently only uses standard website favicons, not “touch icons” or Apple’s vector-based SVG icon format for the pinned tabs feature.

The developer wouldn’t make any promises with regards to Faviconographer’s functionality, meaning the app may stop to be updated or maintained in the future.

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