How to enable Private browsing mode in Safari using a keyboard shortcut

magnifier for safari

Believe it or not, private browsing mode has many uses. My favorite reason for using the mode is when troubleshooting page issues with cookies. It’s a great way to have a “control” when comparing against a non-private browsing session.

In browsers like Chrome, private browsing mode is a cinch to enable using a simple keyboard shortcut. In Safari, there is no such built-in shortcut. Instead, you have to click on the Safari menu bar and click the Private Browsing option.

Inside, we’ll show you how easy it is to create a keyboard shortcut for quickly enabling and disabling private browsing mode in Safari.

Update: there is now a much easier way to do that. Just press the Command + Shift + N keys at the same time and it will open a new private window.

The first thing you need to do is to create a new keyboard shortcut. To create a new keyboard shortcut, open System Preferences, and click Keyboard > Shortcuts. Once there, click App Shortcuts in the left-hand pane, and click the ‘+’ sign down below to add a new application to your list of custom shortcuts.

Add New Keyboard Shortcut

Next, select your application, which is Safari. After that, pay close attention, because here is where things deviate slightly from the information contained in our earlier keyboard shortcuts guide.

Keyboard Shortcut Safari

Normally when creating a keyboard shortcut, you want to type the exact menu tile that’s in the menu bar. In this case it would be: Private Browsing…

But since the menu title contains an ellipsis, it’s a special case scenario. In this case you want to omit the ellipsis and just type the following: Private Browsing

Keyboard Shortcut Menu Title

Doing it this way ensures that you can use the keyboard shortcut to switch back and forth between private browsing and normal browsing mode, since the menu title updates between its ellipsis form and non ellipsis form when switching between these modes. It might sound a little confusing, but just trust me on this.

As far as the actual keyboard shortcut is concerned, I recommend assigning the keyboard combination ⌘ + Shift + P to your private browsing shortcut. The P, of course, stands for private, and that particular keyboard combination isn’t used elsewhere in Safari.

Keyboard Shortcut Complete

So what happens if you don’t follow the instructions below, and instead type in the full menu title with its ellipsis? Nothing catastrophic, obviously, but it will make your keyboard shortcut much less potent. For starters, you won’t be able to use your shortcut to disable Private Browsing mode. You’ll have to manually disable it using your mouse.

The next annoying thing that happens is the pop-up notification that comes up every time you enable private browsing mode:

Private Browsing popup

In, what is perhaps this tutorial’s greatest benefit, creating your shortcut without the ellipsis completely stops this pop-up menu from ever appearing. I’ve always found this pop-up to be maddeningly annoying, so for me it’s a huge win.

While private browsing mode is surrounded with its own negative connotations and stereotypes, those of us who understand its usefulness realize just how powerful of a tool it can be. Safari contained a significant barrier to entry when it neglected to have private browsing keyboard shortcuts enabled out of the box; but with this tutorial, using the handy feature just got a whole lot easier.