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Three ways to share web pages from your Mac, iPhone, and iPad

Glenn Fleishman

Transferring an internet address from one device to another using a QR code? There are three more elegant options.

I've always dreamed that QR codes would be the essential bridge that enables easy transfer of content between digital and analog devices. Would you like to read a webpage on your phone that you are viewing in your desktop browser? Just snap a picture of a QR code on the page, and voila! it will appear on your mobile device.

The reason for this hope was that it used to be difficult to pass URLs on unless you used URL shortcuts, and even then caution was often required when typing them. Apple came up with Handoff years ago, a set of features built on Apple's continuity framework - which brings together Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and proximity - that allow you to share the status of an application between Macs, iPhones, and iPads, including one Web page in Safari while Safari is the active application.

AirPlay is also part of that mix, allowing you to send or receive all kinds of documents and objects, including photos, iWork files, and web pages. And iCloud adds another option: make the status of the open tabs on any device signed in to the same iCloud account accessible to any other device in that set. (And QR codes work too!)

Learn how to send a web page to or between your devices.

Handoff

If you're viewing a page in Safari for macOS or mobile devices and Safari is your foreground application, you can open the page from your other devices as well. (This will also work with any other application that supports Handoff and for which you have the same application on the two devices involved with Handoff).

In macOS, a Safari icon appears on the dock: on the left if the dock is at the bottom of the screen, on top if the dock is on the right. The icon is overlaid with an icon of the device the page is open on, while a floating label indicates Safari plus a generic label like "From iPhone" or "From Mac". Click it to open the page in Safari.

On an iPhone, swipe up and the transfer notice appears as a diamond with the Safari app icon, the Safari label, and the actual name of the transferred device. Tap on it to open it in Safari. On an iPad, the icon appears on the right side of the iPad app dock, much like it does on a Mac. Tap to open the page in Safari.

EnlargemacOS shows an overlay in the dock with the name of the application and the device type, but not the device name that is available for submitting a page.

If you've got Safari up front on two or more of your other devices, only the page associated with the device you last interacted with appears.

AirPlay

In Safari on any Apple platform, tap the Share button and tap AirDrop, then tap the device you want to share the webpage with. In iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, you can also tap an icon in the top line of the Share menu that shows previous AirDrop targets (overlaid with the AirDrop icon).

When the other device receives the page, it will automatically open it if you're signed in to the same iCloud account. If not, this device will prompt you to open the page.

Sync bookmarks via iCloud

iCloud can sync various items from Safari across your devices if you've enabled it. In macOS 10.14 Catalina, turn on iCloud Safari synchronization in the Apple ID settings card in iCloud settings. In macOS 10.13 Mojave and earlier, look in the iCloud settings bar. In iOS and iPadOS you can activate or deactivate it under "Settings> Username> iCloud".

iCloud syncs information through open tabs on your devices, but doesn't open them. Instead, you have to search to find them:

In Safari for macOS, click the Show Tab Map button in the upper-right corner of the screen, which looks like two overlapping squares. Safari displays all of the current tabs at the top as window thumbnails. Look or scroll down and the open tabs of all other synced devices will appear under their names. (I've noticed that they are a little out of sync at times.) Tap one of these links to open the webpage.

In Safari for iOS and iPadOS, tap the Tabs button in the lower right corner of the screen (iOS) or in the upper right corner (iPadOS). Like the Mac, this shows open tabs on the device, but swipe up to see the list of web pages open in tabs on your other devices. Tap any link to open it.

QR code

The dream of the QR code has never died for me - nor, it seems, for Google in Android and Apple in iOS and iPadOS. A few years ago, both major manufacturers of mobile operating systems built QR code support into their camera apps, so that you can point the camera at a code, have it recognized automatically and be given the option of opening an embedded website link. (QR codes also embed Wi-Fi network information, contact cards, and more).

You can find QR codes in the wild, although they sometimes appear on web pages in digital media. To scan a QR code, make sure that "Settings> Camera> Scan QR Codes" is activated in iOS or iPadOS.

EnlargeA QR code can embed a URL of a website. The QR code can be attached in a digital medium or on a poster.