After the public release of Arc, The Browser Company has maintained its weekly release schedule, albeit with more minor feature tweaks. However, this week’s release of Arc 1.5 brings back syncing of unpinned “Today” tabs between windows and devices. It’s an interesting story that gives a sense of how The Browser Company is being more transparent with users—you wouldn’t get such a look behind the curtain from Apple or Google.
When I started using Arc, Today tabs—standard, ephemeral tabs that either you or Arc will close soon enough—automatically synced across windows and devices. In my initial opus about Arc (see “Arc Will Change the Way You Work on the Web,” 1 May 2023), I wrote:
In contrast, Arc syncs the way you’d expect. Your Spaces, favorites, pinned tabs, and unpinned tabs all sync via iCloud. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to open my MacBook Air and pick up exactly where I left off on my iMac. Every Space, all my pinned tabs, and even the last unpinned tab I opened a minute before are all where I expect. Since I do all my writing in Google Docs, I can pick up writing on another Mac with a click or two. That’s another big win for persistence improving focus.
A month later, however, The Browser Company released an update to Arc that stopped syncing Today tabs—what I had called “unpinned tabs.” They’re the ones at the bottom of the sidebar, underneath your pinned tabs.
The developers based this decision on feedback from users who worked with multiple windows open and found it confusing that the Today tabs would be the same in all of them. To each their own, I suppose, but I appreciated the persistence of Today tabs. When writing an article, I often refer to a set of Today tabs, and having them available wherever I am is helpful. I don’t want to pin them because they need to exist only for a day or two, but after Arc removed Today tab syncing, I was forced to do that. Even now, I have a handful of random pinned tabs to evaluate and delete. As I wrote in “Innovative Web Browser Arc Reaches 1.0 Release” (27 July 2023):
In Arc, you can now drag any tab or favorite out of the window to create another window with its contents. It’s a full-fledged Arc window, although the sidebar is hidden by default. I love this feature, though I’m less happy about how unpinned tabs are now window-specific and don’t sync across systems. Sometimes I want those synced and have to remember to pin them temporarily.
So when the release notes for Arc 1.5 said that tab syncing was coming back, I was ecstatic. Unusually for a software firm, The Browser Company posted an internal memo from one of Arc’s designers explaining why the company had first removed syncing and then reversed course a few months later. It’s a fascinating read, and while I still think I’m right about the utility of syncing Today tabs, I understand the other side of the argument better now.
The Browser Company has more work to do surrounding the desire to open content in multiple windows, particularly for those of us who use multiple screens. There are three ways to display content in a new window or pane now, each with its own issues:
- New window: Dragging a tab out of the Arc window still gives you a new window, but it’s now a standalone single-tab window, not a full-fledged Arc window. You can open new tabs in it, but its sidebar lacks your Spaces and pinned tabs. Unfortunately, this new window doesn’t reliably remember its size and location, so I repeatedly have to resize and position it to get a small reference window instead of a clone of my huge main Arc window.
- Little Arc: It’s easy to open a Little Arc window for a page I want to reference while writing with either a Command-Option-click in Arc or by using Command-Option-N in any app, but clicking a link in another app replaces whatever I had loaded in Little Arc with the new link—it’s too easy to lose my reference page. Allowing Little Arc windows to have a sidebar of tabs would work, but then we’re back to a situation where random tabs can build up.
- Split View: Split View works well for opening reference pages, but Option-clicking a link preview in Google Docs—something I do a lot—triggers a bug that opens a third blank pane along with the desired pane. I’d also like to see Split View allow the user to open a page by dragging a link from one pane to another; doing that now opens a new Today tab.
Other changes in Arc 1.5 include layout improvements when you have more than four favorites, support for Command-Z and Command-Shift-T for reopening a closed Peek, two-finger moving and resizing of a Google Meet picture-in-picture window, support for right-clicking the back and forward buttons in the toolbar, elimination of a weird black bar in full-screen mode, the addition of an option to turn off tab haptics, and a few other minor tweaks. For an engaging walkthrough of the changes, check out Arc 1.5’s video release notes, and if you’re testing macOS 14 Sonoma, read the list of known Sonoma issues.