Originally posted on fastcompany.
Arc is cleaner than Chrome and more elegantly designed. Plus, it’s easy to organize tabs by project and context.
Arc is the Web browser I use daily. It’s cleaner than Chrome and more elegantly designed. It’s easy to organize Arc tabs by project and context. When I first wrote about Arc, you had to get on a waiting list to use it. Now, it’s free for anyone to use on Mac and iOS, with a Windows version expected this winter.
HOW IS ARC DIFFERENT?
Most Web browsers look the same. So I was delighted when Arc offered a fresh, streamlined look. No tabs up top. No bookmark bar. Just a clean view of the site you’re visiting. It lacks the complexity of other alternative browsers I’ve tried. It continually adds new features (AI, customized designs). And now that I’ve used Arc for more than a year, it’s passed my test of time.
My Chrome browser gets messy quickly. Lots of tabs. Too many bookmarks. Distracting ads. OneTab helps compact Chrome tabs, and Raindrop helps organize bookmarks, but even with these Band-Aids, Chrome feels messy. Fortunately, Chrome plug-ins work with Arc, so it’s easy to switch.
Arc has a side drawer to show active links. Close it with the “Hide sidebar” button or use a keyboard shortcut (Command-S) to go full screen.
SPLIT VIEW LETS YOU SEE MULTIPLE SITES AT ONCE
You can open up to four side-by-side browser windows. I often open a reference doc while editing something online. Or I open my calendar while responding to an email. Two windows is usually enough. If you don’t use Arc you can set that up with window-managing software like Divvy, but it’s nicely native to Arc. It’s particularly useful when using the built-in notes and easel feature.
NOTES AND EASEL
Arc’s notepad lets you take notes within the browser. I used it to type this outline about its features. You can also sketch out ideas or annotate images like this with Arc’s built-in Easel. These work well in combination with split view because you can note things without leaving your browser, then easily share those notes and annotations with a link. You can also open a split view with whatever Web-based notes tool you already use.
SPACES AND FOLDERS
Rather than relying on bookmarks, Arc has you pin favored sites onto a side drawer. You can drop them into folders. Or you can group sites into completely separate spaces, if you want to separate work from home, for example. I have distinct spaces for a few of my projects.
You can open up a mini-version of Arc to quickly look something up by hitting Command-Option-N from anywhere on your computer. It’s handy if you’re working in another app but need to Google something without switching contexts.
You can scroll over icons for the apps you use most to get a quick preview of what’s in them. For example, without opening up your Google calendar, scroll over its icon to see upcoming meetings. Or get a sneak peek at Gmail messages.
SCROLL AND WATCH
Videos stay open while you look at another site. That’s useful if you’re watching an informational video and want to see notes while the video continues playing.
CYCLE THROUGH TABS
Press Control-Tab to cycle through tabs, along the lines of how you can scrub through applications on your computer with Command-Tab. These keyboard shortcuts are great if you’re jumping back and forth between sites.
AUTOMATIC TAB CLEAN-UP
Arc helps you tidy up by closing up tabs you haven’t used for a while. You can pin tabs you want to keep. The default is auto-cleanup every 12 hours, but you can set it to happen monthly instead. You can check the archive for a view of everything that’s been auto-closed or that you manually shut. You can also quickly clear a bunch of tabs that you’re done using.
CUSTOMIZE THE WAY INDIVIDUAL SITES LOOK
Arc’s Boosts feature lets you customize the look of sites by changing the color scheme, removing distracting elements or making other visual adjustments. Check the gallery to pick from dozens made by Arc users, or make your own.
NEW AI FEATURES
Arc recently launched these new AI features.
- Ask AI questions about any site: Press Command-F and type in a question.
- Get an AI-powered summary of any link: Hold the Shift key while clicking.
- Quickly summon ChatGPT: Press Command-Option-G for quick access.
OVERALL, A FRESH BROWSER DESIGN
Given that a browser is your window into the Web, it should get out of the way. After using Arc for more than a year, I appreciate its subtlety and reliability.
- Mac-only, for now. No Windows version yet, though it’s in the works. Mac users have to wait for an invite.
- Business model? Arc’s free for now, but the company may charge business users for future features, according to Austin Carr’s Bloomberg story.
- Minor set-up friction. Any new browser requires a brief set-up adjustment. Google Meet and other apps that use your Web camera and microphone require you to confirm permissions on a new browser. Your saved passwords from a prior browser should flow in nicely, assuming you allow Arc to import those.
- Still gets crowded. I tend to collect too many tabs. Even Arc’s nice sections can’t fully prevent overcrowding.