Browser tabs are essential, everyday parts of modern web browsers, and odds are you probably have a bunch open right now. Too many, most likely. That’s usually OK, because they’re useful for comparing pages, keeping track of things you want to read later, or just organizing your work.
The problem is, they’re so useful that they can quickly become overwhelming. You’ve only been at your computer for half an hour and you’re already battling through 60 different tabs just to find the one you need. Or worse, your computer reboots and the built-in session save fails and you lose all those tabs.
We’re here to tell you that there are solutions to your tab woes, ways of managing them so they can be a help rather than a hindrance. You can look to tools available both inside your browser of choice and third-party add-ons to stop the tabs from taking over.
Google recently introduced a new feature called Tab Groups that makes it easier to manage different bunches of tabs in Chrome. Try right-clicking on a tab and choose Add tab to new group—the tab will be assigned a colored dot, and you can give it a name and change its color by right-clicking on the dot. You might have different groups for different projects maybe, or one for personal stuff and one for work-related browsing. (If you don’t have it yet, make sure you have the latest version of Chrome first, and then you may need to enable it in the “chrome://flags” experimental options.)
You can expand or collapse tab groups by clicking on their label. To add new tabs to a group, just drag them in, or right-click on a tab and choose Add tab to group (you can still create new groups too). Drag tabs out of the group, and they’re released. To close a group or release tabs from it, right-click on its label—note that you can bring back closed groups the same way you can bring back closed tabs, via the History and Recently Closed options on the Chrome menu.
It’s still a new feature, so there’s room for improvement, but it can make a huge difference. Say you have a bunch of tabs you don’t need for a while. Instead of closing them and forgetting about them, you can put them together in a group and hide them with just a few clicks.
There’s nothing quite as advanced in terms of tab management in the other major browsers at the moment. Right-click on a tab to see the options available to you, like being able to pin a tab to the left-hand side of the browser—this can help free up some space and keep the most important tabs close to hand, but they should be sparingly used—be wary of ending up with just as many pinned tabs as you have ordinary tabs.
In Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, you can Ctrl+click (or Cmd+click on macOS) to select multiple browser tabs at once—this can come in handy if you want to close down a whole group of tabs together, or you want to move them all to a new window, for example. Don’t forget separate windows for different groups of tabs, as this can help you clear the decks in any browser.
Another standard browser feature that you might not be making the most of is one of the oldest: bookmarks. Every browser lets you create your own custom bookmark folders, so you can use these to save tabs for safekeeping: You could have one folder for each project you’re working on, or one folder that acts as your read-it-later list, or separate folders for work and home. However you set it up, the aim is not to have so many tabs open together at once.
Safari has another neat little feature that you might find useful—if you Cmd+click on a tab and then choose Arrange Tabs By, you can order your open tabs based on the website they’re showing (handy for grouping pages from the same domain together), or by the title of the page itself (which can sometimes help with managing lots of online documents).
With Google Chrome only just rolling out something approaching advanced tab management, third-party developers have rushed in to fill the gap and give you better ways of keeping on top of your tabs, especially when it comes to Chrome and Firefox (Chrome extensions will also run on Edge, as they share the same base code).
OneTab for Chrome and Firefox cuts down on tab clutter and saves memory on your computer as well. It works like a repository for your open tabs—you can send them to OneTab while you’re not using them, then bring them back with a click when they’re needed again. It’s simple to use and will even spot duplicate tabs for you, so you’re not saving the same pages over and over again.
Then there’s Tab Manager Plus for Chrome and Firefox. Click the extension button and a pop-up window appears, giving you a favicon-based overview of all the tabs that are currently open, sorted by window. You can search through open tabs, get the add-on to look for duplicate tabs, create custom groups of tabs, drag tabs between windows, and plenty more besides.
If you click on Options (the wrench icon) up in the top right corner of the extension’s pop-up window, you can set a tab limit for each window. Once you reach that limit, opening up a new tab will create a new window, and the process starts again. It saves you generating too many tabs in the same space in your browser.
Tab Session Manager for Chrome and Firefox, meanwhile, gives you all the functionality you need to organize your tabs. It shows you what’s currently open, it lets you save single tabs and groups of tabs to come back to later (without having to keep them on screen), it lets you sort your tab groups with names and tags, and it’ll even sync your collections of tabs between devices.
The beauty of Tab Session Manager is that you can just clear out the mass of tabs that you currently have open, sweep them into the extension’s database to come back to later, and then start again from scratch. There’s an integrated search tool too, which enables you to quickly look up tabs if you want to get back to them.
The last add-on we want to highlight is the Great Suspender for Chrome. It doesn’t have the same sort of tab management tools as the other add-ons we’ve mentioned here, but it does put tabs to sleep after a certain amount of time, saving precious system resources on your computer until the tab is needed again. If you’re looking for something similar that works on Firefox, try Tab Suspender.
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