How to use Chrome’s tab manager to declutter your browser
I have three browser windows open at all times, each filled to the brim with tabs. It’s a bit of a mess.
A few months ago, though, I noticed that my Google Chrome browser was trying to help me out. A pop-up notice shared a hot tip: I could right-click tabs and group them together.
My tabs were already clumped together based on different topics (over there were the COVID-19 stat sites I always check; farther over, videos for a Tesla Full-Self Driving story; and then in a different window a few tabs on outdoor restaurant ideas). This slick trick collapsed a dozen related tabs under a main labeled one, but you could collapse many, many more than that into one tidy tab.
Apparently Chrome launched the new tabs organizer back in August 2020, but I first noticed and started using it this year after a few updates. I’ve had a few months to see how it works and compare it to other third-party tab management tools I’ve used before. Here are the key takeaways.
Keep labels short
When grouping tabs, the whole point is to consolidate space. If you name each grouped tab something long, it elongates the tab and defeats the whole purpose.
Here I grouped together tabs for two different stories about Tesla (“FSD”) and about car alerts (“hot car”). Expanded, you can see all the individual links. Or you can only display the main label and know all the tabs are tucked away. Which leads us to the next step in organizing your webpages …
Embrace color coding
When making a new tabs group by right-clicking on a tab, you need to name it and pick a color. For different groupings you can select different colors, or you can stick with just gray or blue or one of the six other colors available. If you already have a color label for a certain topic in your Gmail inbox (financial information, say, is green), you can line that up with your tab color scheme.
Wrangle a lot of tabs
To start tackling your tabs, right click on each tab to add them to any groups you’ve created in that browser. Once you have a grouping you can also choose to open them in a new window dedicated to only that group of tabs. If you want to undo all your organizing simply click “ungroup” after right-clicking or if it’s just one link you no longer need, just remove that specific tab.
Don’t get too attached
I found out the hard way that your tab groupings aren’t so permanent. When my computer crashed and my browsers closed, Chrome restored each window, but the groupings didn’t survive. I was hopeful that if I right clicked on an empty new tab all my labels would show up, but no dice. I had to start over from scratch. This made me consider using the OneTab extension again since that would save everything no matter what went down.
While the built-in tabs manager makes the browser feel lighter and cleaner, with more room to breathe, the tabs are still running and loaded even if you can’t see them. A popular third-party Chrome browser extension called the Great Suspender would effectively “pause” each webpage that you suspended. But the Great Suspender was shut down for malware in February with only a few alternatives, like the OneTab extension, which doesn’t pause sites. Instead it copies all your URLs onto a long list of links that you then have to reopen, so it’s not actually that similar.
Unfortunately, Chrome’s tab tool isn’t a substitute for the defunct browser tool. Each page is still using up computing power, so your sea of tabs slows your computer even behind a label. But at least you can bask in a cleaner, better organized browser.
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