How to Become a Tab Pro

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September 26, 2011

All my friends used to make fun of my tab usage. I don’t blame them either; at any given moment in a browsing section, I would have anywhere from 20 to 40 tabs opened in one window. Everyone would tell me to stop middle-clicking every link to open in a new tab, but to me, having that original Google search really helps if the tabs I open at first aren’t as helpful as I would like. Then, I just delete the unhelpful tabs, and go back to the Google results page that I left open.

My Evolution of Tab Usage

First, let me explain my current ideal setup of tab management. In a perfect world, I could select multiple tabs from a browsing session (perhaps through holding shift and clicking the tabs I’d like to select) and create a group from the tabs selected or move them into an existing group. I could nest these tab groups like folders, and they would not take up any system memory until I need to access them to continue browsing the topic of that group. Not only would I be able to save browsing sessions, I could save tab groups as well, and I could recall any session or tab group at any time of my choosing. There is still no browser out that can do what I just described, even with a plethora of extensions added in.

There are various tab management tools out there, and there have been for a while, but I’ve never found one that has quite managed to do what I want. To my knowledge as a fledgling web-crawler, Firefox offered the earliest tab management extensions that I found useful. However, to get the most optimal tab management setup, I ended up having to install several (like 3 to 5) tab extensions to really get a browser with the capabilities I wanted. Even with all the extensions installed, Firefox would start to act a little funky, with tab extensions behaving unusually and the browser itself being quite prone to crashing.

After a good year or so of trying to get Firefox to work to my liking, I switched to Google Chrome – which at the time didn’t have any extensions or tab management (beyond saving the tabs open when you close the browser) – and decided to just use a browser that didn’t crash and not worry about tab groups and session saves.

Session Buddy for Chrome

After a while, Chrome finally offered extensions, and I started using Session Buddy. Session Buddy is a nice but limited tab management extension. You can save any session you have open, deleting any open tabs you’d like from the save. However, you can’t group tabs unless they are open in separate windows.

I tried out this browsing technique, having separate windows open for each topic. It works well if you go through the trouble of remembering to create a new window for every new topic you browse. This task can be more challenging and tedious than it appears. Often times, I will start to open a couple tabs with  a slight tangent to the topic that I’m researching, and pretty soon I will have a window that is half one topic, half another. Separating these topics into separate windows is not as easy as it should be; you have to pick out each tab individually from the original window and place them into the new one.

Tab Groups Manager for Firefox

After getting tired of having 10 windows open at a time to control my tab count, I figured maybe I should go back to Firefox and see if things have changed (it helps the Firefox 4 had just released). I remember Tab Groups Manager from my early days of using Firefox, but its features are much improved.

First off, I did not need to install any other tab management addon. I have a very meticulous level of tab management at my fingertips just from installing this one extension, which is amazing. The addon is quite simple: On top of your regular tab bar of the browser is the Tab Groups Manager bar, which allows you to create new groups for your tabs and “hibernate” (essentially save for later) any tab groups that you aren’t currently using and don’t want to take your system memory.

As you can see in the picture above, your tab groups are labeled by “name(number of tabs).” You can drop and drag any tab into any other group or you can drag a whole group out of the current window into a new one. The only feature I would like to see added to this addon would be a multiple tab selection function session (perhaps through holding shift and clicking the tabs I’d like to select) that allows me to send those select tabs to any existing or new group. At the moment, I still have to drop and drag each tab individually. Still, I find this easier than having to drop and drag tabs to whole other windows (as the windows often overlap). So, at the moment, I am using Firefox solely for its Tab Groups Manager.

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