Way back, when the web was a much smaller place, people opened a single browser window to view one site at a time. That changed in the early 2000s, when the top web browser makers popularized tabbed browsing—allowing a single program window to hold two, three, four, even a dozen or more open sites at once. Tabs have since become a staple of online multitasking, such as research projects or price comparisons. It’s tough to imagine browsing without them.
But they can also easily get out of hand. As the crammed-in tabs get smaller and smaller, it becomes impossible to read the title on each and get back to a site you know you’ve opened somewhere. And if one or more of those sites have auto-playing videos or other multimedia elements, your system can grind to a crawl running them all.
Luckily, browser makers and utility developers have crafted tools that make it easier to wrangle the multitudinous tabs you’ve opened. Here are the best options for Chrome and Firefox—consider making a voluntary payment to developers who accept them—plus some additional tips for effective tab management.
1. See what you’ve got open
Rather than clicking through all those browser tabs to see what pages you’ve opened, you can get a pop-up list of open tabs that you can navigate between or select to close. Clutter Free does the job in Chrome. For Firefox, Tree Style Tab expands the Sidebars feature in Firefox, adding the option to view a list of open tabs.
2. Put your must-have tools in pinned tabs
You may want some sites, like your webmail, to open every time you launch the browser. Both Chrome and Firefox let you “pin” tabs that automatically load sites of your choice.
In Chrome, open a new tab, right-click on that tab, and select Pin tab from the dropdown menu. In Firefox, open a tab, click the three-dots icon on the right end of the address bar, and select Pin Tab from the dropdown.
3. Close resource-hogging tabs
Open tabs can suck a lot of resources. Instead of manually clicking on each tab to review it, use a utility called OneTab, available as both a Chrome extension and a Firefox add-on. Clicking its icon closes all your tabs, but presents a list of them, allowing you to restore any or all tabs at will. It even lists tabs opened in earlier browsing sessions.
4. Bulk-copy your tab URLs
Say you’ve opened a bunch of tabs that you want to share with someone else—like a list of hotel options for a trip with friends or family. These utilities save you from having to click on each tab to manually copy the links.
In Chrome, Copy All Urls creates a list that you can paste into an email or other document. Firefox’s Email Tabs opens a pop-up list of open tabs. You can select any or all of them, and choose to either copy the links or auto-generate a Gmail message (Outlook and Yahoo support are in the works.)
5. Save tabs to Pocket
Pocket is a great free site for saving copies of and links to web pages so you can easily return to them. These utilities save all the open tabs to Pocket at once. (Each requires that you to sign in to Pocket to allow access.)
6. Search smarter
When you come across a word or term you don’t know, you needn’t manually open a new tab to do a web search.
In either Chrome or Firefox, you can highlight the word or words in question, right-click on the highlighted text to open a pop-up menu of options, and select “Search [default search engine] for [highlighted text].” The browser will use the default search engine you’ve set in Chrome or Firefox.