In recent months, I’ve spent entirely too much time figuring out better ways to manage all my browser tabs. I’ve turned websites into web apps, tried some specialized web browsers and browser extensions, and stepped up my window management chops.
And yet, the latest version of the Vivaldi web browser still feels like an “aha” moment with a new feature called “two-level tab stacking.” Essentially, it lets you combine multiple tabs into groups, then view them in a secondary row of tabs. It’s a way to keep all of your tabs in a single window while still giving them room to breathe, and it’s brilliant. Every browser ought to copy it.
Vivaldi first launched in late 2015, fashioning itself as a Chrome alternative for power users. It uses the same Chromium engine as Google’s browser, so it supports all the same basic features and extensions, but it’s much more customizable and offers extra features such as programmable keyboard shortcuts and a built-in notepad.
Although Tab Stacking was one of Vivaldi’s original features, I never cared much for that particular iteration, which used pop-up menus to show the contents of each tab group. To me, it required too much hovering around and slowed down the process of switching between tabs. Two-level tab stacking solves the problem by showing all your tabs when you click on a stack. You can also name each stack (by right-clicking and selecting “Rename Tab Stack”) to help remember what’s inside before clicking.
Vivaldi’s stacking feature does bear some resemblance to the existing “Tab Group” feature in Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. In all three browsers, you can group tabs together by dragging one slightly on top of the other (enabling this in Edge requires some extra steps), and both Chrome and Edge let you collapse a group until you need to access its contents. But because Chrome and Edge group everything into a single row, you still end up with too much clutter. Vivaldi’s approach is so clever that it’s making me contemplate switching back to it as my primary web browser.
Ideally, though, other browser makers would take the idea and run with it. Once you start thinking beyond the single-row paradigm, there are lots of ways they could expand on the concept. I’d love it if you could just have a second tab row without having to create any groups, or have additional rows for viewing multiple groups at once. Browser makers could even engage in a game of one-upmanship to see who can get away with the most tab bars, like Gillette and Schick battling over razor blades.
Perhaps we could even reverse the trend—kicked off by Google many years ago—of web browsers slimming down their menu bars to make more room for web page content, instead using that reclaimed space for better tab management. Otherwise, Vivaldi will remain in a league of its own.