How To Browse The Web Using Tabs (For Beginners)

For many of us, tabbed browsing is ingrained in our muscle memory like breathing, but shockingly, some people don't even know their browser can open multiple pages in one window. Show those people this guide to get them rolling with tabbed browsing.

To help you out in the tech support role you always seem to have, we're offering easy-to-email guides to teach beginners the basics of using a computer. Today we're going to cover the basics of tabbed browsing.

Tabs versus Windows

So you've got that nice, big window you use to browse the web. You can type in the address bar, but if you want to open another page without closing the one you have, you're stuck. Maybe you know how to open a new window (File > New window), but that can clutter up your desktop quickly—before you know it you have 10 different windows strewn about the lace. Luckily, there's another solution you may not have known about: tabs.

Tabs are a way to open up multiple web pages at one time in the same window. It won't put those web pages side-by-side or clutter up your desktop, it just adds them to a bar at the top of your window that you can switch between by clicking on them. Here's how to use them.

Opening A New Tab

Say you're in the middle of an insightful comment on your friend's Facebook wall, but you want to make sure you fact-check your statement. You want to open Wikipedia, but you can't do so without leaving Facebook, or opening a cluttered new window. Not to fret, that's what tabs are for.

Head to the File menu and click "New Tab". You'll notice that you now have two different web pages listed in the top of your browser window, and the one that has focus is blank. From there, you can type in, check your source, and then click on the Facebook tab to get back to what you were doing. No extra windows, no interrupted work. You can open as many tabs as you want at one time, and switch between them easily, making web browsing a whole lot more convenient.

To close a tab, just hover over the small "x" on the side of the tab (it'll be either on the left-hand side or the right-hand side of the tab, depending on what browser you're using).

Speeding Up the Process: Keyboard Shortcuts

So you're feeling pretty good about your tabbed browsing skills, and you want to make it a little quicker—going to File > New Tab isn't exactly fast. If you want to save yourself a little time, you can open a tab without even taking your fingers off the keyboard: just hit Ctrl+T. (If you're on a Mac, hit Command+T instead. The Command key is the one with the squiggly on it, next to your spacebar). You'll notice a new tab opens immediately, awaiting your marching orders. Pretty easy, huh?

Opening A Link In A New Tab

Okay, so you've fallen in love with tabs, and the keyboard shortcuts are nice, but the fact of the matter is you don't manually navigate to every page you visit on the web. You're usually clicking on links. If you find that you want to click on a link without losing your place on the page you're on, you can easily open that link in a new tab with a simple right click.

Click on the link with your right mouse button and choose the "Open Link in New Tab" option. A new tab will sweep open, just as before, but it won't be blank—it'll be the page that link led to. That way, you can come back to that page later, when you're finished with the page you're on (or vice versa). All it took was two clicks, and you didn't even have to lose your place!

Be careful. Once you start browsing with tabs, it becomes addictive. One minute you're checking your email, the next minute you have 10 different Wikipedia articles open and you don't know how you got there. But at least they aren't cluttering up your desktop, right?


    Can't believe you missed this: middle click on a link opens a new tab, and middle click anywhere on the table closes it, instead of aiming for the little "x".

      Middle-click is far from a universally available feature, and mentioning it in a beginner's would confuse a lot of people.

        Are you kidding?
        I've been teaching people that since it became a feature and I've never had anyone have any sort of trouble grasping it.
        It's a button on the mouse ffs. :|

          It's a button on some mice - not all, and not on trackpads.

    How do get tabs at the bottom instead of the top
    and would it be better?

      In Opera you can right click anywhere on the tab bar and look under the menu item "Tab placement". (Go Opera for inventing tabbed browsing!). I suspect there are similar options on other browsers.

      To answer the other question, it can be useful to have it on the side, particularly since many monitors these days are wide screen, and many sites (e.g. lifehacker) may only occupy the middle third of the screen. This gives you more vertical space, and you also get to see the thumbnails of each page.

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