There's a strange joy in keeping 20 tabs open and pretending you have the ability to multitask and actually manage all of them. But in reality, most browsers buckle under the pressure of too many tabs and you start to lose track of what you have open. Thankfully, there's a few great remedies for this. We'll take a look at some of the best tab management tools for Firefox and Chrome that accomplish a variety of different tasks.
Utilise the Built-In Tab Management Tools in Shortcuts for Chrome and Firefox
Over the years, Chrome and Firefox have worked in a few clever solutions to tab management. While they still don't offer the control of dedicated extension, casual users that don't feel it necessary to keep every page they visit open can make good use of some built-in shortcuts and options.
- Sync Open Tabs: One of the handy features in Chrome is the fact it's tied into your Google account. Subsequently, it stores all kinds of data, including your tabs. After you enable the sync tab feature by typing chrome://flags/ into Chrome and click "Enable syncing open tabs", it syncs every tab you have open and allows you to swap all your current pages over to a new computer. Even better is the ability to do the exact same thing on newer Android devices.
- Pin Tabs: One of the dangers of operating a lot of tabs is that you may close an important tab. To keep this from happening, right-click the tab you want to keep open and select "Pin Tab". This shrinks the tab down to just the favicon. Pinning it saves screen real estate and ensures you won't accidentally close it.
- Use Your Shortcuts: You have several important shortcuts for navigating tabs. First, Control+Tab moves to the tab on the right, Control+Alt+Tab moves to the left (on Macs it's Command+Option+Right Arrow and Command+Option+Left Arrow). The other big shortcut to know is reopening a closed tab, Control+Shift+T. This saves you the pain of having to dig through your history to find an accidentally-closed tab.
- Bookmark All Tabs: If you need to just walk away for the day but don't want to lose all your open tabs you can select Bookmarks > Bookmark All Tabs to create a custom folder for all you open bookmarks. It's a great way to remember and store information.
- Separate Tabs Into Groups: The handiest feature in Firefox is its built-in tab management tool. When your tabs get out of hand, click the arrow in the upper right corner of your Firefox browser and select "Tab Groups". You can organise and group them into smaller sections so you can easily pull them all up later.
- Pin Tabs: Like Chrome, Firefox also has a Pin Tab feature. Right-click any open tab and select "Pin as App Tab". This shrinks down the tab to prevent you from closing it.
- Control How Firefox Uses Tabs: Firefox allows you to control how it handles tabs when you open and close the browser in the settings menu. Click Tools > Options (or Firefox > Preferences on a Mac) and click the "Tabs" button. You can change some of the default behaviour for how Firefox handles tabs and restores tabs.
- Bookmark All Tabs: Firefox comes packed with the same quick and easy ways to bookmark all your tabs as Chrome, and it's even located in the same place: Bookmarks > Bookmark All Tabs. You can store your open tabs in any bookmarks folder you like.
Organise Tabs in a Visual Way
The biggest problem with managing a stack of open tabs is the fact that you need all that data, but it's difficult to quickly find exactly what you're looking for. To solve this problem, extensions strive to make the idea of flipping through tabs a more visual experience.
If you're a more visual person and want to see all your tabs at once with a preview, TooManyTabs for Chrome is an extension that sits in your toolbar and shows you a pop-out preview of every open tab you have. If you prefer the look and feel of Firefox's Tab Groups, Tab Sugar mimics the idea in Chrome and allows you to group open tabs into categories with a simple drag and drop.
The aforementioned TooManyTabs is available for Firefox as well, but since Firefox already has a great visual tab manager, it's not quite as useful. For something completely different, Vertical Tabs throws all your tabs into a sidebar instead of on the top of the browser. It changes how you handle tabs, but it's useful for getting a quick look when you have 20-30 open tabs at a time.
Free Up Memory with Automatic Tab Closing
If tabbed browsing is something you do, but don't really utilise for any particular reason, you might want a way to shut down unused tabs to free up memory. This is great for people who open new tabs they don't really need, or just forget about them while the tabs suck away resources.
Tab Wrangler is an extension that automatically closes down unused tabs after a set number of minutes and allows you to reopen them at any point. If you're looking for an automatic solution to your tab problem, this is a handy tool. TabWrangler can also lock certain web pages so they never close.
AutoClose Tabs offers the same features as Tab Wrangler with a few visual cues so you can save a tab before it closes. It also protects unread tabs from closing automatically, so if you're taking a while to get through a list of links, it doesn't shut them down until you view them.
Archive and Save Every Tab Currently Opened
Chances are if you're operating with a heap of tabs you're researching something. But every day has to come to an end and if you don't feel like stuffing every individual open tab into a bookmark, you might want a simple way to restore exactly what you have so you can reopen all your research later.
Tab.bz is built to share your open tabs with other people, but it's more useful to use it for yourself. One click on the extension and your entire session is archived in a single URL that you can open later. If you prefer to archive what you have for offline viewing, ZipTabs compresses every open tab into a zip file so you can take it where you want to go.
We had trouble finding a good way to download all your open tabs for offline viewing for Firefox, but if you want to save your session in the cloud, TabCloud does just that (it's also available for Chrome). The benefit of the cloud is that you can easily open your session on another computer if you like.
Send Tabs to Mobile Devices
Sometimes you might get sick of sitting in front of a computer and want to wander off with your open tabs or continue reading on your tablet. It's pretty easy to send your tabs to your phone.
In order to send your open tabs to an Android or iPhone, you need one of two extensions: Chrome to Phone or Site to Phone. Chrome to Phone will send your open tabs to an Android device, whereas Site to Phone handles third-party devices like iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 and webOS. If you want another option to send tabs directly to an iPhone, SendTab works well, but costs 99c; in the App Store. The aforementioned Tab Sync feature in Chrome should also solve the problem if you're using the Chrome browser on a Android device.
Like Chrome, you have the same two options to send links to your phone: Fox to Phone and Site to Phone. If you're looking to sync across devices, the built-in Firefox Sync (Tools > Options > Sync or Firefox > Preferences > Sync on a Mac) allows you to sync open tabs across multiple computers or to Firefox mobile.
Quickly Hide All Your Open Tabs
There's always the chance you have so many tabs open because you went down a path of distractions. You started researching something for work, but ending up on Queen Elizabeth's Wikipedia page. If you need to quickly hide your tabs when your boss walks in, it's easy to do.
PanicButton for Chrome gives you one-click access to hide all your open tabs and save them as bookmarks in a folder. So if your boss is creeping up behind you, you can quickly hide everything you're doing and save the session for when the boss walks out the door.
Firefox has its own, slightly different version of Panic Button that works well to quickly hide all your open tabs when someone sneaks up behind you. A click of the button or hotkey and your tabs disappear without losing you session.
Upgrade Your Settings and Get More Control Over Tab Behavior
All of the tricks for solving single problems are great, but if you're looking to take control over your tabs you may need to dig into their default behaviours. Firefox has one of the best extensions for this, but you can still get some basic customisation in Chrome.
Unfortunately, there's no one single way to upgrade your tab options in Chrome, but if you combine Bookmarks Menu and Chrome Toolbox, you can change the default behaviours for how tabs are opened, add confirmations and change shortcuts. It isn't as robust as Firefox's option below, but it will at least give you quick access to alter default tab behaviour.
Tab Mix Plus is the closest thing to an all-in-one tab manager for Firefox. If handles nearly every aspect listed above and helps keep your tabbed browsing organised and under control. You can duplicate tabs, control focus, reopen closed tabs, manage sessions and handle when pages load. The only problem is that it's rather overwhelming for the casual user, but if you're looking for a single extension that does almost everything you can imagine, Tab Mix Plus is where you want to start.
Whether you're a tabbing power-user or you need some help making sense of just a few open tabs, there's probably an extension designed to solve your specific problem. Have a favourite tab utility for your browser? Share it in the comments.