Why You Should Never Have More Than Nine Browser Tabs Open

I often hear people complain that their browser is slow and unstable. It’s easy to blame browser developers for using sloppy coding practices and not managing memory correctly, but in my experience there’s a more common element: people who insist on having dozens of browser tabs open at once. That’s an unproductive and pointless practice and everyone should stop it immediately.

Nine picture from Shutterstock

Open enough browser tabs and it doesn’t matter whether you’re running Chrome or Firefox or IE or Safari or Opera: your system is going to slow down and eventually your browser will crash altogether, quite possibly bringing your entire environment down with it. Quite aside from that performance drama, there are at least four obvious reasons why having multiple tabs open is pointless.

1. You Can’t See What’s In Them Anyway

“I want to be able to refer to that later” is the underlying argument of many chronic new tab openers. But when you have so many tabs open that you can’t see the anything but the favicons, you’ll waste lots of time hunting down that one elusive page. With nine open, you can see the page titles easily.

2. Your Browser History Is A Better Solution

You run into an interesting article and figure you’ll check it out later. You don’t need to keep it open — your browser is tracking your history. As long as you can remember one or two keywords, you can easily hunt it down when you want it. Your computer is more efficient at searching than you are. Let it do the work.

3. You Can’t Process That Much Information Simultaneously

Dozens of open tabs signifies either procrastination on a truly epic scale or a chronic inability to focus on the immediate task at hand. Either way, it’s not the sign of someone working efficiently. I work as a journalist — sourcing information from multiple sources is a big part of the job — but I don’t kid myself I need thirty of them open at once. Absorb the data from one place, then move on.

4. It Wastes Good Keyboard Shortcuts

Those reasons easily justify not having multiple tabs open, but why pick 9 as the upper limit? Simple: every modern browser supports using Ctrl-1 to go to the first open tab, Ctrl-2 to the second, Ctrl-3 to the third and so on. If you have windows that are constantly open (your mail client, social networking, content management systems), you can keep them in the same location and switch to the instantly using the keyboard. Granted, this still works even if you have 40 open, but it makes sense to match the available shortcuts with your screen real estate. (Control-9 always jumps to the last tab, however many you have open, by the way.)

The next time you’re asked to support someone who can’t control their Control-T-loving fingers, tell them to ease back on the tabs. Life will be better for everyone, I promise.

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