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Overcoming Tab Overload (cmu.edu)
182 points by tmfi on May 14, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 233 comments

I just wish there were a way to save page state along with a bookmark or similar.

Sometimes I'd really like to close a ton of tabs, or just close my browser, or a whole window, and reopen tomorrow.

But I'm relying on scroll position to know where I am in 20 different documents, or login credentials that only last for 24 hours, or certain comment threads that have been expanded while others have been collapsed, or my position in a video, etc etc etc.

And all of that gets lost if I close a tab or even restart my browser to upgrade.

I just want to serialize the current DOM/source files and JavaScript/window state to unserialize it later. Sure, network connections will break but websites can usually handle that.

Because while the organization/usage of tabs/bookmarks is one thing, a HUGE roadblock to closing tabs is losing state.

I'm sure it wouldn't be even close to trivial for browsers to build, but it still would just be so helpful.

This is (bugs withstanding) what Firefox does if you choose to"Restore previous session" int the General/Startup section of about:preferences . This feature is provided by a Gecko component called the the session store (https://searchfox.org/mozilla-central/source/toolkit/compone...).

Yeah I've been relying on this for about a year and have been really impressed. It's the first restore browser session I've ever used that just works. I never get "oops corrupted session, start over!" errors, etc like I used to get with chrome. Everything just fires back up with all the tabs, all the extensions, even all the different browser windows I had before. And it handles ungraceful shutdowns/restarts really well (which sadly are far, far too common on this early generation Ryzen APU laptop and the current mainline Linux kernel :( ).

What makes it especially nice is that it doesn't reaload all the tabs at restart. Rather it waits until you switch to an old tab before it restores its state. This means you start up much faster and you're not consuming gobs of resources either.

Exactly! Yeah I have dozens of tabs open and never fear restarting the session. Hats off to the dev that implemented it--it's a really well thought out and implemented feature.

Thanks, that seems really useful.

I sometimes need to restart my computer but don't want to lose all my Firefox windows and tabs, so I would force kill Firefox and have it restore the 'crashed' session after rebooting. That did work very well, but this is a much cleaner solution.

BTW if you have N windows and you want to quit Firefox without closing any of the windows:

File > Exit (ctrl-shift-q)

Would be great if the bookmark all tabs feature could capture state in that way.

> And all of that gets lost if I close a tab or even restart my browser to upgrade.

Or when you just visit a link and then press the back-button.

I remember 20 years ago you would press the back-button and your previous page was IMMEDIATELY restored, no network request involved.

It feels like today the browser cache isn't used at all. This is especially disappointing with the new Firefox Mobil where they removed offline-mode among other features.

I think this depends on the website implementation / headers. For example, for any SPA, you hit the back button and get what you had before, often times no network requests made at all because local data caching.

As a web developer I see having control over this rather than the web browser as a good thing.

Was a time that the cache pragma / reload interval could be explicitly set by the client.

As much as ensuring current data is sometimes relevant, having a tab show up empty, with a 404 (linkrot), or with some redirect to utterly unrelated content is ... not serenity-inducing.

Mozilla's operating premise is that the browser serves users, not publishers. That promise rings somewhat hollow these days, though I enthusiastically applaud the concept.

With Chrome (at least on Windows), if you use task manager to kill the Chrome process, then run Chrome again, it will ask you if you want to restore the tabs. It will remember all of them, and the point (scroll position) of each tab.

Clearly Chrome is keeping this info up-to-date in case it crashes (or someone kills it in task manager). So if its already doing this, they should add in a feature to to it manually, so I don't need to kill the task.

On Mac, it asks to restore tabs, but it simply reloads each tab from scratch, whenever you navigate to that tab.

It absolutely does not remember scroll position, much less any of the remaining state of the page.

history > recently closed > open n tabs

This does not appear to be available in your full history, though

Hi. I may have something for ya. I'm building Amna (https://getamna.com) which manages tabs with tasks.

Amna can do this (kind of). If you don't explicitly "close" a a browser window within Amna, it will just minimize the window. So it preserves the state (e.g scroll), while still giving you freedom to work on something else with a clean slate. It's not perfect, since the tabs aren't really closed, they'd be just out of sight. But it's a start in that direction. On the flip-side, in case your computer shuts down or whatever, the tabs are saved still.

One challenge I've run into state preservation is auth, a lot of websites actually log you out (e.g. AWS Console, Sendgrid), even if you have them open in the background.

Is it possible to import tasks from other systems? Across my business we already use asana, trello, Jira and Monday, and there's also Google tasks in Gmail. Right now I use tacoapp to bring them all into one screen, literally just the title and link to the task.

Can you do something similar?

Thanks for sharing, I hadn’t heard of taco app before.

That’s where I want to get to. For now you can import Google or Microsoft Tasks.

I’ve been working on a integrations library for all of these services:


I would also like to be able to bookmark a page along with saving its contents entirely as a snapshot (the text of the page, a screenshot of the page, a PDF of the page, or all of the above) in some standard format. That way I can do a full-text search through my past tabs or bookmarks to find what I am looking for, and look at it again, even if the site is presently inaccessible. Is there anything that does that? Or any software that can automatically do that for all the bookmarks I've accumulated (especially those behind logins)?

Zotero is exactly what you’re looking for.

SingleFile has an option to save bookmarked pages.

I wanted such thing too (it is only one of very many things I would want in a new web browser program). I would also want to be able to save it to a file with a documented format, so that it can be examined, edited, copied, etc. Such a feature is then capable of doing other things too, such as a "duplicate tab" command, etc, which you can get almost "for free" when such a thing is implemented. (I also want the separate ability to save only form data to a file; sometimes saving the entire state is not wanted.)

Is it end to end encrypted?

This is a huge problem for me as well. If you find something please report back! It would be a huge benefit to me as well!

Perhaps Webmemex is what you are looking for? https://blog.webmemex.org/

More specifically freeze-dry, code for page state saving: https://github.com/WebMemex/freeze-dry

There is a browser I use for a lot of this called Sidekick https://www.meetsidekick.com/

I found it's good for organizing tabs and creating different sessions for different tasks. It works on most pages pretty well but every once and a while I still have to go into a standard chrome browser to make sure I'm still seeing the same page as other folks. Still pretty great overall. I save multiple different session types easily and don't have to worry about losing where I'm at.

> a way to save page state along with a bookmark or similar.

This is next on the todo list for the browser I'm writing. I have a lot of ideas for it but I want to get some basic javascript working first.

So did some Chrome developers back in 2015. From https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2015/09/tab-discar...:

> Future improvements: the tab serializer

> The tab serializer is a future piece of work we think may lead to significant improvements on our current approach to tab discarding. It takes the contents of a Chrome tab and serializes its current state into a binary blob. This binary blob can later be deserialized into a tab.

> The serializer would serialize almost everything Chrome, Blink and V8 need to properly preserve a tab (something Chrome extensions tackling this problem historically haven't been able to easily achieve). Serialization would include the usual suspects: the DOM (with a lot of WebGL and Canvas included), CSS and the state of the V8 JavaScript VM.

> If you use Android or ChromeOS, you may know that (similar to the tab discarding experiment covered in this post) we kill background tabs aggressively in order to ensure memory usage is low. The issue with the way we tackle this was that your tab would lose all of its state.

> When you showed interest in the tab again, we would have to reload it and all your interaction with it would be lost. The tab serializer just approaches this problem in a way that gets you back to almost exactly what you were without requiring going back to the network.

> We look forward to sharing more information about this work at a later date.

6 years later, we have... wait for iiiiiit... something called "freeze-dried tabs": https://www.xda-developers.com/google-chrome-89-freeze-dried...

It basically presents a pseudo-image of the current tab while the actual tab is loading in the background. The pseudo-picture contains text and image drawing commands so it can be zoomed in and out, and it's a snapshot of the entire webpage (probably subject to limitations I'm yet to identify). It's not interactive though beyond having a concept of "hit targets" for anchor elements, and AFAIK Android's only using it to speed up perceived browser startup at the moment (so not for tab switching).

To me, the fact that this silly feature has shipped on Android ("THE" platform), and for the most part very imperfectly filled the vacuum that would have been a canonically perfect match for tab serialization, is fairly concrete signal that tab serialization will never be implemented. D:

I can admittedly sorta appreciate that WebGL and DRM state would probably be tricky to perfectly save - the text says "a lot of", suggesting that the feature would sometimes fail and produce an inconsistent experience. Hmph. That would be better than nothing. And it's not like Google couldn't go look at how Firefox does it for ideas....

Sometimes I just wish a bunch of rich millionaires with no idea what to do with their money would make a giant big deal about _paying Google_ to implement specific obscure features into Chrome - like this one :D. It would cause all sorts of hilarious chaos in terms of processing the payment, which would itself make for excessively amusing headlines about feature prioritization and such.

Chrome's response to numerous power-user / user-respect features over the past 15 years has absolutely convinced me that it has no interest in supporting either notion.

Audio/video autoplay, adblock, tabs navigation and retrieval, user state generally, and more.

I still use Chrome on Android in two cases:

1. On an old device in which Firefox/Fennec performance is abysmal. (On a newer device, there's no contest, and Fennec wins out for general browsing.)

2. For print-to-PDF on the newer device (Fennec seems to have lost this functionality, along with a number of other highly useful features).

Otherwise, I avoid it like the plague. As well as Android in general.

What mobile browser you like? Safari? Firefox is pretty good on a modern android phone (my Mate 20 Pro)

Quite frankly, none.

Fennec is the least objectionable, generally. EinkBro is quite well-suited to e-ink devices.


... Generally, mobile was a mistake.

(I can understand all the reasons why it happened, and who finds it attractive among users, but still, it's a horrible environment.)

Minimize window?

Tree style tabs on the side of my window absolutely changed my computing life. I stopped seeing tabs as a collection of what Im doing and instead started using them + the browsers inclination to save my tabs across restarts to track everything.

Ill have a tree of tabs for blogs im reading, a tree for work stuff, a tree for amazon orders, etc. All that context can be closed in a single click. Ill have hundreds of tabs open (but asleep!) and just pick the tree im interested in. Dont need to save bookmarks or save articles for later - they are all there always.

I’d like to try this. What browser do you use? I see that it’s a feature for Vivaldi and I also see a Chrome extension.

Not OP, but Tree Style Tabs is for Firefox.

Thank you so much for sharing! This is a game changer - I'd been using two separate windows and manually dragging things around like a noob.

Now you also probably see why many of us prefer Firefox.

And: this might be hard to believe but it was much better before - extension wise.

I switched to Firefox for Tree Style Tabs.

I only stay with Firefox for tree style tabs.

I think, the day chrome makes TST possible, is the day Firefox loses a large fraction of it's remaining power users.

All except us who will cling as to not give Google a way to make ad blocking impossible. And for me it is actually not about the ads, it is about tracking power; about should decide what runs or not on my hardware.

I'd recommend more people think like this.

For me it is a small sacrifice for now at least.

Is this meaningfully different from the Firefox implementation?

I’m interested in trying.


Window-based task grouping (where that's possible) is ... somewhat tenable.

It's not available on Android / Mobile, of course, but on any windowing desktop OS it's an option.

Firefox + Tree Style Tabs is still worlds ahead of this.

> Firefox + Tree Style Tabs is still worlds ahead of this.

imho the pinacle of tab-ui was pre-quantum firefox with tabkitv2.

tree style tabs is roughly on par with what opera delivered in the early 2000's or nowadays vivaldi.

I was probably using that, when it was around.

Good, and possibly better than today's TST, but still short of my goal(s). And that's without its instability (ISTR that crashing a fair bit.)

I'd like to be able to:

- Search tabs (by metadata).

- Search tabs (by content).

- Organise tabs by task / project. Including assigning open tabs to tasks, and possibly to multiple tasks.

- A sense of utility vs. info tabs. (Pinned tabs ... sort of does this. Examples might be webmail, chat app, or tools like a dictionary or other data-lookup page.)

- Arbitrarily grouping a set of tabs based on specifiable criteria, or UI-based multi-select.

- Taking actions based on those groupings (close, combine under a single tree, bookmark, print, save, etc.)

I'd have to think more on what sorts of things I'd be doing, but Web as Workflow is a major component of this. Current browser design seems entirely antithetical to this.

I made https://cretz.github.io/doogie/ to solve this, but I don't really maintain it (I just build it for myself on each new Chromium) and it doesn't work on Mac.

That looks awesome. I'm going to try it out. Do extensions work on it?

No. It's also a bit buggy and you'll want to compile with latest CEF yourself.

https://histre.com/ does tree-style web history visualization. This is a personal knowledge graph app I'm working on.

I highly recommend Tabs Outliner, a Chrome extension

A very pale shadow of TST.

I use Bookmark OS which lets me organize tab sessions in a folder tree structure. Worth checking out

I agree, I'm the same. People who sneer at large tab collections don't seem to realise that when they can be put to sleep, tidied away (various extensions allow groups to be folded), they are more like advanced bookmarks and working context. Or, they think there is no justification for having such collections.

For me they are working context for different projects over years. Working on project X a month ago? 6 months ago? Great, I can go back to where I was. People have told me I "need" to close all tabs and if I need working context, copy links and notes into some kind of knowledge-base. But I tried that, and in practice a "context switch" from project X to activity Y takes hours and occasionally days to write up. Making knowledge-base notes is valuable, I do it sometimes, and that's how I know how long it takes me. But it takes a long time so it's not always the best use of priority when activity Y beckons. There is usually not enough time.

I asked people what they do to tackle my sorts of projects. The answers were always the same: Some ums and ahs, and it turns out they don't. They just don't take on the same kinds of things. I would really like to learn from highly productive "clean desk" people, working on similar projects to mine, how it is done, but to the best of my knowledge I've never met one.

So sleepable tabs it is for now. There's still room for better organising. Tree style tabs aren't very searchable. The content of the pages is even less searchable, and it would be helpful if there were a way to go back in time to an earlier snapshot if the page is removed. I would really like them to be integrated into other tools. I tried Org-mode (I use Emacs all the time) but the one feature lacking in Org-mode is the ability to capture and show a collection of web page content decently, so it hasn't worked out for this kind of knowledge capture. There are commercial tools that claim to be what I'm really looking for, but I'm not going to store such a major part of my working life in closed commercial software.

I had to stop using the Tree Style Tabs extension for Firefox, unfortunately, because it was slowing down the browser terribly. This wasn't Firefox, or the tabs. It was the Tree Style Tabs extension.

It's probably some trivial algorithmic O(n²) somewhere, but it reached the point where opening a tab or clicking on a tab, or doing other things in Firefox that should be near-instant would take 5+ seconds, and the browser would take 5 minutes to start up, even though almost all tabs start up asleep. There is no good reason to be this slow, because most tabs are unloaded most of the time in Firefox. And indeed when I disabled TST but kept the tabs, everything became fast.

Sidebery. After trying out other extensions I settled on Sidebery, which is working out well so far. In particularly, it's very much faster than TST for large numbers of tabs, and doesn't appear to slow down the browser during non-tab operations. It's also working out nicely for me in other ways, and works reasonably well with containers.

(There are some quirks: Dragging sometimes just fails, refuses to move some tabs, or a tab even "disappears" until Sidebery is turned off and on again. Moving a list of tabs to another window can be very slow, about one a second. The "panels" tab-grouping feature is odd because it's the same list of tab-groups in every window, which doesn't make sense; in most of my windows there are empty panels as a result.)

Is what you're describing any different from just bookmarking all the tabs in a window to a new folder and closing the window?

That's what I do. And then just open the whole folder as tabs in a new window when I go back to something.

Then the advantage is that I can give the folder a name, a date, tags, nest it under a grouping of folders, etc.

Plus I can back up bookmarks which gives me huge peace of mind. I've been burned before by my browser "forgetting" my tabs before on restart, as well as browser sync bugs, so I don't put a ton of faith in the longevity of tabs.

Even if tabs are sleeping, if you have 100 different mini-projects going on from the past year, do you have... 100 different windows open all the time? How do you even find the window you need?

> Is what you're describing any different from just bookmarking all the tabs in a window to a new folder and closing the window?

Tabs are formed automatically, closed easily, and organized by the order you opened them in.

Bookmarks require going through a multi-step dialog, removing them requires another dialog, and they're organized by manually creating a nested folder hierarchy.

I think most excessive tab use is down to bookmarks not having the best UX.

yeah bookmark ux is so bad!! why so many dialogs and painful recall ability.

Why do you think you can't back up your tab session? I've had firefox corrupt the sessionstore file a few times over the years and when that happens I just open up Time Machine and restore the last good version.

There are many differences.

First, if you "open the whole folder", you have to wait for a few hundred tabs to open for a large project, a few tens for a small project. That's very slow and uses a lot of memory. They don't open quickly in the asleep state the same was as tab sessions do.

Then there is the maintenance of the folder. If you bookmark all tabs in a window to a folder, later you'll open the whole folder, do a bit of work, reading, whatever, then save to a new folder because the set of active items isn't the same as it was when you started. Now you have to delete the old folder, otherwise you'll end up with a different miserable problem: Huge numbers of folders of bookmarks, all slightly different.

You'll probably need to do this a few hundred times over the life of a big project, if you context switch like I do in and out of different projects. That's a lot of folder activity.

Sure you can date them, but do you remember why you didn't delete a folder, was it because you wanted to keep that one or just forgot?

You can't realistically update the bookmark folder incrementally as you go, because there is no visual indicator showing which of the currently active tabs in the window has a matching bookmark (or which bookmarks in the folder are now excess), and it's too onerous and difficult to bookmark each time you open a tab in that window and delete a bookmark each time you close a tab.

Then, there's context. It's a little thing, but remembering the scroll position is a useful cue for later, in a large article, though if some section or comment has a permalink I tend to click that before leaving the tab. Ideally I'd want to be able to annotate pages as well, to quickly note why I've kept that article, documentation, comment or whatever open, but we take what little we can get from the tools we have. (It's possible to select text regions in each tab, at least in Firefox, but I've never actually checked if those selections stay selected across a browser restart. Anyway, they disappear uncomfortably too easy to rely on.)

> Even if tabs are sleeping, if you have 100 different mini-projects going on from the past year, do you have... 100 different windows open all the time? How do you even find the window you need?

For perspective, I wouldn't say I do 100 mini projects in a year, it's fewer than that, but a number of them span multiple years.

I don't have 100 windows, I have currently 22, but it's temporary and will reduce. I consolidated some related things recently. Three windows are for my current work project, for which there are about 300 tabs. This is because there's an active working area window (GitHub etc), a collected-things-from-work-and-researched-items-for-work window, and another for activities on a different monitor like watching videos and shared notes.

With some tab management extensions you can make foldable groups - this is what people talk about with Tree Style Tabs, Sidebery (which I'm using now) and other hierarchical tab management extensions. This means you don't need 100 windows for 100 projects; you can effectively archive projects.

To even find Windows used to be very difficult until I started using an extension that lets me give names to Windows. Ironically the window-naming extension I use is Tab Count in Window Title, because I tried several others and they showed up as using more browser resources, so this is the one I use. Having the tab count is quite helpful anyway :-) (Because if I forgot to give a window a title, it still tends to have a a recognisable tab count and current page.) Now they all have names in the "Window" menu, and when moving around in the window manager. I find this useful for "Move to window" (by name) as well, which I use to move a tab that was opened in the wrong place or something ephemeral I decided to keep, to the appropriate window where I can go through and organise them a bit more later.

There's also a geographical aspect. Those browser windows are overlapping but not at quite the same place on the desktop, and they are different sizes. The locations work ok with my memory for recently used windows. MacOS's four-finger-swipe-down is good, and I position windows somewhat consciously to be helpful for this. Some of them are deliberately shaped as narrow rectangles, as a reminder they have queued items I need to organise (and then probably close that window).

There are a lot of improvements possible to this setup. I don't feel I've found what would be ideal for me. I have a fairly clear idea of what I'd like, but don't know any tool that comes close, and I don't have the spare time to write one. But bookmarks of URLs in linear lists or with basic folders, flat history lists that don't distinguish things I want to keep versus things I don't, are not it. I tried the history thing, it was very time consuming to recover the information I needed from it.

I'm in a very similar situation as you are regarding my browser usage and needs. I now have 46 windows open and 2.1K tabs open, but I've had at some point almost 70 windows and more than 7K tabs...

The most useful extensions I've found to manage this complexity are https://github.com/tpamula/webextension-window-titler and https://github.com/l10nelw/winger.

This is the script I made to bring up the firefox window I desire from the custom name I gave it using window-titler:

    #!/usr/bin/env bash
    # switches to the firefox window that starts with the provided word between brackets
    WIN=$(wmctrl -l | grep Firefox | grep "\[${NAME}")
    if [[ -z $WIN ]]; then
        echo "no window found"
    NUM_WINS=$(echo "$WIN" | wc -l)
    if [[ $NUM_WINS -ne "1" ]]; then
        echo -e "$NUM_WINS windows found, please be more specific:\n"
        for w in "$WIN"; do
            echo "$w" | cut -d' ' -f4-
    WIN_NAME=$(echo $WIN | cut -d' ' -f4-)
    WIN_ID=$(echo $WIN | cut -d' ' -f1)
    echo opening: $WIN_NAME
    wmctrl -iR $WIN_ID

And winger allows me to stash not-currently-needed windows in bookmarks, and restore them later...

This is a less than perfect system, but it's good enough for me for now.

Thank you for the brain dump. I liked that this came up. I used tree style tabs for a few years starting way back in maybe 2012, but eventually just abandoned it because of the same performance problems you mentioned. I didn't replace it with anything good, and was just recently getting annoyed at the state of things as i suddenly find myself context switching a lot on mini projects. I was just setting myself up in Emacs org mode and felt i needed better integration with the browser. I have a little extra time to put into making it right. I think at the very least i am going to write some small amount of integration for the currently clocked Emacs org task, the main OS views, and Firefox, just Mac OS X to start, all open source.

Anyway, i was exploring options and i was glad to find your experience. I think i am ultimately looking for something similar to what you want and maybe will email you at some point to ask about this if i do indeed get a little deeper into it if you don't mind.

> I asked people what they do to tackle my sorts of projects. The answers were always the same: Some ums and ahs, and it turns out they don't. They just don't take on the same kinds of things.

And what are these kinds of projects that you are the only one to tackle?

I'm not unique in the kinds of projects I've tackled over the years. My projects tend to be technical, scientific, or legal/accounting, and tend to build on a lot of serendipitously found knowledge in articles, comments, mailing list posts, Github issues, research papers, as I read around or discover on the side while researching specific topics.

I should have said, "I asked people who like to tell me I'm doing it wrong what they do...".

There's a small subset of people I found telling me I'm wrong/insane, there's something wrong with me, I'm untidy, that I should do something else and I have a hoarding problem, etc...

Among that subset, I found they consistently had no better solutions to offer when asked, and this is because they just didn't feel the need to tackle problems involving a lot of reading material that needs to be retained, referenced from and used as an increasingly authoritative knowledge base over time in order to complete technical projects using that knowledge.

It is that lack of better solutions from armchair critics which has led me to believe I'm not necessarily "doing it wrong", even though I know perfectly well that it has problems, and what kinds of systems I would prefer to use if I could find or build them.

One of those people was quite helpful though, and rightly pointed me to knowledge-base software (that they themselves weren't using mind), but somehow seemed to think I have a lot more spare time than I do to maintain the contents, and thought I was bluffing about that. I do actually take a lot of notes already, have been doing so for many years, and I know how long it takes me. When to take notes, and when to leave things in tabs (perhaps to take notes on later), is about prioritising long-term task flows.

I'm sure there are people who have much better solutions than I've found so far, and perhaps they could show me someday. (Though, it's not likely to convince me if it involves closed-source software and locked away information, or too much time-consuming clipping process before you're allowed to move on to some other big task, as those do come up.)

But I haven't met those people yet. Only critics who don't have better solutions, and think large numbers of tabs is a sign of mental laziness or something. Whatever I am, it's not lazy. Perhaps I should go to a tab-hoarders' conference and we can devise better tools there :-)

The most interesting feature of tree-style tabs is that they build a detailed information structure implicitly, as a side effect of browsing actions that you would do anyway. I think that is the right approach for any attempt to improve browser UIs.

This is the only reason I use edge over chrome, for tree tabs. I would use firefox but I have noticed significant slowdown on some websites that I use frequently.

I have multi-row tabs on Firefox (just requires some chrome CSS customization). I use 3 rows of 30 tabs with enough space so I can read the title.

I just open every new link a new tab. It's not uncommon, if I'm doing some kind of research, to have over 100 tabs open. In any other browser, that's basically unmanageable.

Do tab extensions like this pose any security risk in terms of hoovering up and transmitting your browser history of sensitive info on pages you visit (think tokens in Urls)?

Yup, grouping in tree style tabs is a godsend. I largely ended up sticking to Firefox over chrome mainly due to this extension.

I feel like there are broadly 2 groups of tech literate users; those who like lots of tabs and those who keep things lean. I absolutely cannot relate to the first group, as much as I try to understand the mentality.

When I’m digging deep into something new I might end up with 20 tabs, but a) it’s an exception and b) the moment I can see no more value I just close them all down and reset.

As someone who often carries a lot of tabs, I often keep the tabs around because the cost of evaluating whether a tab is worthwhile or not is high. It usually pulls me out of flow and pulls me into whatever article is bookmarked, which slows me way down.

It'd be nice to have them slowly fade away so I didn't have to make a decision because most of the time, I don't need the tab and wouldn't even remember that it's gone lol.

Looks like I've 81 tabs open in this Firefox window. It's not uncommon that I'll be over 1k (across one window per monitor).

With `%` to search across open tabs, and an unused tab not really taking any meaningful amount of resources (especially with Auto Tab Discard) I open a whole load of tabs, close them if I realise I'm done with them while I'm looking at them, and if I don't close the tab then that's fine -- it's probably scrolled off the left of the tab bar where I can't see it and it'll get cleaned up in due course.

> With `%` to search across open tabs

...No way. That's my TIL for the day. Am I the only one who didn't know about this!?

Woah that's pretty cool. I expected it to be a vimium-style modal if I just typed `%` at any point in time - so for anyone else who was confused like me, it's a prefix in your address bar so ctrl+L then % and then type your query but still, awesome!

Seems like 1k is well beyond the state of usefulness for most people. Isn't it faster to re-google something than find the tab? And if there is a nice tab search.. is it better than google? Why keep a local cache?

For me, the problem tabs solve isn’t finding the thing, but remembering the thing to find. Bookmarks solve the former, but tabs act as a collection of topics that I care about at a given point in time.

While bookmarks accumulate over years and lose relevance and context, my tab collection acts in a revolving manner where old ones fall off as often as new ones are added. Their arrangement also forms an informal categorization system that requires very little effort; I hate trying to organize bookmarks, but organizing tabs is almost automatic. And while I do keep a lot of tabs (300-500 on average), the fact that they’re not free (they take up screen space and memory) prevents me from going overboard and encourages me to frequently cull tabs that have lost relevance.

All in all, I think my usage of tabs has come to reflect the way that I think and work, like an extension of my medium-term memory. That’s why I keep a cache of them.

Interesting explanation, thanks!

For me, tabs are very much a manifestation of what’s going on in my mind at that very instant. Basically a cache. But once I’m done with my task or work is over, I’ll close every. Single. One.

The fear of not being able to recall information is a classic busy-syndrome feeling. Sometimes I also have to tell myself “I’ll probably remember what I worked in yesterday, so maybe there’s no need to panic after all”.

>But once I’m done with my task or work is over, I’ll close every. Single. One.

That works for the general case but sometimes I search a solution to a problem (possibly without even knowing how to search for it so lots of experimentation) then find a possible solution after much sleuthing. But then... I'll have to record this somewhere so that when I encounter this problem again, I know what to do, where to find help and won't waste another 30 mins of my life to the same problem. That record keeping has friction, needs a commitment and I'm probably busy. And there are probably a couple other valuable sites I found that would help with the problem's domain in the near future. So I /may/ need to reference them in the future. So better record it somewhere, but I don't have a good "system" so don't know where to put them. Bookmarks are already a cesspool. I have documents for projects and note taking but it will need some explaining before I describe the problem to make the result searchable. Did I say I was busy? I'll do it later... but now another problem pops up. More sleuthing, tabs accumulate, same problem, twice the size, twice more procrastinated debt.

Yeah, I can close them all. But I /emotionally/ want to avoid the pain of finding myself in the exact position of a few hours ago, having that annoying problem without a solution. I don't want to waste more time on this. I will eventually forget the solutions I found. I need to keep track of all this. But don't have the time or motivation.

Then, path of least resistance is accumulation of tabs - inaction.

> But once I’m done with my task or work is over, I’ll close every. Single. One.

What if you're never done? I have so many tabs open about things I was researching or studying. Something else came up and I had to prioritize... Eventually I forgot about the tabs.

Keeping every tab in your trail of research is like using a highlighter on evert page of the book you’re reading because “it’s all important”. I don’t believe it’s ultimately productive for the actual goal.

I also use a window and the tabs within it similarly to the OP of this thread. They're usually used to complete a task and then the entire window gets closed.

Bookmarks for frequently visited recurring links.

Bookmarks that I visit multiple times a day (Calendar, Email, etc) get pinned.

For me it's a todo list. If I'm playing a game, researching a topic, and so on I have a window with tabs in it for that one thing. This works well enough and it feels nice shutting the window for closure when I no longer need it.

The problem is when I have stuff that sits around for longer like the Fast AI course I'm doing. That window is taunting and mocking me.

Edit: Looks like I have this in a tab because I meant to finish reading it. 7 months. I have a problem.


I avoid browser tabs if possible. I currently have 5 browser windows open, and have hacked userChrome.css to hide the tab bar:

  #pageActionButton {
    display: none !important;
  .urlbar-history-dropmarker, .urlbar-history-dropmarker:hover   {
    display: none !important;
  #TabsToolbar { visibility: collapse; }
I currently have 12 visible windows open. I prefer a spacial interface where I can see and change everything vs. a modal interface of only seeing one task at a time and having to constantly switch between each task/tab.

for a lot of people you search for something to solve a problem. for instance debugging an issue. you middle click on a bunch of promising tabs and then go through them. if there is some useful information on that page you leave it open but it's rare that it's the only thing you need to know to solve your problem. another use is some API you need to use so you'd open up a bunch of tabs on the functions you are exploring how you need to use them.

I also separate the issue by window too and also use tabs and windows as temporary bookmarks really. not worthy of a full bookmark but not finished with.

I created an webextension to deal with handling those tabs because having a bunch of tabs across a bunch of windows is not the most ergonomic without one. might be useful for someone here I suppose: https://github.com/fiveNinePlusR/tabist



I used to use tab groups and have hundreds of tabs in Firefox some years back. Now, like you, I close things as soon as I don't need them.

Anything unpinned is temporary, and I only pin a few tabs. I also heavily bookmark and quickmark (qutebrowser) things and can usually get back to them easily.

I don't remember what changed my behavior, but I had incidents in the past with running out of RAM and swap and my whole PC hanging despite having 16GB of RAM, so I probably just scared myself straight.

Things feel cleaner when I have fewer tabs, which I think contributes to my mood being better. If I'm ever partway through a deep-dive or project that involves a lot of open tabs, I find I feel stressed. Sometimes I even decide enough is enough and close them all, feeling near-instant relief.

It would be interesting to see if there's a correlation between how many tabs you like open and when you started using the web. I used it for a long time before tabs were even a feature, and I find it easy to keep my tab count down. Compared to having to keep things down to "preferably 1, but maybe 3 or 4 if you're in a real pinch", keeping the tab count under 100 is no big deal.

(I'm abundantly sure the correlation isn't 1, so simply citing your own experience, alas, won't do much.)

I’ve been using the web since NCSA Mosaic, and regularly have hundreds of tabs open

I have 14 pinned, those are tools I use at least daily at work.

Add in a page of search results, 3 or 4 of those opened, HN and some article I'm reading during "clear my head" time, and I'm at 20.

I'm usually working on multiple tasks, many of which take multiple days. I have tried to group tabs in windows thematically, but browsers are shit about respecting that (for instance when opening new tabs from other apps).

I'd rather read what's in my tabs than mess around with them, so I tend not to fight it.

I have 14 pinned, those are tools I use at least daily at work.

How do you open these pinned ones? I used to do this as well, but since browsers got better at fuzzy matching (or whatever it is called) in the address bar I figured this keyboard-only approach gets me to commonly visited sites faster. Ctrl-T (or Alt-D to reuse current tab), yc, Enter -> I end up on this site.

Do you really need 14 pinned tabs? I use plenty of apps too, but they don’t need to be sitting there all the time.

And multiple day tasks, I still can’t imagine why you need all the tabs. For me, I get in, get what I need and get out again.

Well, "need" is a funny word. I guess I don't "need" any tabs, or even bookmarks. I could just type URLs all day and have a very pretty browser.

They are things like GHE, monitoring, DNS, our CA. Things I use/change literally every day, some of them I'm in constantly. I don't pin things I don't use all the time.

Multiday tasks are typically research-heavy, closing things is equivalent to "loosing my place". I suppose I could use "bookmark this group of tabs", but it hasn't really mattered when I can just... leave them there until I come back.

Yes, same here. "Close Tabs to the Right" gets used a lot. If there's anything I want to keep I either pin it or drag it all the way to the left first.

There’s nothing to like about it. I don’t. I still have about 200 tabs open.

Someone should develop an actually good Alfred like tab finder for Firefox and I’m golden.

Same. I tend to use my tabs as a stack. On the left side I have the tabs I never close; like my Jira dashboard. Going towards the right I have my tabs that are todo -> in-progress. As I get through each thing, I close the tab. This tends to keep it pretty lean.

I'm completely the same, I might have a dozen active tabs but everything gets closed down asap, and in general I'll have multiple windows for different contexts each with just a few tabs.

I had hundreds and I use all of them at least once a week

Let’s call it 200. You have 5 days in the week. So that’s 40 tabs you need to visit each day. 5 different tabs each hour, just to get through them. Even! Even if you need to visit all those different things - you know what they are and you want to go there, so why not hit cmd-l and autocomplete on the name from any tab and open it? If I want intercom, I type ‘app.i - enter’. Why would I want it open?

I keep open 200 and more tabs, especially when I can't finish a job before I start or continue another one. It's a matter of efficiency - closing a group of tabs found after painful and time-consuming research is unreasonable IMO. To find a specific tab after a day or two I use the tabFX Firefox extension. It allows searching for the tab containing keywords in the title/URL or tabs similar to the selected one. Also allows closing tabs directly from the search result list. Extremely useful.

I just opened HN 20 minutes ago, from there opened 5 tabs into comment threads, and from each comment thread opened the linked article in a new tab. This is a new tab I opened to reply without losing my place in the thread. That's 12 tabs.

In April 2021 I visited 5036 pages, 167 pages a day average.

In the last week it was down to 157 a day. Because I've spent more time in head-down coding.

5 tabs an hour, hah.

I feel you. April 2021 : 7752 pages visited.

Generally 300+ tabs in firefox. Mostly in chunks corresponding to home or work projects that take months or longer to finish.

I feel like people are deliberately misreading the scenario we’re talking about in my parent post. The GP wasn’t saying there were one off tabs, but ones used at least once a week. My point is more that to just get through these regular ones you’re in a bit of a doom cycle before you visit anything new.

The problem seems to be that all browser development teams consist entirely of users of the second group.

I really want my tabs to just be emacs buffers.

Emacs has sooo many different tools to organize and operate on buffers, so different types of users can compose a workflow that works for them, including plain old tabs if they really want. And of course, extensibility, the most important feature imo

And you can do this now of course, with w3m or other plaintext browsers, but it's just not that comfy for most webpages these days. And there's emacs-webkit, but it's still a bit of a pita to install.

I still use qutebrowser for most things, and with i3/sway plus the save-session function, i can get hierarchy and persistence, and that seems sufficient for now...

I find that the more you use emacs the more you get frustrated that nothing else works the way it does in emacs. You either deal with it, try and hack some emacs functionality into your favorite tools, or end up living full-time inside of emacs--relegating your desktop environment to a glorified emacs launcher.

For the record though, I'm very pleased to see people explicitly questioning the UI status quo, esp one so widely assumed as tabs. It seems browsers are just following the 'dont touch anything or you'll drive away our base' method of development, and it's depressing... Can't be much fun for the developers either I imagine. I look forward to seeing what they come up with

I was actually a big user of firefox panorama. I know that it wasn’t easy to discover but it was the best idea of tabs I’ve seen. Expose, grids, and multiple desktops work the best for switching windows, why not have it for tabs?

I think that with the right desktop environment we could completely get rid of most tabs. Windows and ie were terrible with opening new windows which made tabs a necessity, but really they should be used for grouping related pages.

It's still around, as a fork of a fork: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/panorama-tab-...

I never really got to grips with having different sets of tabs within the same window -- that's the kind of thing I use multiple windows for. But I still have the extension installed because it's the easiest way to show several hundred tabs in a way which means I can avoid loading the content just to close tabs.

There have been so many forks of this, and they have all been buggy or gotten stalled. This one in particular randomly forgets some of your tab groups. ("you had ONE job!")

The closest thing that works for me is https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/tiled-tab-gro... but I'm not thrilled with the user experience.

Hey, I'm building Amna (https://getamna.com) Tabs + Tasks. This research made my day.

I think my findings with users are consistent with the researchers. Improved focus, and feeling less overwhelmed, and the larger context management aspect of things goes away when you browse with tasks offloaded from your head.

Amna works by managing your Chrome Windows. Instead of organizing tabs after you've done your work, you start with the task first, and click on it. That way you can "scope" a browser to a specific goal, and toss it when you're done. It saves your tabs as your work.

It's still a WIP (the website and product are kinda out of sync), you can still try it out and pass along feedback :)

Based on what they show so far[1], I'm not really convinced tasks are the solution. The UI they present seems really clunky for 2021.

> He means we need something richer, that we should be collecting information by “task” or another word he brings up again and again, “context.”

Yes, context makes sense. But it needs to be context over time. Context that evolves and can be searched and revisited. You should be able to pull up the context of last month, or the 2nd week of May of last year.

> “If you think about it, Google does a good job giving us thousands of search results,” says Kittur. “But that entire process after search results is being done pretty much entirely in our heads.

Precisely. Fixing tabs is not about the browser at all. It's a problem with search. Search begins and ends at Google. What we really need is a search that starts global and integrates personally. Think of tabs as a sort of cache of what you have brought in from the broader internet. This "cache" should have a simple search interface (think Slack's search, vim Ctrl+P, fzf, Command+Space/Spotlight, etc.) but also have the ability to pull up some sort of window that you can navigate context by other means. Such as date, device, location, etc. "Show me what I was looking at on my phone when I was at Starbucks last Wednesday" kind of thing.

Tabs are the fear of losing context. Make context durable, transparent, holistic (i.e. you can zoom to either the trees or the forest), and global (sync across all devices) then you will have largely solved tabs.

[1] https://www.fastcompany.com/90635776/the-twisted-psychology-...

A few years ago I've argued that a tab is the wrong metaphor, wrong unit of interaction: https://rybakov.com/blog/open_tabs_are_cognitive_spaces/

I am currently working on a new and fun approach to managing this kind of cognitive spaces, hopefully to be published this month.

I've opened this in a tab and intend to read it later.

Doing this, and then never ever following up on it, was how I learned that Chrome on Android changes the tab count to ':D' once you go over 100 tabs open.

Same, later I discovered that Safari on iOS has a 500 tab limit.

It's funny how Firefox for Android goes from 99 to 8... And they can't even get the eight the right way around, it's laid on its side.

Same here, it is acting like a reading list. Mostly because Bookmark sucks.

Fixing bookmarks would cure tab hoarders like me.

I use my tabs like a stack. The bookmarks are the long term overflow.

At the end of the day the stack is closed out or put into bookmarks for later looking at. I then have a set of folders of 'look at later'. If later is greater than some time period I just delete the whole folder. Once a month I look at the overflow. Most of the time it is more of a 'why did I care about this' and just blow it away. It is a variation of the empty mail box. Inbox needs to be done. Then the 'done' folder. There is no real stack or tree. That way lies madness (I have tried).

I try to keep my tabs in context of whatever I am doing. I max out about 10-20 (6 at the moment). Past anything like that and most of them are useless.

Bookmarks are for 'I know I will need this in the future' everything else I can search for again.

What have you tried? Just curious as I use Pocket and I am somewhat satisfied with it, though I rarely end up reading any of the articles I bookmark.

I've never seen anything that gave me the impression that it would help, but at one point I was brainstorming a firefox extension a lot like the one described in the article, which is making me hopeful.

I would love to see a Miro-style, infinite canvas, tiling tab manager. If I zoom out past the page, show me a canvas with thumbnails of all my tabs, that I can click and drag to group or arrange however I want. Then let me zoom into one of the thumbnails to switch to that tab.

Basically Apple’s mobile Photos.app interface but for browser tabs.

Safari does this natively, you can pinch to zoom out with the magic trackpack or keyboard shortcut: https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/352694/can-i-disab...


Is this what you are describing?

Sort of, but only in the sense that it’s a grid. I want way more creative control. I want pan and zoom, the ability to move and resize thumbnails, and some grouping/clustering mechanism. Maybe some “gravity” type thing where if I move a tab near another one they snap together. Nested grouping would be cool too. And it needs keyboard shortcuts that I can use to manipulate the groups of tabs and navigate between them all.

No zoom out, but has tile like views (grids, lists, kanban, etc.) https://www.partizion.io/

Looks cool, but requires a server to store your open tabs, which is less cool.

Panorama doesn't quite do that, at least not with that affordence, but it's close: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/panorama-tab-...

Doesn't Tab Overview in Safari on macOS already does that? ( Without the Drag and Drop Part )

The problem is its current implementation completely kills your SSD if you have too many tabs. The problem has been going on for years. To the point I have to manually disable Tab Overview gesture and icons.

Safari's Tab Overview is unfortunately not like the OP's idea. The lack of dragging, and also because there's no way to zoom out further and make visual groups. And I suppose being horribly slow with many tabs makes it very different from the OP's idea too.

I also found Tab Overview is a disaster if you have too many tabs. I've occasionally been looking at Google Maps and done pinch-to-zoom-out. Big mistake: Safari zoomed out of the page instead and tried to show Tab Overview. That scheduling loading every tab that was previously in a sleeping state, just to show the thumbnails, and would typically show as using 30-40GB memory while I realised I'd have to kill and restart the Safari process to get back to work.

I like Safari, and switched to it from Firefox because Firefox was getting very slow. (Turned out to be the Tree Style Tabs extension, not Firefox itself).

But it eventually I found Safari is good at seeming fast while using a huge amount of memory that slows down everything else on the system. It was not unusual to find Safari using a lot of swap and increasing over time, and being the reason other things I use for work were getting slow.

I switched back to Firefox and found, rather pleasantly, its memory use rarely shows higher than about 10GB.

>and would typically show as using 30-40GB memory while I realised I'd have to kill and restart the Safari process to get back to work.

I have the exact problem with pinch to zoom. I had to disable it to stop Tab Overview from loading, once ran out of memory it will start paging everything to SSD, which is why I said it is basically kill the SSD.

I still dont know why the Tab Overview wouldn't automatically become a list view once it is over certain number of tabs.

Safari on iOS actually does that exact thing when the device is in landscape mode.

I was a VERY late convert to tabs, and I only use them for browsers now (and not all the time, either). I always felt that the OS X command-tilde functionality, for switching between windows the same way you switch through applications using command-tab, was superior. You're always switching between the most recently used windows, chronologically. You can even remember when something was several keystrokes back, and if you don't remember, you can see it in realtime.

It's insanely frustrating to try to switch between two arbitrary tabs in a browser, you have to use the mouse, and keep track of which tab you want to use. I was just running into this problem earlier today, switching between a doc I was reading and a tab I was working in.

Of course, having separate windows for everything leads to more visual clutter, and hurts discoverability a little bit.

New Firefox installs have Ctrl+tab run chronologically, and you can this behaviour for existing installs as well if you want.

I cannot stand this functionality and it's the first thing I disable on new installations. For me, Ctrl+tab is right and Ctrl+shift+tab is left.

I much prefer Firefox's awesome bar navigation when jumping around. % app will show all tabs with a title or URL containing app, * yo does the same for bookmarks containing yo, and ^ for history.


Edit: unfortunately, the % shortcut does not work with containers.

Is there a way to get FF to enable the mouse wheel to wrap tabs in a loop once you go past either end of your tab list?

It used to do this and now seems like there's no way to get this behavior back

Looks like no.

Here is the one reference to `toolkit.tabbox.switchByScrolling`: https://searchfox.org/mozilla-central/source/toolkit/content... You can see here that the second param to advanceSelectedTab is false

This param controls wrapping according to the definition: https://searchfox.org/mozilla-central/source/toolkit/content...

To confirm, we can see that the shift+tab/shift+ctrl+tab (which wraps) definition passes that param as true: https://searchfox.org/mozilla-central/source/toolkit/content...

Maybe you can file a bug to add another bool pref instead of hardcoding false?

I’ve often wondered if a sort function that could switch between “manual” tab order and recent tab order. So that you could keep things organized in both space and time.

Firefox can have Ctrl+tab run chronologically, and then Ctrl+PageUp/Down still use the 'manual' order.

This is one of the things that annoys me about Chrome. Last I checked, there wasn't a solution for this. Opera had it as a feature a long time ago.

I miss the Tab Mix Plus Firefox extension so much. I had 3 rows of tabs with more via the scroll wheel, and they were of fixed width.

I often ended up with 80 open tabs and switching was no issue. It was such a great feeling being able to close all the tabs after the work was done.

With Chrome now I constantly need to drag tabs out in order to create a new window to start a new collection of tabs, so that I normally have about 6 browser windows open, then, when looking for a group of tabs, I first need to find the window. It's the same with Firefox since they moved away from allowing custom XUL code.

Here's an example I just found on Google https://thasulinux.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/tab_mix_plus....

I'm currently trying to solve this and more in an application called Cleave.


Cleave lets users persist OS state as a "context" - saving and loading open applications, their windows (and their positions), tabs, open files/documents and so on. Think of it as a workspace or project manager from an IDE, but on the OS-level.

I started working on it because of frequent multitasking of heavy work with limited resources; Made it because I wanted to switch between studying, working, reading, looking for an apartment, etc. without manually managing all states or consuming all resources.

I'll release an Open Beta (macOS) as soon as I finish license verification and delta updates, but I keep getting sidetracked...

Very interesting idea, look forward to seeing it. I try to work this way, but using different desktop spaces, but it doesn't work quite as well as I'd like. This is interesting if it can just keep one desktop but easily switch in and out of context and "sleep" everything else. Also will be interesting to see how to manage the context itself.

My main problem with tabs is that they function as an additional window manager, meaning I'm constantly using two window managers at the same time, and getting confused between them. For example, I can use Ctrl+Tab to cycle through browser tabs and Alt+Tab to cycle through windows. I can't use either to cycle through everything I have open.

It is actually worse than that. Many/most implementations of tabs are completely opaque to the window manager so if you want to programmatically control your browser windows e.g. by moving a window with a certain title to the front you can't do it for windows that contain a certain tab unless it is the active tab. Oops.

I use the window-titler extension exactly for that. it precedes the window title with your custom one between brackets and you can filter processes from the command line to find the window you want... I made a script with wmctrl to bring windows to the front like this.

I love OneTab, being able to dump 50-100 tabs out to a running page of links to restart the browser is simple peace of mind to me.

I love Onetab as well. The problem I often have is sending a lot of tabs to Onetab, then never looking at them again. Which may not actually be a problem and more of an indication for how "important" the tab actually was.

The dream for me would be if Onetab has a search feature that allowed you to search the text on all the tabbed pages that you saved. Because sometimes you save a tab because of a specific topic, but the topic is not in the Title of the page and it can get lost in the clutter.

Or maybe more useful, a search service that just crawled the pages in your Chrome history, rather than the entire web.

The OneNote value add to me is that it allows me to close tabs without guilt. I don't really need to save them but can't let go - OneNote lets me let go.

The article refers to their “new” tab / task management tool. The web page[0] for it has no information or screenshots. Anyone have a link to see the tool in action?

[0] https://www.skeema.com/

After some digging, I found some more information here:


This was very informative. Thank you!

Reminds me of Workona, which also seemed appealing but didn’t find its way into my workflow.

I have found Workona amazing and a life saver. I use it daily.

Why didn’t workona work for you?

I am ruthless with my tabs. I always close them all at the end of my day.

Just like Inbox 0, I aim for Tab 0. Serenity is the reward for this small disciplined effort.

Close them. They're not going anywhere. You can always find the links back tomorrow. An entire multi-million industry wants you to find them back as easily as possible.

You might even find better ones when you start fresh.

It's just your loss aversion instincts kicking in[1]. It's how your brain is wired. But we live in the golden age of information retrieval. You don't need to hoard tabs. Your brain just doesn't know.

Trust me, if you can. Close them.

It will be ok.


That multi-million industry does a good job at burying the content that's not fresh any more, and not a very good job at filtering out SEO manipulators. Good luck googling for that article from a year ago that had a nuanced comparison of A and B.

I also find search engine result signal to noise deteriorating in favour of SEO-crafted content.

On the other hand, that article from a year ago is most probably outdated by now.

Same here.

Right clicking my leftmost tab and hitting "Close tabs to the right" is so freeing once you get used to it.

That aside, how do you do the [1] type of linking? Manually? I checked the docs and in classic hacker style they didn't avail me.

Yeah, it's a social construct not a feature. You type [1] in the paragraph, and then you type

[1]: https://example.com/

at the end of your comment.

I used to use the Bookmark all Tabs to a folder feature at the end of each day. It's the equivalent of sweeping it under the rug, or creating a folder named desktop_new and burying everything there

I think somehow I have overcome this tab overloadding problem on my own

I have restricted myself from browsing internet on mobile phone, so I only view them from my personal computer

I always keep a note on what I browse, regardless of how important or useless it is (except entertainment stuff to some extent)

I am using this note taking method to all my work as well, for example, searching online about security aspect of several CI/CD pipeline tools that my company use

The notes that I create are all mostly markdown files, with names to their own, so I can grep or find whenever I want, and encrypt and archive the whole folder as I want to back them up

By note taking down the links that I have viewed, sometimes with some wordings for explanation, I can keep track most of them, not all, becacuse sometimes I use namings that I couldn't recall and that's totally fine, I can still grep/find as I want anyway

I would just put down some file names so you guys can get a better idea

1. 3d-printing.md

2. asm.md

3. algorithms.md

4. browser.md

5. cybersecurity.md

6. hacking.md

7. graphics.md

8. gamedev0.md

9. reverse-engineering.md

10. storage-hard-drive.md

11. vpn-proxy.md

12. video-hardware-acceleration.md

13. game-engine.md

14. freelance-startups-business-side-hustle.md

15. fuchsia.md

16. electrical-and-computer-engineering.md

17. electronics.md

and a lot more like

300. linux/doc/linux-kernel.md

301. android/doc/android-apps.md

302. macos/doc/macos.md

303. windows/doc/windows-install.md

Edit: if you are wondering why do this at all when everything is just one google search away, well, i guess that's the whole point

It’s not a tooling issue IMHO. It’s about accepting that you do not need to hoard every single piece of information. Once you accept to let go and develop the habit to close your tabs regularly (for example at the end of each day), the problem is solved. No more anxiety related to your browser state!

I was a hardcore hoarder, with 300+ tabs all the time, until I realized I was the source of the issue. Now I open as many tabs as I need during the day, then just know I will close everything at the end of the day and start a fresh session. It’s very relaxing. If I really need something I wrote it down in my notes somewhere but that’s really not often.

Stop using tabs for your code and start using our tool, CodeRibbon:


Any plans on bringing this to VS Code?

It certainly isn't easy, but we are trying! https://github.com/utk-se/CodeRibbon/issues/80

I just declare a tab bankruptcy every once in a while. Close everything, forget I opened those tabs. If it is important enough, it's already stashed away in a format that lends itself to offline reading. If it's not yet stashed, it will bubble up eventually from among other things.

If I don't have time to stash it away, whom am I kidding? I'm not going to come back to it in a near future anyway. I already have a couple of things that remind me of how guilty I am by not coming back to them, why add more?

I have 0 problems with tabs. I used to and man they can be annoying.

The system that finally worked for me is to bind "Close all Tabs to Left" to Ctrl + Left, likewise for right, and Close All Except Open Tab to Ctrl + Up.

I found this enables painless instant culls, I just save URLs everything I want to survive a total cull (it's hardly ever more than 2 URLs, most tabs are junk which I suppose is the main problem).

Ctrl + W for Close Current Tab and Ctrl + Shift + T for Reopen Closed Tab are also pretty useful (require no bind).

Personally I found a very simple approach that works great for me.

In the beginning of the pandemic I tried to reduce social media exposure, to maintain some degree of mental health and reduce distractions.

The way I did it was first to remove all the apps from my phone. This had the added benefit of improving the battery life. This meant that if I wanted to go on fb or Twitter, then I had to use the browser versions which are generally slower, not so optimized for phone usage, and overall the UX is much worse.

Even this though was not enough. Firefox would gladly save my session and despite the subpar UX, I still found myself going back to it more often than I would like.

The solution to this was simple:


Coupled together with a 2FA and disabling the password manager autocomplete by removing the URL from the relevant entries, it made such a huge difference.

Then I started using incognito for more things, like HN, where I would open 6-7 tabs "to read them later" and I never did, so they kept piling up.

For me this works great, especially on the phone. If I really want to read something I read it there and then. If for whatever reason I don't, and android decides to terminate my Firefox then so be it. If I really want to I can search for it again, but then I ask myself whether it is worth it.

FYI, Firefox focus sounds perfect for you - it doesn't track history or save any state, and wipes itself after use.

One thing I do is keep a text file with lists of links, e.g. "programming", "gardening", "health" etc and if I haven't looked at a tab after a few days, I copy the URL and put it in the appropriate list, then close the tab.

If the browser prompted me to "archive" a tab after a few days and select a category, I'd probably use the functionality.

I've found doing something that sounds crazy very helpful in overcoming my own personal tab overload: automatically closing tabs after they go ignored for a certain amount of time (~12 hours for me). It's garbage collection for tabs! I use the Tab Wrangler Chrome extension[0] for the job, but there are others too.

Turns out that I don't actually care about the vast majority of tabs that I leave open—but can't seem to close!—and the extension makes it easy to re-open any automatically closed ones that I did happen to care about. The result is logging on each day to much less tab clutter than I left the night before.

0: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/tab-wrangler/egnjh...

Same here. You can do this on iOS with tabs that are open longer than a day, but I don’t think this is a built in feature for safari on MacOS. I find it useful on the phone where I’ll often open multiple tabs (navigate through to the new tab and leaving the old one open in case I need to go back) and completely forget about them.


I don't need a better way to manage the tabs I have open I need to quit the habit of opening dozens of them. Its digital hoarding.

Maybe it's overly dramatic of me to compare it to hoarding, it does legitimately increase productivity. But it also tends to spiral out of control now and then (for me).

Here is their browser extension for "rethinking" tabs: https://www.skeema.com/ (currently invite + waitlist). Was really hoping for images of the actual, HCI-research-informed UI update, but alas.

Vivaldi is such a great browser, it has really wonderful and hands down the best tab management features. https://vivaldi.com/features/tab-management/

I used to have many dozens of tabs open statically, kind of like a TODO list I never get round to. Some tabs are open all the time for email, chat as well.

I've eliminated those tabs and now have tabs related to what I'm currently doing only. There could still be dozens, but importantly they do get closed.

To prevent the static tabs, I do 2 things:

1) Map tabs I monitor (email, chat etc) to a streamdeck, pressing a physical button every time I want to check

2) Save those static "TODO" tabs to a task manager[1] and treat them as tasks.

[1]: My own task manager: https://github.com/naggie/dstask/ -- saving the URL in note means I can open the tab in a browser again in a command (open)

"... or ashamed by how many they had open"

What is this? I for one am proud of my (minimum) 4 dozen open tabs on average.

But on a more serious note, as a SE I rejoice when I see a "<5 minutes read" article. If it's more than that I just leave it open (if it seems interesting enough). Usually I go back to my backlog during the next week or so and read the ones I still deem interesting based on the title and a quick scroll through, those that don't catch my interest any more or are just too darn long will get C-w'd.

Also when I have a few dozen tabs open in my phone I just send them to my desktop(s) and close them on the phone - they were either too long to be read on a phone, or required some investigation before a commitment.

On my iPad this is a problem. On my desktops, I have Firefox with Tridactyl installed, turning off the tab bar, nav bar, and menu. Everything is handled via keyboard if I can help it, including tab navigation: with a single keystroke I can start searching my open tabs fairly quickly by typing a portion of the tab title, and at end of day I bookmark tabs I want to read later with one command, clear all remaining tabs with another. Super easy, and no need for a learning algorithm to start trying to learn my surfing habits.

Not trying to sound snarky, this tool just seems a bit like overkill. It might be useful on my iPad where it is cumbersome to do those steps, but it would also be useful to have Tridactyl there too.

I still miss Opera's MDI (Multiple Document Interface). Using that vs using tabs felt like using a tiled window manager vs graphical window manager. You could get so much more efficient with the MDI once you dialed in shortcuts, window switching and rearranging, etc.



I can highly recommend Tabli [1] an open source chrome extension that you can use to save and restore groups of tabs very quickly.

[1] https://www.gettabli.com/

Skeema sounds something I would try, but fully open source is a must.

>Internet browser tabs are a major source of friction on the internet. People love them. People hate them. For some users, tabs bring order and efficiency to their web browsing. For others, they spiral out of control, shrinking at the top of the screen as their numbers expand.

how about multiple layer tabs

I am a big fan of hoarding tabs. Bookmaking a page can sometimes result in the page being different when reloading or not working. Tabs stay permanent in memory can be referred to later in an unchanged state. It is like the digital equivalent of a library. I can always defer to an open tab when i need something.

It sounds like you would enjoy this new browser:


Vivaldi has this, it's actually quite useful.

Appears to describe a tab grouping extension, but the closed beta (and lack of screenshots) suggests beta testing is machine learning to hash out the UI and grouping criteria. Unless they plan for it to be a service.

Grouping tabs by topic to read them later and from other browsers was one of the main problem I wanted to address in my workflow.

My current solution is to having developed a webextension + server system (https://github.com/domovikapp/domovik-server/) where I can stash any tab in a TOREAD list, and those replace my blank new tab page. Crude, but it does the job for me.

Salvaged from my own current tab overload:


I occurred to me that this might make a nice working metaphor for web browsers:

Make a virtual wheel with a defined (default-manageable) number of positions to fill.

Add ability to rotate, or slide, in a number of such wheels.

Any wheel that doesn't get active use for some reasonable amount of time goes automatically from active inventory to searchable long term archives.

The real problem here is that the "back" button doesn't really make anyone happy. If it were instantaneous (like the page was kept alive in an invisible tab, essentially) and preserved state, then 75% of the use cases for tabs would go away.

The remaining use cases are more around opening a bunch of links from the same page, so we'd keep tabs around for that, but maybe auto-group them with the page of origin for some contextualization.

Huh? The back button renders the previous page absolutely instantaneously for me in Firefox and Chrome. I am plenty happy with the Back button. The problem is that my browsing is not at all linear. While reading one page, I'll open 3 or 4 links in new tabs to read once I'm done with the current one. (I have done this already on this very HN comments page.)

I don't understand the "having a million tabs open workflow" that seems so common

I frequently move 1-2 tabs to the left side and use "close tabs to right". Probably do this 4-5 times per day.

If I end up needing something I just look in history or ctrl + shift + t to get it back.

Having too many open feels super distracting to me and makes it harder to focus.

I also use bookmarks a lot too, so that might be the difference.

How do you feel about full text search and image extraction and classification for those URLs?

I started doing "inbox zero" ten years a go and somehow ended up in a bit of an OCD situation.

Now I have to close/archive anything I'm not currently using.

Emails, apps, tabs, background processes, messenger contacts.

If I dealt with it and isn't something that is used on a regular basis, like the WhatsApp conversations of my partners, it has to go.

Tabs were 95% solved years ago by the visionary genius Piro with his "Tree Style Tab" extension: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/tree-style-ta...

So weird to me. I think this every time I read about browser tabs, organization strategies, etc.

I rarely have more than half a dozen tabs open. And that's if I'm busy. Normally it's one or two -- whatever it is that I'm currently working on.

And at the end of the day -- all closed. History and cache cleared. Start clean the next day.

Even the history, eh? That would definitely slow me down next time I want to go back to that same page. I guess I rely on the browser suggesting the previously visited website to me.

Is it ironic that I opened this in a tab?

I'd like a browser function that says "open a text file and save all the URLs"

Somebody shared this in a different comment, but the OneTab extension looks like exactly what you are asking for: https://www.one-tab.com/ (minus it being builtin).

I actually used to use AppleScript to grab open tab URLs in Chrome but I switched to Firefox and AFAIK, Firefox doesn't support AppleScript.

    tell application "Chromium"
        set tabCount to get count every tab of window 1
        repeat with i from 1 to tabCount
            set currentUrl to get URL of tab i of window 1
        end repeat
    end tell

I saw mention of this on HN somewhere previously, but I've found that Tablist[0] is simple (a couple dozen lines of code) and works well.

[0] https://github.com/slymax/tablist (links to Chrome and Firefox extensions there)

I'm glad that such research is being carried out, since the browser is the main tool and chaos is happening in it.

I use LiveComment for manage 10k+ tabs. Pretty practical https://www.npmjs.com/package/livecomment

My thing is a chrome extension dumping all open tabs. But that's all it does. Also a centralized personal store of info, so I can save something for future research... have a scatter brain, randomly researching stuff.

What I wish had reliable persistence is Windows 10 virtual desktops.

I just open three browsers.

Vivaldi for music, long running stuff, gmail, Jira.

Firefox for searching, transient stuff.

Chrome for its dev tools.

It means I can kill either FF and Chrome entirely at any point and lose nothing valuable, not interrupt anything.

That and I don’t hoard tabs, I either bookmark and close or just close and use the history.

I am glad this came up. I had just started work on synchronizing my Emacs org-mode clock tasks with tree style tabs and i see there are some other good things to check out in this thread. Also signed up for Skeema waiting list.

I wish there was a way to completely force firefox to keep only one window open.

I imagine that would help with my tab-hoarding, as I tend to branch into more windows (up to ~50) once they reach too many (20 or so) tabs each.

Opera solved this problem egregiously with workspaces. No need for extensions or other tricks. This feature alone is worth a try of what is regardless the most ergonomic browser I've ever used.

I recently switched after decades on Safari to a task-oriented browser called Min: https://minbrowser.org. It’s fantastic!


TabFS: Mount your Browser Tabs as a Filesystem https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25600338

Generally limit browser tabs to 5. Like the old tmobile myFavs 5. Helps keep focus otherwise "unlimited" tabs makes me totally distracted. Especially on HN.

Some people might find this interesting: https://refresh.study

I am one such tab-overloaded computer user.

There are a few tools that help me effectively manage a large number of tabs. (No, Firefox's Tree Style Tabs isn't one of them - while it is great, it is not powerful enough for me.)

The best experience I've had so far is with Tabs Outliner for Google Chrome and Chromium-based browsers. I find that it's UI requires the least amount of clicks and remains performant even when I have a thousand open tabs and hundreds of thousands of saved tabs. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/tabs-outliner/eggk...

My two main gripes with Tabs Outliner is that it is not FOSS, and that it often forgets that I've purchased a license for Google Drive sync.

I have yearned for a FOSS alternative to Tabs Outliner. The best one I've tried so far is Tab Fern: https://cxw42.github.io/TabFern/

I love the Tab Fern concept and it would be my primary choice but for the following two issues. First and least consequential, the performance is close to but not 100% on par with Tabs Outliner. Second, you cannot open a single saved tab as with Tabs Outliner - instead it will open up the entire window. This is a headache to deal with when your Window has a lot of tabs (it's also a feature that's on the Tabs Fern roadmap.)

I badly wish there was a Tabs Outliner or Tabs Fern for Firefox. Perhaps architectural differences between Chrome and Firefox mean that it will never happen. In lieu of that, I've settled on Session Sync for Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/session-sync/

Session Sync is pretty awesome, especially so because it's also FOSS. It can effectively manage the same amount of tabs as Tabs Outliner while avoiding both of the issues I've mentioned for TabFern. The main problem I have with Session Sync is that these things all require more clicks. For example, if you want to close a tab using either TabFern or Tabs Outliner, you can find the tab in the listing (presumably you searched for it to save time :) and there is an icon right there to close the tab. With Session Sync, you actually have to right-click on the tab before you are presented with the list of available options, which include a Delete option. While this is inconvenient, it's still perfectly workable, and it also has the benefit of slick import/export/backup/sync options that the other two are missing.

As for Skeema, the Chrome extension described in the article, I'd give it a try (if they accept my request for invitation) and would like to see if it could supplant either of the 3 alternatives I've mentioned.

I scrolled all the way to here since I expected way more mentions of Tabs Outliner. It’s kept me stuck on Chrome for so long, but now with the death of The Great Suspender extension my hand has been forced to build my own personal replacement as I want to get off chrome again…

Losing the great suspender means I can’t in concert with Tabs Outliner switch in and out groups of dozens of tabs at a time. Now doing this chews multiple GB of memory and my machine all but locks up for minutes at a time if I forget that I can’t do this anymore. I’ve run into macOS’s “out of memory killer” window pop up on several occasions now entirely from chrome alone.

I am a heavy user of tabs and I’d be trying all the mentioned ones in this page, but I have to express to anyone who has not tried it, if you are building a tab management tool and have not looked at Tabs Outliner in chrome, you need to, it represents the high water mark of tab hoarder & power user features. I’ve got 17 thousand tabs saved in hundreds of windows and groups on just one of my machines!

I’ve got to the point where the design for the tool im building to replace this, must have a query language or just raw SQL power search box to get to whatever underlying dB stores it all (probably going to be Sqlite)

Thanks for your reply. It's good to hear that Tabs Outliner is a favorite for other power users out there. Interesting that you had a great synergy between it and The Great Suspender. I myself hadn't ever used The Great Suspender before hearing about it's recent demise. It sounded pretty useful, and upon looking for alternatives, I discovered the cross-browser extention Auto Tab Discard. FYI: https://github.com/rNeomy/auto-tab-discard

>I’ve got to the point where the design for the tool im building to replace this, must have a query language or just raw SQL power search box to get to whatever underlying dB stores it all (probably going to be Sqlite)

I'm not sure you know this, but nowadays browsers have low-level sql-like api called indexeddb[0] which may fit your needs without using sqlite.

[0] https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/IndexedDB_A...

I find the Workona browser extension works well to organise tabs into groups and then restore tabs when required.

Here's a radical solution - close tabs when you're done with them.

There's a little known feature in browsers called bookmarks that's like tabs, but they don't consume any RAM or bandwidth when you're not using them, and they don't clutter your UI. You can search them, group them into "tab folders", even synchronize them across devices.

Spread the word - bookmarks are the future.

I _do_ close tabs when I'm done with them.

The problem is that I have multiple things I'm working on and I don't want to close the dozen or two tabs open that I have related to it while I'm still working on the project, because looking up the bookmark, or finding the URL, and then scrolling the right spot is many times more work than just keeping the tab open and switching back to it when I need it.

My favorite Firefox feature of all time was "Tab Candy" which was later renamed to "Panorama" It allowed you to automatically group tabs by project or context and let you switch between them seamlessly. Firefox decided to kill it and there is nothing like it now, all of the closest alternatives--when they actually work--require you to manually save and reload groups, which is not effort I'm willing to make.

That's the problem, I have nearly 100 tabs open because I am not done with them.

Having 100 tasks going at once seems like a chaotic nightmare to me - but different working styles I guess.

It's not 100 different tasks. For example, online research into a topic could lead to a bunch of tabs with relevant info. If I am going to be using the results of the research in the next few weeks, I just leave the tabs open. I don't want to bother managing bookmarks for something short term like that.

Brave on android recently added a feature that automatically groups tabs. It's quite nice.

I used to have this problem. Now I just collect bookmarks that I will never read

Is there a public demo of it posted anywhere?

i get anxious when I have more than like 5 tabs open...I don't know how people handle having 20-100+

I think it's just an information hoarding mentality. Like people you see on hoarding TV shows with stacks upon stacks of old newspapers just in case they "need" to refer to them one day.

Just fire up another window :)

a simple fish-eye view as you hover over tabs would be fantastic...

Didn't Opera solved this 10+ years ago with Tab Group ?

Hi Mike.


Since March, Microsoft Edge based on Chromium supports vertical tabs, just click a button in the tab bar to turn it on: https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2021/03/04/amp-u...

I believe back in the day that Opera was the first browser to commonly support the feature. And I remember using Firefox and Mozilla extensions for tab management a decade ago. The more things change...

Vertical tab in Microsoft Edge is a game changer for me. With it, it is easier for me to scan what tabs I have open, which makes it easier for me to close tabs that I no longer need.

Genius idea! Most websites have too much space on the sides anyways, this would be perfect. It simple but I never thought to look for this - just got an extension to do it and it seems great.

Vivaldi does

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