As someone who uses standalone web apps for everything on my laptop and desktop, it’s weird that I’ve accidentally fallen in love with Chrome’s new tab groups feature. I really dislike how cluttered and random tabs have always felt in the browser, which is why I’ve decided to go the route of separating everything out into their own icons and managing them all from the shelf of my Chromebook or Window’s computer instead, but tab groups have entirely changed that for me in a way that I hadn’t expected.
Back in May, Google made this awesome feature available for those who prefer to hoard tabs and wanted some organization method to help manage them. while I’ve never been one to do so, I do like the idea of maintaining several browsing sessions and thought processes for different tasks simultaneously, especially when I’m in research mode. In fact, I’ve used Toby to do just this in the past. Storing browsing sessions based on their purpose is more effective, in my opinion, than bookmarking everything with no clear intent on when or how you will return to it later.
That’s why I tried ‘tab groups’ in the first place. The fact that they remain out in the open helps me keep important processes ‘top of mind’ and return to them in short spurts here and there. For those who prefer to be singularly focused, I can see how tab groups could be a nightmare, but I’ve come to appreciate them quite a bit. If something is out of sight for me, it’s out of mind, and this is why I ultimately gave up Toby. Google’s approach is based on simplicity and practicality and has me feeling more productive than ever. I’ve even moved several of my web apps into browser tabs to keep things together under their colorful, fun labels, something I never thought I would do. Being able to drag tabs in and out of groups, rename the groups and even change their colors at will is incredibly easy and it’s lightning-fast.
What tab groups do really well
If you’re just diving in and giving tab groups a try, you may notice that all of the tabs you have take up quite a bit of space. Chrome currently offers the ability to collapse tab groups, but it’s hidden behind a flag. Once you enable it, you’ll notice that these collapsed tabs continue to suck up ram on your device, but thanks to the upcoming Tab Groups Collapse Freezing, they will instead go into a sort of stasis until you need them again, similar to how extensions like The Great Suspender and Toby function. If you want to get the most out of this tool, you can enable both as seen below at
chrome://flags. I’m currently using both and let me tell you – once both are fully rolled out, I think a lot of people will be using tab groups and often. They really do supercharge your workflow!
In addition, Google recently released automatic tab grouping, which automatically opens new tabs in the group you’re working in if they’re created by clicking links. Whoever decided to start playing with the idea of tab groups at Google (maybe in their 20% time?) I’m glad they did because it’s a game-changer. Anyway, here are some examples of how I personally use tab groups. My hope is that while we’ve spoken at length about them here before, seeing some practical use cases will help you get started with them and learn to love them as much as I have!
- Core or Planning – Gmail, Calendar
- Orders – Google Store shipping, Best Buy and Walmart Playstation 5 Pre-Order (refresh, refresh!), Google Shopping order tracking
- Social – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn
- Mind – Google Keep
- Body – MyFitnessPal, Youtube motivational or fitness videos, fitness-related research
- Spirit – Bible.com, Google Keep, research
- Gaming – Stadia, GeForce NOW
- Inspiration – Google Collections, Pinterest, ArtStation, DeviantArt
- Devlog – WeVideo, Gravit, anything else I need to make a developer vlog for my game studio
- Tabs named after a client or ongoing project
- Website – Your website, your web host, Mailchimp, Google Trends, Adsense, etc.
- Planning – Trello, Google Sheets, Tables by Area120, Keep (again)
- Research tabs – I’ll label these based on their focus or task for my game development research (You can see an example below). While most of the examples above are more permanent, these may be temporary, but it’s great to keep them grouped!
What they could do better
Pretty cool, right? Let us know in the comments section how you’re using tab groups for your own needs! With all of that said, Google still has some work to do with tab groups to perfect them, in my opinion. For example, while I previously mentioned that I enjoy the fact that they remain out in the open, I would absolutely love the option for storing them on the new tab page as Toby does. Out of sight and out of mind is sometimes a good thing. I often find myself having too many tab groups, primarily when I switch gears entirely. Having several groups for a single topic is great, but it’s not always how I use them. You could say I ought to be using bookmarks at that point, and if Google allowed for tab groups to be sent to bookmarks or Collections with one click and then restored, I probably would, but this feature currently does not exist.
Additionally, dragging tab groups expands them automatically. If you’re just doing some reorganization, it’s a bit jarring to see a bunch of tabs pop out at you from a previously collapsed group. Instead, a collapsed tab group that’s being dragged should remain collapsed. Another great feature would be the ability to pin tabs within a group instead of to the browser as a whole. It’s probably not very important for most people, but it feels like an extra layer of polish that I would enjoy.
The last few features on my Wishlist have to do with account synchronization. I’ve found myself using tab groups across my Windows PC and my Chromebook and two things stick out to me – you can’t call up tab groups from the history menu that are currently open on another device like you can with regular tabs and tab groups don’t sync with your Google account. They do get restored if you close and re-open Chrome, but it’s a temporary caching solution. If Google synchronized your tab groups to your account, then you could pull them up on any device, even after rebooting or power washing – similar to how they may soon sync more of your Virtual Desks features. This would be incredible, especially for groups you retain indefinitely or for longer periods of time to keep your tabs organized. I stand by asking them to utilize the new tab page to store and recall tab groups though as I think it would be the perfect space for them.
Tab groups are an incredibly clever innovation on Google’s part and I hope to see more features added over time. They’re off to a great start and can be useful to many who prefer to open everything in the browser as opposed to creating shortcuts. If you haven’t messed with them yet, simply right-click a tab in Chrome, go to ‘add to tab group > new group’, give it a name and a color, and voila – you’re done! It can be hard to adopt new computing practices, but keeping ‘tabs’ on your life in this way can be more efficient and even fun, so I hope you give it a try!