How to organize your browser tabs vertically—and why you should do it

I'd like a browser with tabs on the side, please.
screenshot of vertical sidebar on safari
It may not be for you, but it may also change the way you browse. David Nield

We all like to have our programs set up just the way we like, and browsers are no exception. You can do aesthetic changes, like moving the icons of your favorite extensions for easier reach, or changing the backdrop of new blank tabs.

But you can also revolutionize the way you use the program by changing how tabs propagate during a browsing session. You can rearrange and pin them, of course, but you can also shift their position down to the side of your screen rather than along the top. The option just made its way back to the latest edition of Safari on macOS, but other browsers have vertical tabs, too.

While it might not sound like a major change, it can make a big difference to your browsing experience. You’ll be able to reach tabs on the side more easily and scan them more quickly, (especially if you’re on an ultra-wide monitor), and web pages will benefit from more vertical space on your screen. It’s an option that’s well worth trying to see if it works for you.

How to activate sidebar tabs on Safari

The most recent version of Safari brings vertical tabs back—the feature was previously available but hasn’t been in recent years. The tabs appear by default in the sidebar, which you can make visible by clicking the Show sidebar icon in the toolbar or by opening the View menu and then choosing Show Sidebar.

[Related: 5 browser extensions that will keep you from drowning in tabs]

As you browse you’ll see your tabs show up on the left of the screen, as well as any tab groups you’ve saved (just click on any of them to expand them). Click and drag on a tab to change its position on the list, or to drag it to an existing tab group. You can also right-click on a tab title to access all the standard tab options in a pop-up menu, including Close Tab, Duplicate Tab, and Copy Link.

How to get vertical tabs on Chrome

Google Chrome doesn’t support vertical tabs natively, so you’ll need the help of a third-party extension. The perfectly named Vertical Tabs is the best option we found and it won’t cost you anything. Simply download the add-on and then click the orange Vertical Tabs icon in the Chrome toolbar to activate it.

You can drag and drop tabs to reorder them, refresh and close tabs using the buttons to the right, and search your tabs using the box at the top. Right-click on a tab for options such as Pin and Mute this Tab, and click the cog icon at the top to get to the extension options. From there, you can choose which side of the screen the tabs are on, and pick between dark and light themes.

How to bring vertical tabs to Firefox

Just like with Chrome, if you want to get vertical tabs in Firefox, you’ll need the help of a third-party extension. And also just like with Google’s browser, the solution is an add-on called Vertical Tabs, though it’s not the same one we mentioned above. This tool is a fine and free option that’s utterly simple to use. It allows you to display or hide the sidebar by clicking on the Vertical Tabs icon that pops up on the Firefox toolbar once you download the extension. You can also click on the cog icon above the vertical tabs to access the tool’s settings, where you’ll be able to choose a theme if you want to, among other options.

You can change the position of tabs by dragging and dropping them in the sidebar, and close them with a click on the X icons to the right. Right-click on any of the tabs for all the key functions you’re going to need while browsing, such as Reload Tab, Close Tab, and Mute Tab.

How to turn on vertical tabs on Edge

Microsoft has added vertical tabs as a native feature to its Edge browser, so you’ll need no extensions if you use this app to surf the web. To activate them, click the Tab Actions Menu button, which is up in the top left corner of the browser and looks like a square with two small rectangles around it, indicating a browser interface. Then, choose Turn On Vertical Tabs. The tab headers will then make the switch from the top to the left-hand edge of the interface.

As always, you can drag and drop tabs to change their order, close them with a click on the X icons to the right, and bring up a host of other options—from refreshing tabs to bringing back the last tab you closed—by right-clicking on a tab header. Click the Tab Actions Menu again to turn off vertical tabs or to search through them.

How to get vertical tabs on Opera

If Opera is your browser of choice then you’re going to need to install a free extension called, appropriately enough, Vertical Tabs—again, not the same one available for Chrome or Firefox. Once you’ve installed it, you’ll see a new icon on the toolbar on the left, which looks like four horizontal lines on top of each other. Click on it to show or hide the vertical tab list. You can also click the pin icon on the actual vertical tabs list so that it remains visible.

[Related: Twelve ways to make your new browser tabs more exciting]

You can reorder tabs by dragging and dropping them, and if you hover over a tab title you can close it by clicking the X on the right. Around the side of the vertical tabs panel you’ll see buttons for pinning and grouping tabs, searching through tabs, and all the other key functions you’re going to need.