5 browser extensions that will keep you from drowning in tabs
Take control of tab overflow.
This story has been updated. It was originally published on January 4, 2018.
As you wander around the internet, you might leave a page or two running at once. Keeping multiple tabs open is useful—it lets you cross-reference pages, save long articles for later reading, and remind yourself to check email. But when those tabs balloon in number from two to three to four dozen, you can easily get lost. That’s not only bad for your attention span, but also eats into your computer’s available memory, slowing it down.
Don’t panic—we collected eight useful extensions to help tame your tabs. These will let you save pages until a later time, mute certain windows while you’re working on something else, and more. Install your favorites from this list and start browsing smarter.
OneTab offers an extremely simple solution to tab management: When you click the extension’s icon, it will instantly hide all of your tabs. However, they will live on in the OneTab interface—itself a lone browser window. If you clear different clusters of tabs at once, the extension will preserve these groups, so you can recover your pages individually, in groups, or all at once.
This add-on will keep your desktop tidy and prevent your browser from eating up too much memory. It also comes with extra options to customize how you corral your wayward pages, including the abilities to filter out duplicate tabs and prevent pinned tabs from disappearing.
OneTab is free for for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari.
For the simplest solution to mushrooming browser pages, xTab restricts the number of open tabs. You won’t get any fancy lists, link retrieval, or tab management here, just a hard limit. Once you reach that limit, whether you set it at five or 50, you can still open new tabs—but xTab will start closing older ones. And you’ll get to choose the order in which these tabs close: the least recently used, the least often accessed, or the oldest. Or, instead of having the extension automatically close old tabs, you can have it block any new tabs from opening. This means you’ll have to manually close an existing tab before you can open a new one.
[Related: 12 ways to make your new browser tabs more exciting]
The xTab method doesn’t give you an easy way to retrieve closed tabs, so it should make you think twice about opening new ones. If it feels a little too brutal to you, bear in mind that pinned tabs and tabs you haven’t yet viewed will be exempt from the cull.
xTab is free for Chrome.
Tree Tabs won’t limit your multitude of open tabs, but it will give you an alternative view that makes them easier to organize. While the tabs themselves will appear in Firebox as usual, you can also access them through a sidebar. In this view, you’ll get to arrange your tabs in a tree-like structure, putting some underneath others to create a hierarchy. You can even assign categories—such as sports, banking, or social media—to groups of tabs.
Within the Tree Tabs sidebar, you can also search through your tabs, save certain pages for later browsing, and reopen windows you just closed. It’s an extremely useful map that points the way as you navigate through your tab forest.
Tree Tabs is free for Firefox.
All Tabs Helper
Like Tree Tabs, All Tabs Helper opens a tab-viewing sidebar on the left of the Firefox interface. Although you can drag-and-drop tabs to reorder them in the list, you can’t organize them into groups. However, within the All Tabs Helper sidebar, you can select multiple tabs at once (hold Shift and click), close windows (hit the cross icon next to any entry), and search for specific pages.
[Related: 5 advanced Firefox hacks to level up your browsing]
The extension also includes a useful duplicates finder, so you can tell if you’ve got the same tab open twice. And if you need to retrace your steps, it can restore a history of your open tabs, revealing any accidentally-closed windows.
All Tabs Helper is free for Firefox.
Mute All Inactive Tabs
Reducing clutter isn’t the only reason you need to control your tabs. When you have too many windows open, an annoying autoplaying video or audio clip can be nearly impossible to hunt down and silence. That’s where Mute All Inactive Tabs comes in. As its name suggests, it will silence all the open browser tabs except for the one you’re currently viewing.
If you really need to hear an inactive tab—maybe you’re streaming some songs through it or playing a YouTube video in the background—right-click on the tab header and choose to unmute it. When you switch to a different tab, the add-on will exempt that particular tab from its rules.
Mute All Inactive Tabs is free for Firefox.