Open Thread: What's Your Browser Tab Usage Style?


Alex King wonders about browser tab usage styles:

My browser tabs are almost completely transient to me. I don’t keep pages open to read for longer than an hour or so, or keep a tab open to a webmail client or feed reader. I even quit my browser and close all the windows on a regular basis.

None of the other guys in the conversation followed this usage pattern. They had 20-200+ tabs open at a time, with session saver and sync extensions. Their browser tabs have a lot of valuable information for them.

How do you use browser tabs? Transiently and judiciously? In a strictly controlled order and window configuration? As reminders of things you need to do? Or wildly and madly and without any limits whatsoever?


Jono Cono

I would say transient. If I don’t need a tab open then I close it. It’s pretty much open tabs as required and I don’t get too wild and crazy with it. It’s much nicer having tabs as opposed to multiple windows open. I also like to close my browser when I’m not using it. No excess, just whatever I need at the moment and that’s all!


I have two tabs always open (with Tab Mix Plus session saving): my feed reader (Google Reader) and Netvibes. the rest I open and close as I need. I also don’t use multiple windows, so everything stays on the same window!
Right now, there’s 5 tabs open.


I always open all 30 tabs from my Bookmarks Toolbar Folder that include mail, news, forums and my weblog and after reading them I close them except the Gmail and my Google personalized page with all the RSS feeds.


I find it depends what I do – when I read news etc from feed readers I will open a bunch at a time, but that’s not for very long – until I read them and then close them

However I’ve found that there are articles that I’d like to keep for future reference so I use things like Yahoo MyWeb to bookmark these pages to read later.

Sine I do web promotion, when I actually do use my browsers for work I tend to have 2 or 3 tabs max open, however I may have multiple browsers each with those 2 or 3 tabs (for testing purposes only – to make sure changes I’ve made actually function on multiple browsers).

I’m a similar neat freak in that sense – I have to close tabs – open tabs bother me. And quite regularly throughout the day I’ll close my browser altogether for the same reason – too many open progams filling my toolbar panel bothers me so a few times a day all my programs get closed (or at the very least shifted to another desktop where I won’t see them :) ).


Interesting – never really thought about it but I’ve got both Firefox and IE7 open with 25 tabs between them. I tend to use tabs as a surfing queue or in-tray. If it’s been open for a couple of days, I’ll close it without worrying. Tabs that are always open? Four of them – work intranet 1/work intranet 2/Netvibes homepage/Wordpress admin


Interesting question, and it’s interesting from a usabilty perspective to read how differently people use tabs.

Myself, I have groups for such things as news, accounts, work projects, etc. I tend to open all tabs in one group, and then close them all as soon as I don’t need them. I have colleagues that keep 50 or more tabs open all the tine — that’s too much for me to manage.

Dave C.

Honestly, it depends on what I’m doing. If I’m going through my daily feeds, I skim the info and open items I want to read further into tabs and work my way through them. If I’m blogging, I’ll have random pages up in random order in case I need to access information from another site, or place an adsense ad or compare the admin panel to the live site. Very rarely do I leave tabs open to get to later. If I have to wait that long, I create a folder in my bookmarks and put those pages in that folder.


I will usually have my feedreader and at least one forum site, and I open almost every external link in a new tab. My browser stays open all the time, sometimes for days at a stretch, especially if I have an ongoing project or two.

Sean ODriscoll

I have a number of sites that I “preload” via internet options as home pages…so I guess I know longer have a home page, I have several that are core to me…beyond that, I live even more in my RSS feeds. I open a lot of new tabs as I read online and follow various links and don’t want to lose track of where I was.

Right or wrong, that is my approach.

Joshua Kaufman

I usually have email and some Backpack page open at any given time, but beyond that I have a tendency towards cleanliness.

However, as the WebOS becomes increasingly useful, the demand on users to keep individual tabs open for these often used web services becomes frustrating. What would be great is if browsers offered a “tab well” – something similar to the palette well in PhotoShop – that always kept our core web services open and running in the background. They be accessed by clicking on the “tab well” tabs, via a keyboard shortcut or by dragging them onto a foreground tab.

next STEPH

I can’t have anymore than 5 tabs open at a time, else its not manageable. They have to be all related to a project. If there is more that 5 tabs, then I file them in a bookmark folder. For example, all the files for working on a client (marketing accounts, hosting accounts, etc.) If I’m working on another project, it will be a new browser window. The one that Ieave open primarily like everyone has said is Gmail.


This is amusing. I was criticized yesterday at work because I keep so many browser tabs open and about 20 browser windows open at the same time. I even blogged about it at the suggestion of my co-worker. You can read that post here:

My tabs tend to be left open until I am finished acting on that information. I am constantly interrupted in my job, so I don’t seem to get tabs closed until hours or even days later. That works for me. Except when I get too many windows and tabs open and my Mac slows down so much I can’t use it. Then, it gets frustrating.


I’m a hybrid. I tend to leave 5-6 tabs open at all times. I’ll open my site, my forum, meebo, another forum or two and a search tab. That will stay open all day. If I have other on-line projects, I’ll open a fresh window and tab all my research there. I also like to start a window with only my e-mails. But I can’t stand all the clutter of having all that stuff open ad tabbed in the same window.


Transient. I use tabs as a work management tool, so if something is open, then it’s open because it’s still an “active” item. At the end of the day, closing each tab gives me a sense of satisfaction.

Maria Palma

I tend to keep 3-4 tabs open at one time. The first one is for email and the rest is for things I’m working on. Like everyone else, I don’t like too much clutter. Having too many tabs open is pretty overwhelming. I feel like a chicken with it’s head cut off ;)


It’s funny that this question came up just now. I had the tab for this website open for about an hour, and hadn’t visited it. I was going to close it, but then at the last moment decided that I would refresh the window to see if anything new had come up of interest. How ironic it was a question about closing tabs… =)

I usually have 3-4 tabs always open. I have one tab for the webpage that I’m working on, and one tab open to the database. I’ll occasionally have tabs open for information or ideas for a specific project I’m working on, but those I usually close as soon as I’m done with them. All other tabs are just “break” tabs, when I need to step out of the code for a minute and refresh myself. I tend to have at least one open all the time to either digg or google. All others I tend to close after I’m done with them. I don’t like cluttering up my tab bar with gazillions of pages. I keep it to my essentials, and then open more from there.

Jeff O'Hara

For Feed reading, fly threw my feeds, if anything sounds interesting I open in it a tab, when i’ve gone through them all I read all my tabs. I keep 2 firefox windows open. 1 for things I may be working on or reading for a project, the other one is strictly for feed reading. This workflow works very well for me, your mileage may vary.


Mike Gunderloy

Right now – 18 tabs on one box, 14 on another, 5 on a third. A mix of Web apps that usually stay open, sites that I need to write up for one blog or another, things I’m digging into for work, stories plucked from RSS feeds that I want to follow, things for today’s homeschooling…

I don’t permatab anything, but I have a section in my bookmarks for the things that I need most often.

Kevin Marsh

I use tab windows (and open in new background tab) as a sort of queue for pages to read. I’ll open up reddit, Slashdot, digg, my network and command-click away on links. When I’m done with one page, I close the tab and continue until maybe an hour later when I have no more web surfing to do!

Michael Wales

My first tab is always, always, Google Reader. After that, the next 2-3 tabs are a random configuration of digg, and a few of my regular forums. After that there is no pattern, but I average 8-12 tabs at a time.

I’ll read through a page, middle-clicking the links I want to explore, then I hit those tabs up and read them. It is also a to-read system for me and I hate having to hit the back button 1 million times trying to find that site that linked to the site that linked to this site that I got stuck on YouTube for 20 minutes then checked my mail before this. Why do that when I could just middle-click to close and I’m back to the random blog that started my whole adventure?


I am a little bit of both, with a penchant for cleanliness. I have at the very least a portal page for my work open, one email client, a news feed, a local news feed, industry articles I am reading or scanning, DIGG,, and the rest is fun stuff like ESPN, YouTube, friends pages, unique searches.

I have a separate browser instance open for work, since I am web designer/developer, I have all my IT resources, CMS entry points, release volumes, SQL help pages, coding page help, Adobe (of course).

I use Firefox 2.0 and love it. I will never go back to IE for personal use, and I really enjoy the tabbed feature. I can multi-task and use key stroke shortcuts like it is my job. :)

Tony D. Clark

I’m like Mikkel. Tabs are like another GTD inbox for me. I open everything in a new tab (set FF to do this) and then process each tab – bookmark, flag to blog about, comment, read, etc. – then close it. My main apps and tools are on my bookmark toolbar so they’re one click away, but not opened all the time.


I never made the switch to tabs. I prefer distinct windows, partly due to a reliance on alt+tab (or cmd+tab, cmd+~).

I’ve typically got at least two (Gmail, Google Reader) open all day, as well as other items I haven’t bookmarked or sent to friends yet.

Mikkel Malmberg

I too am a clean-freak. Every tab is like a to-read item for me. As soon as it’s read, and maybe bookmarked, I close it. I don’t like to have my browsing session interupted – I like to be the only one to choose when to leave a page. And I use tabs for that.

Anne Zelenka

I’m mainly a transient tab type too, though I like to have a few permanent tabs: gmail, google calendar, Zimbra (for another email account), Twitter. I think I’ll try out the permatab and faviconizeTab extensions, those sound really useful.

Jason Emerick

I have 4 permanent tabs in firefox using the permatab extension. The four tabs are google reader, google calendar, remember the milk, and gmail. To make these permanent tabs less intrusive, faviconizeTab extension is used to shrink each tab down to is favicon which is enough to identify each tab apart. Other tabs come and go throughout the day as needed.

Jason Emerick


It depends on the situation, I primarily do it the transient way. I don’t like clutter, and I don’t like seeing nothing but X’s for tabs. I have at the most 6 at any given time I think. Email, netvibes, articles.

João Craveiro

I have a kind of hybrid style, tending towards the second one — except that I don’t use a session saver extension. I rely on Firefox 2’s ability to recover open tabs on crash. In the event I want to exit Firefox but keep my tabs, I just use a “Force Quit” GNOME applet to close Firefox as if it had crashed. ;)


Transient. I’m a clean freak, so keeping windows/tabs open when I’m not actively using them bothers me. I don’t go so far as quitting the browser though.

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