Browser tabs probably were God-sent gifts for multi-taskers. There’s nothing like “too many tabs” when you are browsing to all corners of the web. If you are on Chrome, then you are all too aware of the need for managing all your open Chrome tabs. Chrome tabs may be hogging RAM but our latest computers have enough to go around. But let’s also remember that tabs are a browser’s real estate and we do need to use them wisely.
In fact, if you are not using them directly for browsing, you can keep a tab in the background and use it for some other productive purpose. I went in search of Chrome extensions, websites, and other hacks which could help me make more productive use of my Chrome tabs. I am happy to report that there are some creative uses you can put them to.
Set a Countdown – Timer Tab
If you are looking for a productivity jump in the way you do your work, a timer and stopwatch are almost pre-requisites. What better way to dedicate a spare (and we have lots to spare) browser tab to just such a cause. You have quite a few choices – Timer Tab is a useful one. Timer Tab is a website and a Chrome extension that gives you a clock, a stopwatch, and an alarm. It runs offline too and one of the attractions is the absolutely clean interface (you can specify a background image). When the alarm is triggered, the tab starts flashing red and the sound plays in the background. You can choose your own YouTube video for the alarm sound. You can also enable a desktop notification. I like to click on the clock and enlarge it to fill up the screen.
Watch the Weather – Currently
Currently is a simply Chrome extension that takes over one of your tabs and displays the current time and weather. What’s impressive about the extension is that it does so in an understated by stylish way. You don’t have to tap into another site to know if the season will behave outside your window. In fact, Currently is so well recommended that it made our Best Of Chrome Extensions page and my friend Aaron also did a thorough job of reviewing Currently for you. Currently sources the weather data from Wunderground.com and packages it in a slick and modern interface. It is customizable with your own choice of background color.
Be With Nature – Wild Sanctuary
We have talked about ambient music and other varied sounds that can help us focus by drowning out the noise. Wild Sanctuary is an experiment I am sure you will love if you like hearing the natural harmonies of nature. Who doesn’t! Wild Sanctuary is a superbly compiled collection of natural soundscapes, and by that I mean the sounds are all natural – there is no electronic synthesis. The people behind the collection have been at it from 1968. The site says –
This unique bioacoustics resource contains marine and terrestrial soundscapes representing the voices of living organisms from larvae to large mammals and the numerous tropical, temperate and Arctic biomes from which they come. The catalog currently contains over 4,500 hours of wild soundscapes and in excess of 15,000 identified life forms.
Now, wouldn’t you agree that this invaluable resource deserves a tab if you like to feel you are in the midst of nature while working?
A Photo for Sore Eyes – VisivoTab
VisivoTab is probably not as relaxing as the aforementioned site, but if you like photography in general and Flickr in particular, then taking an occasional peek at the photos in the midst of a working break could be considered relaxing. This could be one of the easiest ways to great Flickr from your browser, and though it may not be construed as “productive”, Flickr is an online meeting ground for some creative individuals behind a lens. The good thing is that the high-resolution photos are hand-picked by the developers. You can click on the View in Photostream button and view the photo in Flickr.
Don’t Forget Your Tasks – New Tab to Tasks
New Tab to Tasks is a very simple extension that reserves the new tab page to display your Google Tasks. I agree with the developer when he says that It’s nice to have it in Mail, Calendar, etc. except we forget to look at it. With the extension and a new tab page, it is more front and center. The extension may be a simple redirect of your principal Gmail account with the tasks listed out, but as you can probably guess that it has its uses and is definitely worth a look if you planning on being productive with the help of Chrome.
Turn a Tab into a Notebook
This is a pretty old hack that is doing the rounds. I can’t claim credit for it which probably belongs to Jose Jesus Perez Aguinaga who gives us an impromptu browser notepad with a single line of code in the Omnibox. Open a new tab page and type data:text/html, <html contenteditable> in the address bar. You now have a blank tab which you can use to type notes on the fly.
The a5 web app built around this also seems like a simple idea that can be put to use. The simple web app uses the browser’s local storage to save the notes.
Give Back – Tab for a Cause
Technology and charity mix wonderfully. Tabs for a Cause is a Chrome extension that helps turn your web browsing into a charitable activity. With the Tabs for a Cause extension, one of every few new tabs you open is redirected to a donation page for your chosen cause. The service earns from the advertisements on the page, and you become a passive charitable donor. You can also read about the charity that is being supported by Tab for a Cause.
Tab for a Cause reminded me of the initiative launched by Google three years back with. There too, each tab you opened helped raise money for a charity. Chrome for a Cause is no longer functioning.
Pick Your Favorite Website – Replace New Tab Page
Replace New Tab Page helps you change the default behavior of any new tab page you open in Chrome. Unlike the Chrome setting which allows you to open a set of pages on startup, this extension opens any webpage or web application (like the ones we mentioned above) you specific when you open a new tab in Chrome. After installing the extension, simply set the URL of the website you want to open with a new tab.
Tabs of course have other productive uses beyond these. We have regularly talked about Chrome start pages. Then again, you could prefer to have your Google services and other apps as shortcuts on the tab pages. At the end of the day, it’s better to use a new tab page productively instead of keeping it as a vanilla wasteland. How you use your new tab page? What other productive uses can you suggest that we can access with a CONTROL + T? Crowd the comments.