Master Tab Management in Chrome with These Built-in Features

Ads by Google

Which came first: browser tabs or browser windows? I don’t know, but I do know how to keep them both in line.

We previously showed you some incredible ways to manage tabs in Firefox. Now it’s time to master tab management in Chrome. Let’s see what’s possible without installing a single extension. We’ll show you a mix of keyboard shortcuts and mouse-based tips that’ll make handling tabs easier, smoother, and maybe even enjoyable.


Remember, if you use a Mac, you’ll have to replace Ctrl with Cmd and Alt with Option to make use of the keyboard shortcuts we discuss here.

Opening and Closing Tabs

Let’s begin with the most basic of all browser actions: opening and closing tabs. In Chrome, you can open a new tab with Ctrl + T and close the current tab with Ctrl + W. For closing tabs, Ctrl + F4 or a middle-click with the mouse also works. You can drag and drop a link onto the active tab to open it right there. If you want to open the link in a new tab, drag and drop it to any spot on the tab bar.

If you’d like to open any link on a web page in a new background tab, instead of going through its context menu, hit Ctrl + Enter. Adding the Shift key i.e. Ctrl + Shift + Enter opens the link in a new foreground tab instead. To open a link in a new window, try Shift + Enter. Feel free to replace the Enter key with a left click of the mouse in these shortcuts.

Ads by Google

You can program Chrome to open a specific set of tabs on every launch, but if you want to keep just a handful of tabs available for quick access, pin them to Chrome. Do this for each tab with the Pin Tab option from its context menu. There’s no keyboard shortcut for this one. But there should be, right?

Here’s a neat trick if you want search results for your omnibox queries to open in a new tab instead of the current one. Hold down the Alt key before you hit Enter. Ta-da!

Closed a tab without meaning to? Don’t worry. Ctrl + Shift + T will revive it. Keep hitting that shortcut for up to 10 times to bring back the most recently closed tabs in the opposite order that you closed them i.e. on a last-in, first-out basis.


If you prefer mouse clicks over keystrokes, right-click on any tab to find the option to close tabs and reopen closed ones. You’ll find more useful options in this context menu, including Close Other Tabs, Close Tabs to the Right, and Duplicate.

If you want to speed up tab closing, Chrome has an experimental feature for you. You can enable it via chrome://flags. Look for Enable fast tab/window close (Hint: use Ctrl – F). That’s the one!

While you’re making that change, you might want to enable this other feature: Enable Offline Auto-Reload Mode. This ensures that if your browser is recovering from a failed Internet connection, you don’t have to reload each tab manually. Chrome does it for you after you enable that setting.

If you want to reload only the visible tabs, try this flag instead: Only Auto-Reload Visible Tabs. You’ll need to relaunch Chrome for these changes to take effect.

Managing Windows


We recommend splitting up your online sojourns into separate (logical) windows. It’s somewhat easier to keep track of your tabs that way.

To open a new window, all you have to do is hit Ctrl + N. Of course, you can take the longer route and use File > New Window to do the same thing. If you want to move a tab from an existing window to a new one of its own, just drag it out of the current window. Changed your mind midway? Hit Esc and that tab will return to its original position.

To move a bunch of tabs to a new window, first hold down the Shift key before you select them one by one. Now drag the whole set out of the current window.

If you use Chrome’s incognito mode often, memorize the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + N to bring up a new incognito window quickly (and remember this when you go incognito online). The incognito mode is great for tasks like finding cheaper deals while shopping, logging into accounts on a borrowed computer, and printing multiple coupons.

Easy Tab Switching

You can cycle through your Chrome tabs in the forward direction with Ctrl + Tab or in the backward direction with Ctrl + Shift + Tab. Mac users, listen up. For these tab switching shortcuts, you’ll need to stick with the Ctrl key even on OS X instead of switching to the Cmd key.


By the way, if you’re on Windows, you can also use Ctrl + Pg dn to switch to the next tab and Ctrl + Pg up to switch to the previous tab. And Mac users can also use Cmd + Option + right/left arrow to cycle through tabs. As expected, using the right arrow for the shortcut takes you to the next tab and using the left one takes you to the previous tab.

Did you know that you can hit Ctrl + 1 to switch to the first tab, Ctrl + 2 to go the second tab, and so on? This works for up to eight tabs i.e. till Ctrl + 8. There is a task assigned to Ctrl + 9. It always takes you to the rightmost tab in the current window. It doesn’t matter is you have five tabs open or a hundred. Ctrl + 9 will always take you to the first tab on the right.

Silencing Tabs

You can’t do much about auto-playing audio and video content embedded in web pages, but at least you can shut it up by muting it. Web users craved the option to mute tabs so much that most of the top browsers have granted their wish and added it as a native feature. But Chrome got there first.


Chrome — as well as browsers like Safari and Firefox — allows you to mute any tab via the tab’s right-click menu or context menu. Also, you’ll see a tiny volume icon on tabs that have audio/video playing. On Safari and Firefox, clicking on that icon on any tab mutes that tab. That won’t work on Chrome unless you go to chrome://flags, set the Enable tab audio muting UI control flag to enabled, and relaunch Chrome.

Pausing Tabs

Google is working on a tab discarding feature as part of its drive to fix memory problems in Chrome. You can try this feature right away by setting the Enable tab discarding flag in chrome://flags. Once you do this and relaunch Chrome, it’ll “kill” inactive tabs to save on memory, but it’ll retain them in your tab bar. You can reload those discarded tabs in a single click.

There’s a fixed priority order in which Chrome will discard tabs. Internal pages like Bookmarks go first. Pinned tabs and the active tab are the last to go, and that’s only when you’re running really low on memory.

Tab discarding is just one of the hidden Chrome settings that you can experiment with.

Bookmarking All Open Tabs in One Go

Sometimes getting rid of open tabs and starting with a brand new tab is the most direct way to reclaim some headspace and start breathing again.

You don’t have to lose any of your useful open tabs or even bookmark them one by one to save them for another day. Dump the entire bunch into a single folder in your Bookmarks and restore it in a couple of clicks when you’re ready to tackle all those tabs once again.

To bookmark all open tabs in one shot, right-click on any tab and click on Bookmark All Tabs… in the context menu to save all those tabs in a new, dedicated folder. When you want to open them again, right-click on the folder and you’ll be able to select whether you want to open them all together in the current window or in a new window.

It’s Time to Wrap Up

Chrome’s built-in tab management features are a good place to start taking control of your tabs. Even if you have a ridiculous number of them open, there’s still hope for you as long as you stick to some good habits for dealing with tabs. And not just in Chrome, but in any browser.

Do you use the mouse or the keyboard for fast browsing? Which shortcuts do you rely on to navigate and manipulate Chrome tabs at warp speed? Share your favorite ones in the comments!

Image Credits: magician performing trick by Andrey_Popov via Shutterstock, anitakhart via Compfight cc, mediapinta via Compfight cc

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Awesome Internet (and Tips)
Awesome Internet (and Tips)
1414 Members
Web Security & Privacy
Web Security & Privacy
509 Members
Affiliate Disclamer

This article may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
New comment

Please login to avoid entering captcha

Log In