How To Make Links Open In The Background With Firefox & Chrome

Tina Sieber 07-06-2011

Do you regularly browse through emails or RSS feeds and cue up links in your browser to read later? As you do that, you may often find yourself distracted by your browser popping up in the foreground or by the focus being stolen by a new tab. Whether you’re using webmail, a desktop email client or an RSS feed reader, there are tricks and techniques to make links open in the background. This article shows you how to tame foreground-seeking links in Firefox and provides some tips on how to deal with Chrome.


If you’re opening links from outside your browser, it doesn’t matter where you open them from. You could be clicking on a link in either Thunderbird, a PDF document, or another program. What does matter is your default browser.


open links in background

There is a simple tweak that allows you to force Mozilla Firefox to open ‘diverted’ links in the background. Note that this will affect all links, including those opened from within the browser!

Go to Firefox and type > about:config into the URL bar. Hit Enter and you will likely encounter a warranty warning. Fear not! Just promise to be careful and proceed.

open links in background firefox


Next you will see a long list of advanced settings. You can > Filter for > browser.tabs or simply scroll to the entry > browser.tabs.loadDivertedInBackground. Double-click this entry to set its value to > true. To revert the change, simply double-click again. Done.

open links in background firefox

As you can see from the screenshot above, there is an option to also make your bookmarks load in the background. Furthermore, note that you can make links from within the browser load in a new tab in the background if you perform a middle-click, typically using the scroll wheel of your mouse.


open links in background firefox


If you decided to go with Google Chrome as your default browser, the whole scenario becomes a little more complicated. In short, there is no straightforward way to make all links open in the background. But at least there are some workarounds for some scenarios.

As with Firefox, you can use a middle-click to make links from within Google Chrome open in a new tab in the background. When you’re dealing with outside browser applications however, there doesn’t seem to be a solution at all.

Now if you’re using Google Reader and love your keyboard shortcuts, i.e. clicking [V] to open the current article in a new tab, there is a way to make the tab open in the background, which doesn’t require your mouse. In fact, there are three extensions able to do this and they all work equally well:

If you’re looking for a more general solution, check out this extension, which will force all links that contain a _new or _blank cue in the target to open in a new background tab when you left-click them.


This being Chrome, you don’t have to restart your browser to install new extensions. In order to make the new extension work, however, be sure to reload the respective tab before trying.

Internet Explorer

Not surprisingly, there is no way to make links open in the background when links outside Internet Explorer are clicked. You can, however, use the middle-click or a [CTRL] plus left-click to open links from within the browser in a new tab in the background. In any case, please don’t use Internet Explorer as your default browser!

The Verdict

Taken together, it’s rather surprising that (of these three browsers) Firefox is the only one able to perform such an essential and simple task! Furthermore, the fact that the option is available natively, shows that the Mozilla core developing team is listening much better to its audience than Google or Microsoft. So if you find links opening in the foreground annoying, then your best bet is to make Firefox your default browser.

Do you use another browser, for example Opera, and do you happen to know how to make links open in the background? Please share your solution in the comments!


Image credits: Leigh Prather

Related topics: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox.

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  1. Silvia33
    July 5, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Do it all the time with Safari.  Either right (control-)click on the link and choose open in new tab or cmnd-click and opens in Safari new tab in background.

  2. Rjhogue
    June 30, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    I used to be able to click on a link in an email and it would open in IE8.  Then the link would start going to Google Chrome.  Google Chrome opened up but would not open the link.  I deleted Chrome from my computer.  I reloaded IE8.  Now when I click a link in email it states; "This operation has been canceled due to restrictions in effect on this computer.  Please contact your system administrator."  My computer I am the Admin.  Where do I set the system to use IE8 to open links?


    • Scutterman
      July 2, 2011 at 7:05 am

      Open Internet Explorer and go to [Tools]... [Internet Options] and click on the [programs] tab. There you can make IE your default browser, and also check a box so it tells you if it isn't default whenever you start it up.

  3. Gamaware
    June 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Ins't just better to use a UserScript with greasemonkey?

    • Tina
      June 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      If you already use Greasemonkey and happen to run across the respective UserScript, then it probably makes no different in Firefox. But since it's so simple to change that one setting in Firefox, why bother?

      Now for Chrome users, this is a different story. Do you know a Greasemonkey UserScript that works in Chrome? Please share!

  4. Xiaozhu
    June 8, 2011 at 7:31 am

    i often use Mouse Gestures to open new tab in my avant browser .nevertheless,i must use right-click to open a new tab in chrome .who can tell me how to use mouse gestures open new tab in chrome ?

  5. fartsmeuk
    June 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I suppose I am the only one in the world who right-clicks links and choose 'open link in new window'. 

    • Scutterman
      June 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm

      I sometimes use right-click to open in new tab. Depends on whether my hand is near the ctrl key or not. New windows I generally use the ctrl+n shortcut because a new window, for me, means something unrelated to the current window.

  6. Jae
    June 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    For those of us who don't use a mouse, THANK YOU!  That's a lovely feature.

  7. Salvadesswaran Srinivasan
    June 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Easier way is to middle click on the link :-)