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The Beginner’s Guide To Tabbed Browsing

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Tabs allow you to open multiple web pages in a single browser window without cluttering your desktop. Mastering tabbed browsing can speed up your browsing experience and make multiple web pages easier to manage.

Tabbed browsing was once the domain of geeks using alternative browsers, but every popular browser now supports tabbed browsing – even mobile browsers on smartphones and tablets.

This article is intended for beginners. If you know someone that doesn’t fully understand tabbed browsing and how awesome it is, feel free to send it to them!

What’s a Browser Tab?

Browser tabs allow you to have multiple web pages at the same time, without juggling multiple windows on your desktop. Each open web page will appear as a “tab” at the top of your web browser window. You can click the tabs to switch between your open web pages.

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To switch between tabs with your keyboard, you can press Ctrl+Tab, which cycles through your open tabs – think of it like an Alt+Tab for your browser tabs.

Each browser also supports multiple windows, but these can be more awkward to switch between. Having 20 web pages open may be manageable with browser tabs, but having 20 browser windows open on your desktop can be a cluttered nightmare.

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Opening a New Tab

To open a new browser tab, click the New Tab button to the right of the tabs on your browser’s toolbar. This button looks slightly different in different browsers, but it’s generally in the same place.

Clicking this button will open a new tab. Depending on your browser’s settings, the new tab may show your browser’s new tab page, a blank page, or your homepage.

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You can also press Ctrl+T to open a new browser tab. This can be useful to quickly open a new website – for example, if you wanted to open Gmail in a new tab, you could press Ctrl+T, type gmail.com, and then press Enter.

If you’re using a browser that performs searches from its address bar – like Google Chrome or the latest versions of Internet Explorer – you can press Ctrl+T, type a search such as pizza, and press Enter to quickly open a new tab with that search.

Opening Links in New Tabs

To open a link from a web page in a new tab, right-click the link and select the Open link in new tab option. (This option may have a slightly different name in other web browsers.)

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You can also middle-click or Ctrl-click a link to quickly open it in a new tab. (To Ctrl-click, press and hold the Ctrl key down, then left-click a link.)

This allows you to open multiple web pages that you’re interested in. For example, if you want to read several articles here at How-To Geek, you don’t have to click each article, read the article, hit the back button, then hunt down the next article – you can open each article you’re interested in in a new tab. The articles will load in the background, so when you switch to the tab, it will be ready-to-read with no load times.

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Tab Tricks

If you ever accidentally close a tab, you can right-click your tab bar and use the Reopen Closed Tab or Undo Close Tab option. Your browser will reopen the tab you last closed.

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To close a tab, middle-click the tab or press the Ctrl-W shortcut. You can also just click the X button on the tab itself.

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If you want to view several web pages on your screen at the same time, you can click and drag a tab away from the tab bar to move that web page to its own separate browser window. You can also drag and drop tabs between windows to combine multiple browser windows into one window with several tabs.


For more browser tricks, check out 47 Keyboard Shortcuts That Work in All Web Browsers.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 10/24/12

Comments (19)

  1. Ryan

    Wow. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad that you wrote this guide. I use a lot of your guides for my family and friends that aren’t as tech savvy. I find this guide to be a little late. Hasn’t tab browsing been around for a few years now?

  2. FH Stone

    I teach an Internet Class at a local college. It is well attended by people just beginning to use the Internet. I also have a Very Basic Computer Class where people learn how to use the mouse and how to properly turn a computer on and off. It is easy to forget that there are still people that are just now beginning to use this technology that the rest of us have taken for granted for many years. Guides like this that assume you are new to a feature are why I show the How-To Geek website as a resource for additional information. This a great site to help beginners advance their skills along with all of the fun stuff. Kudos for continuing to provide guides for those who are not super geeks just yet!

  3. Rabo

    It has…but some people still don’t know about it. Sad right?

  4. Rabo

    @FH Stone I guess you are right

  5. DavidP

    A valuable add-on for tabbed browsing in Firefox is “Tree Style Tab”. It moves the tabs to a vertical arrangement at the side of the browser window, making it much easier to scan tab names, and making for a cleaner tab arrangement on today’s wide screen monitors. The Google Chrome browser also used to have side tabs as a hidden feature, but removed it some time back for some inscrutable reason.

    The “Tree Style Tab” add-on also lets you group tabs in an indented structure, sort of like a file explorer. It’s an incredibly useful feature for people doing research, with many tabs open at once.

  6. Kevin

    It is kinda late but I for one don’t mind. Learned a few new tricks even though I’m very familiar with browsers. Always greatly appreciated.

  7. Mike

    I realize I’m a non-geek intruding into geek domain here, but is this REALLY better then opening each program (your e.g., google, YouTube, HTG, twitter, etc.) and just minimizing the windows? How so? Looks the same to me.

  8. jay

    LOL

  9. Jimmy Jo Johnson

    Great article. I’m no novice but I am totally blind, using a screen reder. Your inclusion of key stroke alternatives is greatly appreciated. Love the Geek…JJJ.

  10. Dai-kun

    Ctrl+Shift+T works to recover closed tabs. I’m using it in Firefox, Chrome, and IE9.

    And tabbed browsing is a godsend. <3

  11. cam2644

    A useful article. You’d be amazed how many users I know don’t understand or are afraid of tabs.

  12. john3347

    I know about tabbed browsing in IE. What took me a couple of years to learn was how to disable the monster mess. I am NOT a tabbed browser user. I occasionally open Firefox and have not found a satisfactory way to totally delete the option. Another strike against the screwed-up Firefox.

  13. Chris

    @Mike – Yes, this is vastly better than opening multiple webpages in their own window. It’s all about making it easy to switch between sites. Having a “row of open websites” in the browser is SO much easier to mouse to. (Plus, if you’re a keyboard shortcut kind of guy, using “Ctrl + 1″ to go the the first tab, or “Ctrl + 2″ for the second, etc… is convenient)

  14. Sudo Bash

    Ctrl + PageUp and Ctrl PageDown will work better than Ctrl+Tab. They will let you go back and forth through the tabs.

  15. Dr. Derpper

    I work in IT and while this article does seem a little late to the whole tabbed browsing game I still consistantly run into users who have no idea about tabs or the point of them. Generally when I show them how they can use them for quicker web browsing and managing multiple web pages a light goes off and they “get it”. Yet there are still some people who even after showing them how useful tabbed browsing is just don’t get the concept. I’ve added this link in an Outlook template file under ANSWERS, because I’m sure I’ll get some mileage out of this article.

    Thanks!

  16. Chris

    I use tabs all the time and I didn’t know you could middle click to get a link to pop up in a new tab. So don’t insult the new comers or the veterans that have missed a trick along the way. That’s the great thing about thinkgeek, even in the beginners section an old dog can learn a new trick or two. Also a great feature in Windows 7 for swapping between tabs is Windows key + tab. I love the preview of the window so you know exactly which tab you are choosing. Thanks for the great articles thnikgeek.
    -Chris

  17. Torwin

    When browsing I like to have links open in a new tab by default, and I have the Tabbed Browsing settings for that in IE8, so far as I can tell. But it doesn’t always happen: some web page links open in a new tab and some open in the same tab. Does anybody know why?

  18. zach

    all these tis are very tipical forme
    have you tried tab mix plus? more options to use while browsing inclufing locking tabs (can also be usd as locks after restarting firefox )

  19. bedlamb

    @Jimmy Jo Johnson

    Windows keyboard shortcuts

    support(dot)microsoft(dot)com/kb/126449

    If you use a different OS, just google mac shortcuts, linux shortcuts, etc.

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