27 February 2022

Browser tab hygiene

browser tabs are fine

As a software developer and denizen of the Internet, I open a lot of browser tabs every day. If I’m not vigilant and I fail to clean them up as I go, it quickly turns into an unmanageable mess. I find myself wasting time jumping between windows to find something all while the browser is consuming unnecessary memory.

My latest approach to this problem is to embrace the idea that I should be totally fine if all currently open browser tabs were abruptly closed and lost at any point in time. To build upon this with this mindset, we can take it one step further by closing all tabs at the beginning of every day and starting fresh.

This sort of matches the way that application servers are meant to be safe to tear down or boot up in an elastic web architecture where state is persisted in the database, cache, or logs. We can treat the browser as a temporary vehicle for information, but now we need to define where it persists:

  1. For emails, if there’s one I can’t act on immediately (by archiving or responding), then I’ll label it with “todo”, and can look back at TODOs at any time.

  2. For projects, I’ll lean on a productivity tool (like Trello, GitHub, Notion, Asana, etc.) to reference links. For anything more complicated, like a product requirements doc, I’ll create a Google Doc that organizes research, testing links, and other info in an easy-to-find place.

  3. For events—this one’s a no brainer—they go in the calendar.

  4. For interesting things to read, I love using Instapaper and their “Read later” button to track and come back to articles for… reading later.

  5. For key browser tabs, like daily work ones (maybe mail, calendar, project management tool, key dashboards), I sometimes create a bookmarks group and at least in Chrome if you open a new tab and right-click on it in the “bookmarks bar”, you can select “Open all”. Other than this use case, I don’t like to rely on bookmarks too much

Pretty much anything else is on the chopping block. Some of these solutions can definitely be info black holes (e.g., read later lists, email labels), but that’s OK—a black hole that is off in the distance is much better than a black hole that is pulling you into its event horizon and preventing you from getting your most pressing issues taken care of.

As an honorable mention for making due with lots of open tabs, I do really like in Chrome how (1) you can type the name of web page or doc in the URL bar and it will include that in the auto-complete and (2) how it will even present a button to switch to an already open tab (which is generally much faster than opening fresh!)

example of “Switch to this tab”

So put down that luggage you’ve been carrying around for days, weeks, or months. Close those tabs and start every day fresh.

What approaches do you take for better tabs?




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Peter Coles

Peter Coles

is a software engineer living in NYC who is building Superset 💪 and also created GoFullPage 📸
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