Too many tabs? what is tab group in Chrome?

Chrome Browser

Chrome browser has come a long way, I still remember the days when it was first debuted around 2008. It was a wonderful refreshing alternative to the other dominating internet browsers available, as it started with an open, simple, and clean design and user interface.

Unfortunately, as time goes by, Chrome browser is maturing into a somewhat messy and complex thing, usually happens when incremental development changes are made for years which introduce inconsistent or incomplete features, at the same time it is lacking the driving force for innovation.  There are other new browsers, new kids in the block, that are much more focus to explore cohesive user interface in addition to simplifying privacy and security for the end user. I’ve been playing with a number of new web browsers and will share my thoughts on them later, I hope.

Today, we will talk about tabs.

Are you the type of person that like to keep many tabs open? even though your computer is powerful enough to provide all the resources and your internet connection is strong enough to handle all the traffics, you run into a pure simple UI limitation.  You are running out of space on the top bar in Chrome? and the tab title is no longer visible nor useful?

Lots of Tabs

I did some research and was happy to find that Chrome introduced a new feature called “Tab Group”, which sound like a good match to what I’m looking for.  The way it works is that only the group name is shown on top, and you can expand/collapsed it.

There is a solution, but?

Anyway, as the tab group maybe what I need, I gave it a try.  Just right click on the tab title, and you will find options to add the tab to an new group, or an existing group. To add a new group, you just need to assign a name and you can also select a color for the group label. It is pretty cool.

Tab Group

I spent some time organizing my tab groups, and was happy with my accomplishment. Time to get my beauty sleep, so I close the browser, shutdown the machine, and when I boot up again next morning, to my surprise, all the tab groups are gone. What happened? I assumed the tab group configuration should be saved in the browser, just like how it remember my startup pages, am I wrong?

So I search the internet a bit, and found that this is one of the major complain from many users. Apparently the feature to save or persist the group is not available “yet”, oops 🙁

But, there is a workaround, kind of

It turns out there is a configuration setting to save/persist group, it is still in “beta” or “development” mode and it is a bit cryptic to configure it. I tried it and it seems to work.

Here are the steps:

  1. In Google Chrome on Windows desktop, enter chrome://flags/#tab-groups-save
  2. Select Enabled from the drop down
  3. Restart Chrome

Note: Please note that Google has disclaimer on using Chrome Flags since it is NOT officially supported, so change it at your own risk.

Once Chrome starts up again, you’ll find a new “Save group” option.

Save group option

Enable the save group option and you will now see the group appear in the Bookmark Bar even after you restart the browser, and you can click to reopen the group. But why the tab groups now becomes bookmarks?  You can already achieve that by creating bookmark folder and open all pages. So what’s the point???

Why am I doing this? Is it really worth the time?

I started with excitement to write about this new feature, but as I break down the details, it turns out to be very disappointing.

Even as I write this article, I was tempted to stop a few times, as it seems like this is a half baked solution to a very simple problem. I don’t know, I’m still scratching my head but It is sad to think that once a company get to be big and successful, there are lots of limitation to what it can achieve in the future.

Google team, can you please sort this out?

Update: Microsoft Edge actually have this implemented perfectly

I don’t usually use Microsoft Edge, but to my surprise, I notice that a similar or almost the same “tab group” feature is available, and it’s done correctly, there is a switch to “Pin tab group” option. It works as expected and the pin tab group are there after you restart the browser. A big thumbs up to Microsoft this time. I guess it is time that I should start using Edge again 🙂

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