Rid yourself of unsightly browser tabs [video]


[Watch "Rid Yourself of Unsightly Browser Tabs" on YouTube; 2:29 minutes]

After recording this, it occurred to me that there's a whole thought process behind using this hack which may not be immediately apparent in the hack itself. So if you're still confused after watching the video, or if you'd rather skip the video altogether, this written rationale may prove useful.

If you're like me, you occasionally find yourself with a fat, soggy browser and a million open tabs, wondering how the hell you got there and more importantly, how the hell to get back to the original thing you were working on that had you launch that initial tab in the first place without losing all the good stuff you just found.

And if you're like me, you probably also know about the convenient "bookmark all tabs in folder" feature baked into modern browsers. It's great for creating a collection of tabbed windows you'd use for, say, blogging (your WordPress dashboard, Flickr, a dictionary site) or your daily social media circuit (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Reader, etc) or what have you.1

What is less obvious or intuitive or whatever (at least to me) is where and how to save them. And to answer that, you have to look at why you're saving them. (Note: this is the key, lifesaving question to ask whenever you find yourself doing almost anything automatically, a quick "why" can stop the senseless spiraling-downward, save you a boatload of pain, and start to usher in meaningful changes.)

In my case, I'm usually saving them for two reasons, one "good" and one psycho.

The "good" reason is that in wandering off, I've likely found some juicy stuff I might want to read more carefully or share or otherwise implement to make me better/stronger/faster.

The psycho reason is that I am terrified to let go of something for fear of that whole, vague, Depression-born, clutter-laden "But what if I need it later?" mindset. (In fairness, I often have needed something later, and spent stupid extra time trying to hunt it down via browser history or brain-scraping.)

My version of "save all tabs in folder", then, mimics the time-tested decluttering practice of moving clutter you're unsure about to a holding area for a certain period of time before pitching it completely. It's also not unlike what some have called "declaring email bankruptcy", moving all of your unanswered, saved, crufty emails to one folder and starting with a fresh, new "inbox zero."

  1. I have one folder in my menu bar labeled "current."
  2. When I wake up from zombie-like surfing to realize I have 20 tabs open and a column still on deadline, I execute a "save all tabs to folder."
  3. I label that folder with the date. (I use a built-in TextExpander shortcut to do this: year/month/day, written as YYYY_MMDD to keep things neat and tidy.)
  4. I save that folder as a subfolder in the "current" folder.

Now I have a neatly-marked and organized history of where I was at the moment I wandered off. I usually end up saving the subfolders for a month or so; a little distance makes a remarkable difference in the ability to discern useful from clutter-ful, which is the point. But also, if I did happen to have something immediately useful open, it's much, much easier to find in the next few days when it's stuck in a folder with the date, in a place where I can reliably find it. Which draws on another great ADD person's hack (which was just commonsense Heloise-type stuff before we all knew about ADD): "Always leave your (keys/purse/etc) in the same ONE place."

That's it!

Please let me know what you think in the comments. On the video posts, I'm especially interested in reactions and helpful feedback to make these things better. And I'm especially ESPECIALLY interested, because I'm going to teach myself how to actually use all of the great features in Screenflow this year to make better screencasts.


1In Chrome, Firefox: ⌘ + shift + D. In Safari, you have to use the drop-down menu, although if you want to get super-fancy, you can find an AppleScript that does the trick. And if you're still using Internet Explorer?Please use it right now to download a copy of Chrome, Firefox or Safari.