How to use ‘Pin Tab’ to organize your work in Google Chrome

9 min


Google Chrome’s “Pin Tab” feature is an often-overlooked option that can help power users organize their work in the browser and manage tab creep.

Crashing pages, slow performance, or just not being able to find that one tab you need to get back to—you’ve probably felt the effects of tab overload. If you use Chrome, though, there are some great extensions to help you manage all those tabs.

Generally, we don’t recommend using any extensions you don’t have to—they can be a privacy nightmare. But until Google builds some better tab management solutions into Chrome, those of us who like keeping 287 tabs open at once have to rely on extensions to keep us sane. We’ve rounded up some of the best extensions for managing tabs in Chrome. And, while there are a ton of these extensions out there (and everyone has their favorites), we’ve kept our list to well-regarded extensions without reported privacy issues.

Let’s take a look.

The Great Suspender: Preserve Your System Resources


The Great Suspender doesn’t help you manage or organize your tabs, but it does help improve your browsing experience significantly.

Chrome consumes a lot of RAM, and the situation becomes worse as you open more tabs. While Chrome is pretty good at freeing up memory when you need it for other things, having lots of tabs open can still affect performance—in your browser and on your PC in general.

The Great Suspender saves you from that misery by automatically suspending inactive tabs after an interval that you define. The suspended tabs stay open in the browser window, but don’t consume any resources. Suspended tabs are slightly dimmed in the title bar.

When you switch over to a suspended tab, you can reload it with a single click. Here is how a suspended tab page looks.

To avoid losing important information, The Great Suspender does not suspend pinned tabs and tabs that have an active text input, like forms. You can also temporarily exempt certain tabs from being suspended and even whitelist entire domains so that any page from those domains never gets suspended.

There is one thing you should be careful of if you decide to test out The Great Suspender. If you uninstall it from Chrome, any currently suspended tabs are closed. So, make sure you reload those tabs first if you want to keep them around.

One Tab: Suspend Tabs and Get Them Out of Your Way


OneTab lets you suspend tabs and get them out of the way so that you’re browser isn’t so cluttered. It does not automatically suspend tabs the way The Great Suspender does. You have to click the extension button on your address bar to make it happen.

When you do, all the tabs in the current Chrome window are moved to a single tab, and presented as a list. You can just click any page on the list to reopen it in a tab. Also, the fact that it only affects the current Chrome window is actually a pretty nice feature.

If you open more tabs in that same window, and then activate OneTab again, it saves the new tabs into their own group on that same page, broken up by when you saved them.

You also can send tabs to OneTab by using context menu on any page. Right-click anywhere on a page, point to the “OneTab” entry, and you’ll see all kinds of fun commands. You can send just the current tab to OneTab, send all tabs except the current one, or send tabs from all open Chrome windows. There’s even an option for adding the current domain to a whitelist to prevent pages from that domain from being sent to OneTab at all.

There is no search option on the OneTab, but you can use Chrome’s built-in search feature (just hit Ctrl+F on Windows or Command+F on Mac) to search your saved tabs. You can also drag and drop tabs from one session to another to better organize your saved tabs.

There also are plenty of sharing features in OneTab. You can share individual sessions—or all your saved tabs—by creating a unique OneTab URL.

The only drawback of OneTab is that there are no automated backups offline, or to the cloud. You can, however, back up saved tabs manually as a list of URLs and even import them later.

Tabs Outliner: Suspend and Browse Tabs in a Tree Stucture


Tabs Outliner is an interesting entry on this list. You activate it by hitting its icon on your address bar.

This pops up a window showing all your open tabs, grouped by the Chrome window to which they belong. You can double-click any tab on the list to jump right to it. That functionality by itself is pretty useful for navigating a long list of open tabs. You can also drag and drop tabs (or windows) into other sessions to organize your tabs better.

But that’s only the start.

If you hover your pointer over an tab in the list, you’ll see a little pop up tag with several options.

Click the pencil icon to edit the name of the tab. Rather than renaming the actual tab, it lets you prepend the tab name with some text to help you organize and identify it. Here, for example, we’ve added “Tuesday” to the name to help us remember when we might want to look at this tab again.

The trash closes the tab entirely, and the X icon suspends the tab. When you suspend a tab, it’s title is dimmed in the Tabs Outliner window. In the image below, the dimmed tabs are suspended, the tabs with blue text are open, and the tab with white text is the currently selected tab in Chrome.

You can also access the same options by hovering your pointer over the window in the Tabs Outliner window. This lets you suspend a whole window full of tabs all at once.

And here’s the best part. You just double-click to open a suspended tab, and Tabs Outliner opens the tab in its original context. So, for example, if you had a whole window of suspended tabs and you opened several of those, they’d all open in their own window—just like they were originally.

Tabs Outliner does not have any sharing options, but you can export the entire tree and share the file in any way you like.

Automated backups are supported, but in the free version, they are infrequent. You can also perform a manual backup to Google Drive. If you upgrade to the paid version ($15), Tabs Outliner makes local and cloud backups automatically, and you will also get access to keyboard shortcuts to manage your saved tabs.

Note: Just like with the other extensions that can suspend tabs, if you uninstall Tabs Outliner while you have suspended tabs, those tabs will be closed. So, make sure you reload all your tabs before uninstalling.

Toby: Organized Saved Tabs and Share Them With Teams


Toby is about a little more than just organizing tabs. You can use it to save, suspend, and organize tabs, yes, but it also serves as a fair replacement for bookmarks.

Toby replaces your new tab page with it’s own organizational page for managing tabs. Toby uses Collections to organize tabs, and you’ll see those at the left of the page. In the image below, we’ve got collections named “Daily” and “HTG”—each with a couple of pages already saved in them.

On the right, you’ll see a list of all open tabs in the current Chrome window. You can drag any tab there into a collection to close the tab and save it as part of that collection. You can also click the “Save Session” button to save the whole list of tabs to it’s own session collection, which you can later reopen all at once or individually. The image below shows all those tabs saved as a session, which is named by the date and time they were saved, by default.

You can open any page by just clicking it. And the page stays saved in your collection until you remove it manually—they’re more like bookmarks than suspended tabs in that way. You can also open all pages in a collection at once by clicking the “Open x Tabs” button. This is great for reopening a session you saved, or reopening a collection of related tabs.

Toby works great as a tab and bookmark manager, but it’s real strength lies in its sharing and team features. You can share any collection by hitting the Share link to its right. You’ll be given the option to get a link you can share with people or to share the collection privately with an organization you’ve set up. Organizations can even have dedicated collections for teams.

Of course, you don’t have to work in an organization to use these features. Even if you’re a freelancer, you could create a team for each of your clients, and share collections with them privately.

A lot of power users on the web suffer from tab creep. You get so many browser tabs open that it quickly becomes confusing to find your most-used tabs, such as webmail, social media, and web apps for work.

Google Chrome has a handy little solution that can help with this, and although it’s been around for years I’ve noticed that a lot of users don’t realize that it’s an option. I’m talking about the “Pin Tab” feature, and if you’re not familiar with it, then I’ll give you a quick rundown on why it can be useful and how it works.

Since browser tabs spawn from left to right, the first tabs you open are located on the left until you start moving tabs around. As a result, most people tend to keep their most important tabs on the left, either by default since they were the first tabs they opened or by purposefully tucking their most-used tabs over to the left side so that they don’t get nudged across the screen as new tabs spawn.

With that in mind, the Chrome browser offers the ability to lock some of your most-used tabs to the left of your browser and shrink the tabs to icon size so that you can fit a bunch of your favorites in a small space. That’s the “Pin Tab” feature.

To start using this to organize your tabs, all you have to do is to right-click on a tab in Google Chrome and select the “Pin Tab” option.

You can do this for all of your web apps that you keep open all day. This will anchor all of the them on the left and then you can then move around the pinned tabs among each other and order them how you prefer. One of the other nice things about the Pin Tab feature is that you can’t close these tabs by accident since the “X” goes away once you pin them.

That’s really all there is to it. This is a handy organizational option for power users who use Chrome. However, there are also a few things you need to remember about pinned tabs:

  • You can’t mix pinned and non-pinned tabs. When you’re moving around pinned tabs, you can only move them among other pinned tabs on the left side.
  • Any new links that you click to open in a new tab will always open to the right of your entire set of pinned tabs — even if you’re opening a link from within a pinned tab.
  • When you pin a tab, you no longer see the numbered update counts (right) for things such as Gmail, Twitter, and other services that give you a live count on the browser bar of new things going on within the page since the last time you were active on that tab.
  • Once a tab is pinned, you have to right-click on it and select “Unpin Tab” or “Close Tab” in order to be able to get rid of it.

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