Browser tab management, by taking advantage of People

Star Wars Garbage Compactor - Use People to Manage Browser Tabs Header

This is the story and walk-thru of how I resolved a lingering bad browsing habit using the People feature in Google Chrome.

Workspace Preference

Some people prefer working on a desk that looks like it has never been used.

For me, a bit of clutter can be helpful for focusing. Just like coffee, white noise, or glasses.

Although, after a while that clutter turns into a mess–almost on principle. If you’re trying to get something done, messes can feel like the converging walls in that garbage compactor on the Death Star.

Star Wars Garbage Compactor - Use People to Manage Browser Tabs Header

If you’ve got a mess…time to clean.

Messes happen on the computer too.

Browser Mess Screenshot


Let us speak expeditiously about our browser tab landfill.

When you have enough tabs open, that the favicon, the little browser tab icon, disappears, it’s time to evaluate.  When the keyboard gets noticeably warm/hottish, it’s time to evaluate. 

There were too many tabs for one window, so I added more windows. Then there were too many indistinguishable windows, so I opened up more browsers.

3+ different browsers (along with all the other applications I had open) ate through the better part of 16GB of RAM. That shouldn’t happen.

My proudest moments existed near the end, when private browsing sessions simulated a 4th and 5th browser.

And sure a few of the open tabs were important, but most were there to support my enthusiastic but scattered procrastination.

What burned the most about the browser tab situation was the overheating. Running YouTube on Firefox or Chrome amongst everything else was a recipe for heat.

Browser tab management - Overheating

This is a real problem now.  First, unproductive procrastination and second, lava legs.

Landfills are just not sustainable.

We need a new solution.

What follows, is how that solution came about.

Here was the browser tab management experiment.

I started with some target conditions

1. Maintaining a ‘useful’ level of chaos

2. Preventing creeping workspace disarray from windows, tabs, and browsers

3. Reduced overheating and computer slothness.

The Experiment

Between Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, I always return to Chrome because it’s reliably up-to-date with features and has the extensions that create the experience I’m looking for in a browser, specifically the metallic moniker.

So I decided to look into Chrome for a solution.

The Solution

*Bookmark and open this up again when you have 15 minutes to continue.

If you’re ready, here’s the plan:

  • 5 minutes to see what we’re doing
  • Thinking while you configure
  • 10ish minutes of your time to set up your new workspace

Step 1: Add a new Person (content category)

We are going to use the ‘People’ feature in Chrome to set up a content-based workspace.

The ‘People’ feature’s new job

The ‘People’ feature will allow us to keep our active tabs open, completely close “inactive” tabbed-windows, and re-open them at anytime.

And our workspace will be clean and speedy! And less likely to become an inadequately small electric blanket.

Think of a Person (content category) you might want. For inspiration, these are the People I have set up:

  • Social media: Used for Facebook, Hootsuite, etc.
  • News
  • Client work
  • Business
  • Design
  • Ideas
  • Learning
  • Programming:

If you don’t have something in particular in mind, begin with a ‘Social Media/Communication’ Person (content category).

Open Chrome.

ClickPeople’ on the Chrome menu bar. Click ‘Add Person.’

Browser tab management - add person

This will open a new window or tab, prompting you to login. DO NOT login. Instead, clickNo thanks’ in the lower left corner.

If you’ve done this correctly, in the upper right corner of the window, you should see: ‘Person 1.’

You should have two Chrome windows open. Keep both open, we’ll return to the default window later.

Step 2: Setting up your new Person (content category)

Browser tab management - edit person

Once again, clickPeople’ on the Chrome menu bar. This time, clickEdit…’ This will open up the Chrome settings page and provide you with an option to change the name of the Person and choose a picture.

** Change the name to one of your content categories and pick out your favorite picture.

Step 3: Making your Person (content category) useful

3a. Go to ‘View’ in the Chrome menu bar and enable ‘Always show bookmarks bar.’

Go to and drag down a new bookmark to the bookmarks bar. Then right-click on the ‘Apps’ shortcut and uncheckShow apps shortcut.’

Bonus: Right-click on the Google shortcut and clickEdit.’ Delete the name, hitSave’ and you’re left with only a recognizable icon and more space for bookmarks.

3b. Go back to your very first Chrome window—not the new person you just created.

Think for a second on the following questions:

  • What bookmarks are specific to the new person you created?
  • Do you have any browser extensions previously installed that are relevant to the new Person?

Add any relevant bookmarks and/or bookmark folders to the new Person from the original setup you had.

3c. Install any browser extensions relevant to the new Person.

Here are a few favorites:

  • Diigo – Bookmarking system
  • Hootlet – Easily share a web page (Part of Hootsuite)
  • Ghostery – Control some of your personal data

Step 4: The key to the whole thing

Go to Chrome > Preferences on the Chrome menu bar, or click here. See the options for ‘On startup’–This entire setup only works if you select ‘Continue where you left off.’

Browser tab management - chrome settings

Step 5: Repeat this process for each category of content you want.

And ‘Scene!’

Before you go, the following is important to know

This approach isn’t flawless victory. Embracing its nuances is part of the deal.

However, three weeks after putting the solution to work, I can EASILY say that my computer is no longer overheating, my sanity is restored, I’m far more productive than I have been in a long time and I will never again have a mess to clean up—until I innovate on cleverer sabatage techniques.

In order to reopen your category, keep all tabs in one window. Only the last open window in each category will reopen. Test it out.

Close down your current category when you switch to a new category. This will keep your workspace clean and your computer fast and cool.

Put communication in its own window, hence the suggestion earlier. It’s easy to get distracted by Facebook’s notifications or the endless Twitter streams. Keep ‘em separate!

An exension to further improve performance

Super Mega Bonus points for someone to turn this browser tab management process into a Chrome extension.

Please leave a comment. Tell me this was helpful or stupid or unrealistic or ABD or whatever you’re thinking. Thanks!