The big five browsers

The big five browsers

I love my browser. Google is my best friend. My Google-Fu is important to maintain, so for me, being able to browse the web efficiently is a real productivity issue.

But, one thing I’m not very good at is keeping a check on the number of tabs open in my browser. I keep my browser open constantly as I use it very frequently every day. I’ll start with one or two tabs and then I’ll open another, and then a bit later I’ll come back and refer to them and probably open some more. And this will keep going on all day – maybe for several days. Predictably, the rate that I close tabs is slower than the rate that I open tabs. Consequently, the number of open tabs increases and increases and the tab headers themselves get smaller and smaller until I can no longer see what I’ve got open and in an exasperated moment, I’ll close the whole browser down and start again.

My browsing behaviour is probably best described by the word trawl. I don’t use the same set of sites consistently enough that I feel that Firefox’s Tab Groups are advantageous to use.

Right now, I use Chrome. It’s lovely, but is it best for me? Things have got worse for me since checking the option to automatically open links from Google Search Results in a new tab – I end up with way too many tabs because I’ll branch off down a trail of pages, and inevitably, the original search result tab remains open unnecessarily.

I think that particular option is going to be switched off again, but I got to thinking – how do the various browsers help me or hinder me with regards to tab management? I decided to find out and was surprised by some of the things I found out on the way.

I loaded up 17 identical tabs in each of the five major browsers all running on Windows 7:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.0
  • Mozilla Firefox 6.0
  • Google Chrome 14.0
  • Apple Safari 5.1
  • Opera 11.51

Firstly I took a look at how the tabs are presented initially at my maximum screen width of 1920 pixels. Then I looked at their ease of use as the tab density starts rising, by reducing the width of the browser down from 1920 (HD) to a tiny 360 pixels to simulate having many more tabs. Finally I looked at other ways to use or access the tab pages in each browser that might make my life easier.

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