Chrome Tab Groups

If you like to have many Chrome tabs open at once, Tab Groups can help to tame them

As you add more and more tabs to Chrome, they become less easy to find and less easy to decipher from the information on the tab. Tab groups are a way of putting similar tabs together so that those tabs can all be expanded or hidden easily. Tab groups could contain, for instance, all the tabs belonging to:

  • a project you are working on
  • an item you are trying to source
  • some research for a particular client

When I first looked into this, I must admit that I found the instructions for using tab groups rather confusing on a lot of websites, so I resorted to the techie’s way of doing things – suck it and see. Hopefully, these notes are easy enough to follow so that your learning curve will be a gentle experience.

Suppose I’ve been doing some Xmas shopping of online retail sites (an unlikely scenario, but you get the idea). I’d be hard pushed to find all the sites I’d checked out from the tab bar in Figure 1. Equally, I’d be hard pushed to find the sites I’ve already opened for the research I’m doing for a client.

Chrome Tabs - 01
Figure 1 – Chrome tabs can get unwieldy

Now look at Figure 2. At the left, there is a “tab group” that I have labelled “retail”. To the right of that are six tabs that all have a continuation of a line of the same colour as the tab of the group (in this case, grey).

Chrome tabs - 02
Figure 2 – All the tabs with the grey line underneath are in the “retail” tab group

If I click on the tab group name, all of the tabs in that group temporarily disappear. If I click on it again, they expand into view again.

You can create several tab groups, identifying each with one of several different colours, and each with its own name.

I found a couple of things a bit counter-intuitive about all of this:

  • You don’t start by creating a group. Instead, right-click on a tab, click on “Add tab to group” and choose whether to create a “New Group” or add the tab to an existing group. If the group already exists, you can also add a tab to the group by dragging it so that it is positioned somewhere within the coloured line that represents that group.
  • It’s easy enough to click on a tab group and drag it sideways so as to rearrange the groups. However, as soon as you click on the group it automatically expands that group. This is a bit discombobulating at first, but just hold your nerve, drag the (now expanded) group to its new position, and let go. You’ll then need to click it again if you wish to hide its contents.
Chrome tabs
Figure 3 – right-click on a tab to add it to an existing group or to create a new group

You can’t close a tab group if there are no other tabs open in the window. At least one tab has to be visible (whether that tab is in a group or not).

Chrome tabs - 04
Figure 4 – There has to be at least one tab visible.

If you right-click on a group name and click on “Close group”, it will do just that – close all the tabs in the group and delete that group name. A bit annoying if all you meant to do was hide the contents of the group.

I must admit that I had to have a couple of sessions with this before it became clear just how it worked. Now that it’s sunk in, I think I will be using it as a standard organisational tool whenever Chrome threatens to get a bit out of control.

Before you plunge into this, though, do be aware that tab groups are not “saved” by Chrome. The way to ensure that your tab groups are available the next time you open Chrome is to set Chrome so that all open tabs (and tab groups) are re-opened when you open Chrome again. To do this,

  • Click on the three dots (top right)
  • Click on “Settings”
  • Click on “On start-up” (lefthand sidebar)
  • Click on the button next to “Continue where you left off” (centre of screen)
  • You can now close the tab showing this screen

You can also create tab groups in Chrome for mobile phones and tablets, but I, for one, would probably go insane if I tried to have such a complicated arrangement of tabs on my phone that tab groups could make things easier.

(Last updated 17/11/2023)