19 January 2010

Middle-clicking in Google Chrome

Probably every user of Google Chrome already knows you can use the middle-mouse button to open links in a background tab. This way you are not interrupted when reading the current page and later you can continue with the other links. I use this especially when going through Google Reader articles or the Twitter stream. It’s strange the browser doesn’t have a way to make ‘open in background’ the default action for links yet, but I hope an extension will be available soon.

You can actually get a lot of things done faster with the middle-mouse button in Chrome: basically everywhere there’s a link, you can middle-click to load the URL in a new background tab:

  • If you click on the ‘Back’ or ‘Forward’ buttons, the pages from your history will load in another tab instead of the current one;
  • Middle-clicking the ‘Go’-button loads the URL from the Omnibox in a new tab, just like duplicating the tab. In later versions, where the ‘Go’-button was removed, the same effect can be achieved by middle-clicking on ‘Reload’;
  • For bookmarks you can also use the middle-click; however the bookmarks menu collapses after clicking, so you can only open one link at a time. Ideally this menu would stay open and you could click on several bookmarks one after the other, that would be more efficient;
  • A video from the Google Chrome YouTube Channel shows how to open 8 browser tabs in 15 seconds using the ‘New tab’ page. It’s even easier, and faster probably, to middle-click the thumbnails of the ‘Most visited’-sites and have them load simultaneously in the background. You could potentially get the loading time down to under 10 seconds;
  • The most interesting and surprising use is when you type in the Omnibox: you can middle-click on several suggestions returned in the dropdown and they will load in new tabs! The dropdown stays in place, unlike the bookmarks menu, so you can run multiple searches or open several pages from the history without opening new blank tabs first.

Google Chrome middle-click in the omnibox

Closing tabs is another action that can be done quickest with the middle-click. This is actually my favorite use for it: you don’t have to hit the small ‘Close’ button (the middle-click-to-close works anywhere on the tab) or switch to the tab you want to kill in order to use a keyboard shortcut like Ctrl+W or Ctrl+F4. On top of that, the middle-click can also close the pinned tabs introduced in the beta version, where the usual ‘Close’ button is disabled; no need to un-pin first! It you’re using Mac OS X, the middle-click could be assigned to another action by the operating system, but you can find instructions on how to enable it in browsers in this article.

Most of these actions are available in Firefox as well, with one exception: the Awesome-bar doesn’t keep it’s result list open after you click on it, unlike the Omnibox, so you can only open one tab with it.

Do you know other ways to use the middle mouse button in Google Chrome?


  1. I really hate the middle click closes a tab function in Chrome. My laptop is not so ergonomic as my older ones and I regularly accidentally click the middle button instead of the left. When I try to go to a tab it closes instead! I know you can reopen with Ctrl-Shift-Tab, but that still loses my form data. I have already lost several long text entries because of this :(
    What is really annoying is that there's no way to disable such a dangerous function in the settings!