14 July 2010

Load new tabs in the background in Chrome and Opera

Despite lagging behind other browsers in terms of speed, is still the number one when it comes to customizability. One feature I look for in every browser I use is the ability to set the default behavior for newly created tabs, more specifically to make them load in the background. It keeps your focus on the current page and also saves time, because you can continue reading/watching the current tab while the new one is loading in the background. Of course, middle-clicking with the mouse – or Ctrl-clicking - links has a similar effect and is supported by most popular browsers, but it’s usually more comfortable to use the left mouse button. And there are situations where the middle-click is useless, because the tabs are triggered by context menus – like “Search for highlighted word”-, keyboard shortcuts or by external applications. Firefox has extensions that covered all these situations since the browser was launched, and later, in version 2 or 3 (I’m pretty sure it was 2), the option made it’s way into the main software.

On the other hand, in it’s next to impossible to enable something like this. There’s no option in the user interface, no command-line switch. The only full-proof solution would probably be to make some changes to the source code and recompile the browser. There are a number of extensions trying to tackle the problem, but none of them catches all the possible situations where tabs are created. I currently use “Open _new & _blank in new background tab” that does the job most of the time. Unfortunately, some web applications like Gmail & Buzz, , Yahoo! Mail and probably others as well somehow circumvent the extensions to open tabs in the foreground. Even more unpleasant, clicking on an entry title in Google Reader to view the original story results in two identical tabs, one in the foreground, the other in the background… You can get around this second issue by using another extension, “Google Reader Open entry in background tab”, which modifies the keyboard shortcut ‘v’ to open the original entry in the background. But using two extensions to do something this small feels simply ridiculous, when in another browser it can be toggled on and off with a simple check-box. Open _new & _blank in new background tab for Chrome

Somewhere in the middle in terms of user-friendliness, has a simple solution to the problem, but discovering it is far from easy. It never hurts to ask, and that’s how I found out about it: from a topic I started in the Opera forums. Apparently, Opera treats all new tabs like pop-ups, so changing the ‘Target Destination’ for pop-up windows to ‘2 = In background’ does the trick! To make the switch, visit the ‘Preferences Editor’ by typing ‘opera:config’ in the address bar, search for ‘Target Destination’ in the ‘User Prefs’ group and change the default value to 2. After saving and a browser restart, all new tabs from links or keyboard shortcuts will open in the background, with none of the quirks and exceptions encountered with Chrome’s extensions. I’m not sure if this works for links from other applications, because Opera is not my default browser, but I think it should.Opera change pop-up target destination

I haven’t installed Safari, so I can’t say anything about it, but from my previous experience with Apple’s browser I can safely say it’s just as “reluctant” to give access to this preference as Chrome, if not more. If you have other suggestions for a clean solution under Google Chrome, I’d love to hear them.


  1. I totally agree, I want the tab opening default behavior to be opening in the background. I love Firefox for this, and the Tab Mix Plus Plugin. But I'm liking Chrome, so I might try the extension you suggested and use it for a while.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I tried it and it worked first couple of times, then other links all opened in the currently open tab, not in the background. No idea why.

    I DID IT AND IT WORKED FOR ME!i tried it in opera,the nu opera
    gosh it was driving me carzy and you have no idea how important was it to me!!TNX AGAIN

  4. Have you tried this extension

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, but this extension doesn't work. After installing it I couldn't open tabs via normal left-click anymore, only through middle-click.