22 March 2011

Multiple tab selection in Google Chrome

It was just yesterday that I read about new features coming to the developer channel in , including a very promising one: the ability to select multiple tabs. Today, after a minor update to the Canary build I am using (now up to 12.0.711.0), this feature is already up and running for me.

Google Chrome context menu for tab groupThe feature is simple, as you would expect: hold down Ctrl while clicking on tabs adds them to the group; holding Shift will select a continuous set of tabs; clicking on a tab without any keyboard modifier clears the group and reverts to a single selection. The selected tabs in the background have a lighter color than the ‘normal’, unselected tabs, which is more visible with the Honeycomb theme than in the default.

The more interesting part comes later, when you realize how many actions can be performed with the group. It works basically as a single tab, so you can drag the group to a new window or merge it back into the original window, close it, duplicate or reload it – and this duplicates / reloads all the tabs in the group. Another nice touch is how the entries in the context menu change to use the plural when you right-click a group instead of a tab. This is how you realize you can also pin and unpin multiple tabs at once…

There are a number of cases where this could come in handy: managing tabs by grouping them into different windows, quickly cleaning up the tab bar by closing anything but the selected tabs. The only thing that could be improved in my opinion is the way reopening a group of tabs is handled: right now closing breaks the group and if you want to bring the tabs back you need to reopen each of them individually. It would be nice if the ‘reopen’ command would remember the group and restore it completely with a single keystroke.

And to end the post, a short video showcasing the new feature, as well as another nice effect in Chrome’s interface, although older: while hovering with the mouse over the options ‘Close other tabs’ & ‘Close tabs to the right’ in the context menu, the tabs to be closed should the user activate the entry start flashing. It’s a subtle way to inform the user of the effects his click will have.

Update: Not long after my article, Chrome introduced more options for tab selection. By enabling a flag (Add grouping to tab context menu), two new entries appear in the context menu of tabs: ‘Select by domain’ and ‘Select by opener’. As far as I can see, the first doesn't appear to be functional yet, but selecting by domain works and it's a big time-saver!

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