Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

The Dangers of Multiple Tabs

While we take them for granted now, having tabs in a web browser was something of a novelty during the early days of the web. If you wanted to view or work in more than one page, you had to have several windows open. Cycling through those windows, as you may have guessed (or might remember), could be a chore.

Nowadays, though, it’s not uncommon to have multiple tabs open when using a web browser — just about any web browser. And not just one or two. I’ve seen people with eight or 10 tabs open all at once.

Having multiple tabs open can be convenient, but there are also a few dangers associated with doing that.

Like what? Depending on how many tabs you have open, you can easily lose your place when moving between tabs. Cycling through more than a couple of tabs can slow you down and put a dent in your productivity.

The more tabs you have open, the more tightly they’re packed together. In that situation, it’s easy to accidentally close a tab. Unless you’ve bookmarked that tab, or even know the URL that you were visiting, chances are you’ve lost that information for good. Worse, you could lose some work if the application running in that tab didn’t automatically save what you were doing in time.

Finally, having multiple tabs open uses up a lot of your computer’s memory. If you have too many open, they’ll not only slow your browser down they’ll slow your entire computer down.

How to Better Use Multiple Tabs

I’m definitely not advising you to give up using multiple tabs when you’re in your favourite web browser. They’re too useful and convenient to ditch.

But what I am advising is to use multiple tabs sensibly. To do that, limit the number of browser tabs that you have open at any one time. Over the years, I’ve experimented with the optimum number of tabs to have open simultaneously, and for me that’s three or four — one tab for the work I’m concentrating on (for example, writing), one for a tool I’m using in conjunction with what I’m working on (for example, Evernote), and one for research, and one for communication (for example, an email or instant messenger application).

Having that few tabs open keeps me focused on what I’m doing. I know where I am, what I should be working on, and I don’t waste time moving between tabs.

If you need to have more tabs open, try to get into the habit of closing them when you’re finished with them. Let’s say, for example, you’re doing some research. You’ve scoured your favourite search engine and have come across eight or nine articles and blog posts and interviews that contain information that you can use. Either extract the information that you need using a tool like Evernote Web Clipper, save it using a read-it-later tool like wallabag, or bookmark it for perusal later. Just remember to go back to your bookmarks or your read it later tool. You don’t want that information dying on the vine.

Using multiple browser tabs can be a two-edged blade. They offer convenience and have the potential to cause you a headache or three. Using them sensibly can make your computing go smoother and help you stay productive.

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