As we move more and more of our desktop work onto the web, we need browsers that recognise and support this. Fortunately, recent versions of both Firefox and Chrome do just this, through a feature called App Tabs (aka Pin Tabs). This feature acts an extension to the concept of tabbed browsing. The idea of an App Tab is to take a website you use often (such as your email), shrink its tab, and pin it to the left side of the tab bar. The image below shows my current set of app tabs (which probably tells you a lot about my habits and priorities online), which are the little boxes at the top left of the window:

To create an app tab, simple right-click on an open tab, and select “Pin as App Tab”. The tab will shrink, and jump to the left hand side of the window.

When you open a new, regular tab, it appears immediately to the right of your app tabs, just like a normal tab would:

If there is a change on an app tab site (such as a new email), the relevant tab should notify you with a blue dot on the tab. This makes it very easy to stay on top of things, without having to constantly check in on each tab. It can, however, be very distracting, especially with sites like Twitter which have constant updates. In the example below, you can see I have a new email in one of my Gmail accounts:

I have found that using app tabs has made me a lot more productive, as I spend less time trying to get back to the sites I use regularly, and have fewer windows open (because my tabs are smaller).

Notes

If you want to try app tabs, keep the following in mind:

  • I find that sometimes Firefox resets my app tabs when I restart my computer. This does not happen often, but it is annoying when it does. It does not seem to be a common problem for other users, but if you experience it, you can always save your app tabs in a bookmark folder, and then restore them with just a couple of clicks.
  • In the screenshots above, I have hidden the address bar on my app tabs to give me more space to work. This is achieved using the Aaapptabs extension for Firefox.
  • I you don’t know what tabbed browsing is, let me know and I can write a post for you ; )