Tabs Outliner: the ultimate Chrome tab management extension?

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 19, 2012
Updated • Jan 18, 2017
Google Chrome, Google Chrome extensions

Tabs Outliner is a browser extension for Google Chrome that improves tab management by listing all open tabs on a single page.

Tabs are an integral part of all modern web browsers. They enable you to open multiple web pages at the same time in the same browser window. While tabs have been there for years, tab management has not really evolved that much ever since it was first introduced in web browsers.

While there have been attempts to remedy the situation, Mozilla's half-baked Panorama or Opera's brilliant tab stacking come to mind, there has not been a breakthrough yet.

That does not mean that there has not been any progress. When it comes to tabs, progress comes in the form of extensions for popular browsers such as Firefox or Google Chrome. One popular theme is to move extensions to the sidebar. For Firefox, this is for instance handled by the Tree Style Tab and Tab Kit extensions, while Chrome users can install the Sidebar Tabs extensions instead. Mozilla too has been toying around with the idea of moving tabs to the sidebar, but that is more of an experiment at the moment than anything feasible.

Tabs Outliner

tabs outliner

Tabs Outliner is a popular extension for Google Chrome that introduces a new approach to tab management.

At its core, it is a tab management solution that opens up a tree style view of tabs in its own window. What makes it special is the fact that you can unload tabs in their respective browser window so that they do not appear there anymore. The reference to unloaded tabs is on the other hand  still available in the listing of tabs that the extension makes available.

Two icons are displayed when you hover the mouse over a web page. There you see an option to close tabs with a click, or to deactivate them. Deactivating removes them from the browser window but not from the tab listing in Tabs Outliner.

New tabs that you create are automatically sorted into the structure in relation to their parent tab. Dragging and dropping tabs around lets you handle that operation manually as well.  A menu is displayed at the bottom left corner of the tab window that you can use for a variety of purposes. You can for instance drag and drop separators to the tab listing or add notes which are automatically saved by the extension.

Here is a demo video that walks you through the basics.

The extension has several applications. It can be interesting for users who work with a hundred or hundreds of open tabs in the browser. The main benefit here is to disable tabs that you do not need all the time so that they do not waste space or resources in the browser. You can open the tabs again at any time with a single click. It may also help you concentrate on work by disabling tabs that are open but not work related.

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Author Rating
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Software Name
Tabs Outliner
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  1. Tom Walker said on October 28, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    I paid ~$15 a couple years ago to enable paid features, which quit working recently because it for some reason can’t validate my licence key, and the developer doesn’t respond to support requests.

  2. Hikari said on August 5, 2019 at 6:58 am

    This is a rely awesome tools! I can’t believe it’s been around for almost a decade and I didn’t know it!

    I’ve been using Firefox ever since 2.0.0.x, and it relies on Tab Mix Plus and Session Manager. It’s been 2 years that Mozilla dropped support from its old API, and there’s still no way to do with WebExtensions what TMP and SM used to do, and these addons are dead and not even listed anymore.

    I tried once again to evaluate Firefox Quantum, see if there are new addons that do what they used to, and nothing yet available. Looking for alternatives I found Tabs Outliner for Chrome that did both features and even better. That got me mad, how come Mozilla drops their API to use Google’s, a so limited API, that crippled their browser, while Chrome itself is so flexible and give so much power to its extensions?! It seems that Mozilla is on a war agains addons, similar to what Autmattic was doing with WordPress plugins a decade ago!

    Anyway, I’m done with Mozilla. I like they being a non-profit foundation and I love Rust, but they are just killing their browser. I’m gone, and at least for many years.

    Tabs Outliner changes my usage from a list of tabs distributed on a dozen rows, 3 visible at a time, to a powerful tree structure I can build with meaning. And to sum to that it also allows me to deactivate most tabs and leave opened only the ones I need at the moment, and then go opening them as needed. This is awesome!

  3. grendel said on May 1, 2016 at 3:04 am

    I only save tabs from INCOGNITO windows/tabs

    How do I restore into INCOGNITO mode from Tabs Outliner?

    I will not use google. How can I buy a paid mode with an envelope of cash or paypal?

  4. Mohammad AlBanna said on June 16, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I’ve developed an extension for Google Chrome that helps Chrome users to manage their opened tabs like cards on board, pin important tabs on extra drawer board and search for opened tabs using voice and speech recognition (English & Arabic) in HTML5.

    The extension now available in Google Chrome web store at the name “Tabs Board” or click here to view it in web store, i’ve provided video of installation and how to use.

  5. omnray said on December 6, 2012 at 9:26 am

    PS and thanks to moderator for cleanup my comments ; )

  6. omnray said on December 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

    – The more serious warning is that Sidewise declare access right to access your data on all websites, along with cookies and credentials, and this is, combined with a fact that extension can be updated by author anytime they want, is a big alert actually. Some hacker which will gain control of Sidewise author Google account can gain control on all its users for example. Also this is VERY resources unfriendly, as this will result in embedding sidewise scripts in every open tab.

  7. Grenman said on November 26, 2012 at 5:27 am

    Update: Sorry unintuitive and far too complicated.
    I’m now using Sidewise Tree Style Tabs, although beta its working very well so far.

    Tabs Outliner testing notes:

    Some Gotcha’s to watch out for:

    Enable “Tree Style Tab” and “One Click” from the options then close and open the Tab Outliner again.

    Once you have all your tabs displayed correctly click “Save and close all open windows”.

    Or use the “x” to “save” them – Yes I know this does not make sense.

    *** If you don’t then they will all be lost! *** (This should be done automatically, I was caught by this and needed to use Chrome’s restore feature to recover).

    In Chrome settings “On Start up” set to Open the New Tab page. On opening Chrome click the Tab Outliner button.

    1. omnray said on December 6, 2012 at 9:17 am

      – It is use localStorage to store the data of the own list, and unfortunately, a local storage is VERY limited in size, so after a 3-4 months of heavy use somebody might found yourself with not working extension anymore. This is a reason why TO utilize IndexedDB storage, as it is limited only by free space on disc.

    2. omnray said on December 6, 2012 at 9:16 am

      Yet need note that in case of Chrome crash TO save everything was open and allow reopening everything from tree, they only don’t do this on normal, user invoked, Chrome exit, so user actually might decide for yourself – they really want save something before exit, or they want simple close and forget all the garbage.

    3. omnray said on December 6, 2012 at 9:15 am

      The Green X looks like a cross in Tabs Outliner because it is primary function is to close the tab. This symbol is used in many places and even in the logo of TabsOutliner, so it will be really strange to use for example a floppy disc for such a function.

      Sidewise really store last closed windows on Chrome exit in the tree (yet in Sidewise it is more like a list, not a real tree), but this is actually more a problem than a feature, as this will result after a week of use in really polluted by some casual windows and tabs tree (TO leave a window only if it is explicitly saved).

      Chrome has ability to reopen a normally closed window in last session if this is needed (this can be performed from a new tab, or from tab bar context menu). So why need to duplicate this most of the time not needed information in the tree is not clear, seems reviewer simple comes from Firefox and are not familiar of this concept. This also a reason why Chrome not warn if user close a window with big number of tabs – because everything is EASILY restorable, actualy in a same number of clicks as from Sidewise list. So to store this on a total close yet not to do this on a some regular windows close (as TO do) is definitely inconsistent.

    4. omnray said on December 6, 2012 at 9:14 am

      Many other small but handy features is absent in sidewise. Actually Sidewise is mostly have a subset of TO features, the only big difference is that it utilize filtered search, instead of highlighted version in TO (need press Ctrl-F in TO window to start search) and really have multiselect, yet actually this is not so much needed if in TO is enabled TreeStyleTab mode (which is recommended) as everything is already grouped most of the time. And TO has plan to add this also of course.

      This is a tool for everyday use, so there is no problem to invest 10 minutes to read the docs and try to understand everything. And the rants about “too complicated” most likely simple a spam from the author of Sidewise (a Tabs Outliner clone, released 2 month after the release of TO) as it is very hard to imagine that somebody can have problems with actually a paragraph of basics, which are mostly intuitive even without any reading. And many users in reviews really confirm this. Some other things contribute to this version of spam as this review is now cut and pasted over the internet. Sidewise is not more intuitive, it is simple lack the documentation and the features.

    5. omnray said on December 6, 2012 at 9:14 am

      TabsOutliner have not somewhat more features but a MUCH MORE flexible tree, and this really contribute to usability and advanced possibilities, for example it is possible to put windows inside windows, this allow a full new dimension of possibilities and really much more value, along with really handy ability to perform drags between several views of the same tree scrolled to a different position. Sidewise ability to organize everything above the windows level is actually very limited.

      One other excellent feature of Tabs Outliner is an ability to make notes for tabs by dragging some selected text from a web page – I use this every day many times, really very handy.

  8. ilev said on November 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Speaking about tabs, how come links doesn’t open in new tab when
    clicked on ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      That’s the default behavior of links, is not it? You can middle-click them or hold down Ctrl while clicking to open them in a new tab.

      1. ilev said on November 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm

        It is not the default. In almost all sits, blogs… a click on a link opens a new tab.
        Take example from :-)

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on November 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm

        You mean external links? They are adding target=”_blank” to those links. Is that a big issue? I do not notice it at all since I’m always middle-clicking when I want links to open in another tab.

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