vTabs brings vertical tabs to Google Chrome (with one caveat)

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 30, 2014
Updated • Jul 23, 2016
Google Chrome, Google Chrome extensions

When you compare Google Chrome to Mozilla Firefox, you will notice sooner or later that Firefox supports displaying contents in a sidebar while Chrome does not.

The Firefox browser ships with options to display the History or Bookmarks in a sidebar natively and add-ons extend that functionality further.

TreeStyleTab moves tabs from being displayed horizontally in the browser to the sidebar which is excellent not only because more tabs can be displayed at the same time on the screen with more information but also because the removal of the horizontal tab bar makes room for website content.

Chrome does not support sidebars but that does not mean that open tabs cannot be displayed vertically in the browser.

The free extension vTabs adds that functionality to the Chrome browser. Once installed it will display open tabs in an overlay on the left side of the browser window.

chrome sidebar tabs

Doing so means that contents of the active site may be hidden underneath it and while that's not a problem on many sites on large enough screens, it causes issues on sites that are aligned to the left and not centered.

This is mitigated by the fact that you can hide and display the sidebar at any time. Still, that is without doubt the main caveat and what makes the solution inferior to the way tabs may be displayed vertically in Firefox.

Another issue related to that is that it takes some time before the sidebar is displayed when you open a new tab or load a new website.

The third and final issue is that the extension does not hide the horizontal tab bar in Chrome so that it is displayed even if tabs are displayed on the side as well.

The extension offers quite a few options and themes that users will find interesting. You can display the sidebar at all times for instance, or enable hotkey support to display and hide it on the screen.

Other options include double-clicking on the panel to open a nen tab or middle-clicking on open tabs in the sidebar to close them in the browser window.

The extension ships with five themes that you can activate. There is a dark theme for instance which may fit well on systems that use a dark Chrome theme.

A small menu at the top enables you to switch to a list of tabs that were recently open in the browser and tabs that you can move to a save area so that they don't appear in the main tab bar of the browser or the sidebar but are not lost completely as you can open them from there any time.

Closing Words

The vTabs extension adds a vertical tabs option to the Chrome browser. The implementation is quite good even though it is limited in many regards due to extension limitations.

While inferior to Firefox's implementation, it is an excellent option for Chrome users who like an option to display tabs vertically in the browser.

Now You: What's your favorite location for tabs and why?

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  1. Andrew Velez said on July 23, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    A misleading article title since there were at least 3 disadvantages mentioned (scroll to “third and final issue”). Despite the article title stating there is “one caveat”, the word “caveat” is never mentioned again which only adds to the confusion.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 23, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      I have edited the article to make this clearer. The main caveat is that tabs are displayed in an overlay that may overshadow website content.

  2. Jerome Flynn said on January 3, 2015 at 3:30 am

    Greetings gHacks Moderator …in my above reply I wish to add a simple edit, that is, assuming you wish to publish my reply within your replies list …If possible please replace “it” with “BarTab Heavy” in the following sentence: (3) Add the BarTab Heavy extension and you can stack-up a thousand tabs in Firefox without worrying about computer slow-down because it unloads dormant tabs from memory…

    Also, if possible, I believe a picture of my browser showing maximum screen space would really better inform any readers of my reply regarding “side tabs” in Firefox. I say this because one of the advantages of vertical side tabs is maximizing Firefox’s viewable web page screen space, and this can be achieved even further, but it requires more that just a vertical side tabs extension to Firefox.

    There are also a few Firefox title bar-related extensions that combined put drop down menus, customized command buttons and even the URL address box (in other words everything conceivable besides the Vertical Tabs) onto one skinny horizontal bar at the top of the screen–meaning absolutely optimal (maximum) screen space for web pages (especially with regard to wide screens) … I’d be glad to email you a jpeg to attach to my reply. –thanks much either way …I really like your multi-writer blog.

  3. Jerome Flynn said on January 2, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    (1) I say this with no browser-bias whatsoever just a preference for screen space, flexibility and speed:
    (2) Thanks to its vast and well up-dated free extensions library, Firefox is a light year ahead of all other current browsers for large screen viewing (and small screens too for that matter). I’ve been happily using the Vertical Tabs extension for years on Firefox. It’s flawless (Tree Tabs is also a good “side-tabs” extension);
    (3) dd the BarTab Heavy extension and you can stack-up a thousand tabs in Firefox without worrying about computer slow-down because it unloads dormant tabs from memory–as it does this the tab appears to dim a little, but it’s still there to select, and when you do it’s still in cache so it reloads automatically and fast …and the user decides how many minutes a tab sits dormant in the background hidden from view before BarTab Heavy “dims” it and frees some memory.
    (4) since Firefox corrected it’s two-year memory management problem a couple of years ago (100% cured by version 14) , I’ve been using version 15.1 with 30 Firefox extensions (over 10 of which I find essential and none slow the computer down, so no worries there either), and while I do try other browsers from time-to-time (Chrome is 2% faster) , it’s been clear to me for years now that Firefox, largely because of its extensions library, is a light year ahead of other browsers (Browser reviewers almost always overlook the Firefox extensions library).
    (5) Bottom Line: Firefox is fast and extremely flexible (over 3,000 free customizations available in its online extensions library –beware, it does take patience to find all the truly essential ones –my list appears next).
    (6) My Firefox Extension List (an asterisk* denotes a very essential extension; 2 asterisks denotes a super extension): BarTab Heavy**, Configuration Mania, Cookies Manager, Disconnect*, Download Helper, Edit Bookmark Plus 2.3**, FEBE*, Google Search Link Fix*, Grease Monkey, Hide Caption Titlebar Plus*, iMacros, Mozilla Archive Format*, Multicolumn Bookmarks**, NoScript*, NoSquint*, Open in Current Tab*, Personal Menu*, Personal Titlebar Plus, Print Pages to PDF, Remove Cookies for*, Remove Google Tracking*, Session Manager, Status-4-Evar*, StoreTab, Stylish, Tab Badge, Tab Mix Plus*, Tab Notifier, The Puzzle Piece, Tile Tabs*,Toolbar Buttons*, Vertical Tabs** …also, a link for adding a scrollbar to the Multicolumn Bookmarks extension: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1000428

  4. e said on December 30, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Vertical tabs make far more sense because you can read the tab’s text caption. If you open many tabs on the same site (common when browsing e.g. Wikipedia or Reddit or other forums) then this is important since the tabs’ icons are identical. Chrome made a very foolish decision here.

  5. Nyerguds said on December 17, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    My favourite position is vertical, but at the right side of the screen. This is probably because, being right handed, and thus having my mouse at the right side of my keyboard, I tend to leave an idle mouse cursor at the right side too. Add to that that most websites have their text starting from the left edge, and the right side becomes an altogether better place to leave that idle mouse cursor, and thus, because it means my mouse needs to move less far, to put the tabs bar.

    Sadly, this plugin doesn’t seem to have a setting for switching it to the right edge :(

  6. Bruce Cannon said on December 3, 2014 at 3:19 am

    As Firefox fades away, and extension developers abandon critical extensions that FF never bothered to make core, such as vertical tabs, I realize I will eventually have to find an alternative.

    Chrome is an obvious choice for me, as I am deep into the Google ecosystem in other areas, and tight integration offers some powerful advantages. But I tried every side and vertical tab extension for Chrome, and none can find workarounds to the fact that Chrome really doesn’t believe in vertical/side tabs, for whatever reason.

    A separate window, that always seems to be in front of or behind something, and always seems to have the wrong focus, is just not going to cut it. And every screen device I’ve bought, desktop or laptop or tablet, in the past several years has had a 16×9 format, so tabs at the top is stupid. And, not supporting the elegant use of space on that common form factor is stupid.

    What’s the world coming to? Firefox slips from the most common and most powerful browser to a ghost of its former self; and Chrome follows Apple’s lead in the “we know UX better than you” design approach, both emphasizing their own lame vision of browser user experience over consumer and developer choice.

    The world badly needs the next browser innovation now. Actually, because the Google ecosystem is finally getting really good, they just need to open Chrome up. But I doubt that will ever happen.

  7. Bob said on November 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Chrome sucks balls for not including a sidebar.

  8. freewareer said on October 31, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Nice find. There is also Veritabs that has same functionality… but I prefer Sidewise. Its simply fantastic.

  9. jeff said on October 30, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Martin, there is typo in your subject line.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 30, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      Thanks, corrected as well.

  10. vux777 said on October 30, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    “…extension does not hide the vertical tab bar in Chrome”
    Did you meant horizontal tab bar (native one)?…or I got confused..

    …anyway, I was a big fan of Opera sidebar with all of it’s features (notes!!), and for the last 6-7 months I’m trying to recreate it …not easy when only JS is available to work with (no access to UI). This is a nice extension. In the beginning I had similar idea, but drop it in a favor of something else… content script is not good base for UI elements

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 30, 2014 at 10:42 pm

      You are right of course, corrected that ;)

  11. Andrew said on October 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    I never understood why browsers don’t utilize side tabs instead of on top, I believe it’s a much better usage of space, especially now with widescreen monitors being the norm.

    Opera had it and it worked well, Firefox worked with plugins (not sure about 29+ though).

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