Is your computer running slowly? Taking its sweet time opening documents and loading web pages? If your internet speed isn’t an issue, and you’re reading this article, chances are you have too many browser tabs or windows open. Each open tab (presently, I have 17) consumes your computer’s working memory, or RAM. The more RAM you use, the slower your computer runs. The slower your computer runs, the more frustrated you get.
What is RAM?
Random Access Memory is super-fast computer memory that stores all the information your computer is using at the moment or will be using in the near future. It’s basically your computer’s short-term memory, staying focused on the task at hand but ready to move to the next thing in a flash. Your machine stores all the information it expects to need soon, and decides what you’ll need soon based on a variety of factors. Like, for example, how many tabs you have open. That way, when it needs quick access to that information, it can retrieve it quickly.
RAM differs from your computer’s hard drive, which is used for long-term storage of files and other documents. It differs from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in that it is not a Grammy Award-winning album. (The count is up to 18 open tabs, so I can listen to Daft Punk.)
While you can install RAM to your computer to help speed it up, that method can be a bit time-intensive, but not too difficult, if you’re trying it for the first time. If you do want to try installing RAM to your computer, PC World has a great guide. Just be aware that there are different kinds of RAM out there, so make sure you’re getting the right one for your system.
Still, adding RAM doesn’t really address managing those unruly tabs. Let’s get those tabs managed so you can free up some memory, speed up your computer, and have a little less clutter on your browser.
Often, we save tabs because we want to read something later, we’ve collected a lot of research that we want to save, or just have something we want to get to later, like reaching a certain level in a browser game and not wanting to lose your progress.
We’ll go over five ways you can manage your tabs: closing the worst offender tabs, tab management tools, bookmarking or snipping, using an app, and practicing tab mindfulness.
You can see which tabs are taking up the most RAM on your computer by pulling up your browser’s task manager. This way, you can close the worst offenders.
For Chrome, go to those three dots in the right corner, go to More Tools, and click on Task Manager.
For Safari, you can search for Activity Monitor in Spotlight on your Mac to view how much RAM your browser is taking up.
For Firefox, you can visit either about:performance or about:memory to pull up information about your data usage.
For Internet Explorer, hitting Ctrl-Shift-U will bring up a popup that will show memory usage.
Tab Management Tools
Tab management tools consolidate your tabs into a list, snooze tabs, close tabs, or suspend tabs as you browse. The ones we mention below are only for Chrome, unless otherwise noted, though a search through the app or extension store for Firefox, IE, or Safari will give you many options for tab management tools.
OneTab is a free browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that consolidates your tabs into a list of links in a single new tab. Just click the icon and create a list of links. Then, click on the links one at a time or restore them all at once. And if you need to share links, you can create a custom webpage to share those links with colleagues.
TabSnooze does just as the name implies, it allows you to snooze a tab to reopen later, so you can close it without guilt. It offers a free version, but to access more features, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version for $2.95/mo.
Tabli is another free extension that consolidates your tabs into a list you can organize however you want. It consolidates your tabs into a vertical list either through an inset in your browser, or as a separate window.
The Great Suspender suspends tabs you aren’t using to help increase your RAM. Then when you want to view the tab again, simply click on the tab and reload it.
Bookmark or Snip What You Want
For tabs you want to get to later, you can bookmark them in your browser into a special folder. But if you’re like me, you’ll probably forget about those since they aren’t immediately visible.
If you don’t have or want an Evernote account, another option is Pocket. Pocket helps you save articles, webpages, basically anything with a URL into your Pocket account. You can save from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. You can even download articles you’ve saved onto your mobile device so you can read them without an internet connection.
Use an App
Many email and social media accounts have apps you can use in lieu of accessing those account from your browser.
Apps, both mobile and desktop, are designed to perform the functions of an account much more quickly than a website, which means saved RAM, a quicker computer, and more personalization when you’re using your account. There are apps available for Gmail, Slack, Twitter, YouTube, FaceBook, Instagram, Dashlane, and even for some Law Practice Management Software that are available for you to download and use.
Practice Tab Mindfulness
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the information overload we’re facing these days. Having so many tabs cluttering your browser can be overstimulating and distracting and can ruin your productivity.
As you open tabs, ask yourself if you really need them all. Are you really going to read those articles later? Be honest with yourself. For those you really are going to read later, consider saving them for another time and getting them out of sight so you can get them out of mind to focus on what you need to get done now.