Too many tabs, man. Too many tabs.

December 5, 2012

Many years ago, I worked at an institution of higher learning that I usually refer to, with my trademark snark — not to mention my stale wit — as PU. A guy in my office was also named Matt; he had some kind of information technology job, the exact nature of which escapes me.

Anyway, one day Matt stopped at my desk for some reason and noticed the bar at the bottom of my screen. My computer was running some more or less current (at the time) version of the Windows operating system.

Windows then did (and continued, I believe, up until the version released this year) to display a number of rectangles in that bottom-line status bar. Each rectangle represented either a program that the computer was running or an individual window of a program that was running. If more than a few programs were running, a program would get just one box.

The user could click on a bottom-line box to switch to the program or window that the box represented. If all windows for a given program had been consolidated into one box, clicking on that box would yield a menu of window names; clicking on a particular window name would, of course, bring that window to the forefront.

Returning to my ever so lively anecdote: One day Matt stopped at my desk and noticed my status bar. As is my wont, I had a bunch of windows open. Matt was — well, he was somewhat taken aback. “That’s a lot of windows,” he told me (or something to that effect).

I probably replied with something about how I found it convenient to work that way. But Matt shook his head and told me that having so many windows open slowed down the computer’s performance.

I may have answered that I still found things to be more convenient the way I had them, as opposed to repeatedly closing and reopening many different windows.

What I didn’t tell him was that the way I operated then was the way I would continue to operate for the next decade plus.


Hello. My name is Matthew, and I’m a compulsive window opener.

That’s probably not the right description for what I do, which is frequently open windows — to be more precise, web browser tabs — and keep them open for hours, days and weeks on end.

I will put my computer to sleep overnight and return to these many tabs the next day, and the day after. I will shut down or restart my computer — sometimes following a crash — and, after launching Google Chrome, click on the history menu and reopen, one by one, each of the three or more many-tabbed windows that I’d had open in my previous session. The menu item “27 tabs,” representing a window with that many different views of the Interwebs, has I’m sure been clicked on and reopened by me more than once. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that I’ve reopened windows with 30 or 40 different tabs.

So why do I mention it?

Well, because having a bunch of tabs open does in fact slow down my computer, as IT Matt warned me lo those many years ago. Using my 2009 MacBook Pro the past few days has been very frustrating, primarily because Google Chrome has so many different pages and views to juggle. Simple tasks that should take seconds get bogged down; they span many minutes, becoming frustrating, patience-stretching chores.


The simple solution to this, of course, is to close tabs — to close lots and lots of tabs.

And yet I resist. Some of the open tabs contain stories (often long ones) that I intend to finish reading… sometime. Or they have some information that I should act upon. Or they’re reminders of topics that I should research.

The point is, I’m afraid to close these tabs because, well, out of sight, out of mind.

I’m also completely disinclined simply to click the red orb in the top left corner of my Google Chrome window and disperse six or 12 or two dozen tabs into the digital void. Nor do I like holding down Command–Q until Chrome quits. Nor do I typically shut down my entire computer just to give my web browser a fresh slate.

Instead, my habit is typically to look at every single tab and close them one by one. Since having umpteen million open tabs significantly slows the time it takes to display every single tab, this can be quite the laborious process.

Put a little differently: My computer works so slowly that I can’t invest the time to do what must be done to speed it up again.

Still, it’s time to bite the bullet. Tomorrow. I’m definitely going to go through all these tabs and close down… Um, most of them? Yeah — most of them. That’s exactly what I’ll be doing.


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