Use a browser extension to limit the number of open windows and tabs

Browser tabs and windows have a nasty habit of multiplying. It’s easy to find yourself with a half-dozen browser windows open, each one having several tabs active. As you might expect, this has a serious effect on general system performance and stability.

To mitigate this particular problem, I use a Firefox add-on called Window and Tab Limiter. It allows you to set a limit on the number of windows and tabs Firefox will keep open. Depending on the mode that is selected in the add-on’s preference window, one of the following three things will happen when the user exceeds their own specified maximum number of open widows and tabs:

  • Suggestion Mode: The user is presented with a list of active windows and tabs. They can then either select one or more windows or tabs to close, or simply ignore the warning and continue working.
  • Force Mode: The user is presented with a list of active windows and tabs. They must close at least one window from the list to remain under the limit so they can continue working.
  • Silent Mode: Windows are closed automatically without any user interaction.

Although the Silent Mode option may sound dangerously automatic, I find it works quite well, provided the window and tab limit is not set too low. (I keep mine set at 7.)

If you use Chrome, you might want to try No More Tabs. It has fewer options, but it provides the same basic functionality.

10 Comments for “Use a browser extension to limit the number of open windows and tabs”

  1. posted by Emrold on

    While I applaud your efforts to unclutter every aspect of your life — this is something I’m trying to do as well — sometimes adding an uncluttering aid such as a tab limiter just moves the problem around rather than solves it.

    Instead of the ephemeral problem of having too many open tabs (which can be solved through simple behavioural modification, like most uncluttering exercises), tools like Window and Tab Limiter or No More Tabs just becomes more clutter to install on my computer and maintain. Yet another piece of software to remember to reinstall if I change computers or browsers (say, when a new version comes out). Not to mention the possible security ramifications, since every additional piece of software installed on a computer adds another attack vector to potentially be exploited.

    Just trading clutter for clutter.

    I’ll stick with trying to exercise restraint and keeping my open tabs to a minimum the old-fashioned way.


  2. posted by Judith on

    I have a problem that is related to the multiplying tabs.

    I switched from Firefox to Safari a while ago and at first was really annoyed that it wouldn’t remember Tabs from the previous session. But it was really helpful to have to deal with the tabs each time when I closed my browser, and not being able to keep them open for next time (just in case…). I realized I had developed a tab-habit!

    By now, Safari accepts extensions, and last week I installed some, one of them that enables you to keep the previous sessions. I thought I was cured. How wrong I was! Soon I was up to 25 Tabs opening with the browser in the morning, but cut it down do 0-4 of them. That’s ok for both the overwhelm-factor and for the initial loading time of the browser. But it was really surprising to see that forcing myself to be unable to keep the tabs had done nothing to make me do without as soon as I could keep them again.

    Btw, the most useful of the extensions I tried has been »ClickToFlash«, which loads flash only after your permission (you can whitelist sites if you want to). You can find it at
    Makes for a much improved (calmer) surfing experience, and also keeps your browser from crashing if a site has malfunctioning flash content on it.

  3. posted by Kalani on

    I guess this could be useful for some people, but to me this seems like a digital Unitasker. Something that closes tabs for me? Because it is so difficult to click the little “x” myself? One more thing that pops up to remind me to do something that I would have already done had I wanted to?

    I guess this really highlights that what is a unitasker for one person can be someone else’s answer to brain clutter, and really help streamline the workflow, whether in the kitchen or on the desktop. And decluttering isn’t about attaining someone else’s ideal, but minimizing the things that are a personal distraction to you.

  4. posted by Kay Chase on

    Thank you! I use Firefox precisely because it helps me reduce my distractions, and this is another tool in the arsenal.

  5. posted by Ramblings of a Woman on

    Oh this sounds like a good tool for me. I am bad to open up 25 or 30 pages while researching and reading blogs (kinda like a to-do list)I would love to set limits for myself! Reminds me of a post I wrote about our brains getting overloaded like our computers!
    Thanks for the tip!

  6. posted by Christie on

    If you have a problem with keeping too many tabs open in Mozilla, you may get “tabnapped”. This happened to my boss and they hijacked his Paypal account.

  7. posted by Carmen on

    Rather than keep opening tabs and getting “lost” on the web, if I see a link I’d like to check out, I use this method: I use a Firefox add-on called Read It Later ( It allows me to capture the link into a list – but it’s stored outside my bookmark list so it doesn’t clutter that up. Later, when I click on a link in the Read It Later list, once the site opens successfully, it drops off my RIL list.

  8. posted by Jeanne on

    Hmm…. I use Chrome mostly. I open a new window for Google Reader, say. And then, of course, I read the Unclutterer posts. Sometimes I want to see the comments, so I click & Google Reader generates a new tab. If I continue to read various posts from a number of blogs on their own sites like that, then eventually I have quite a few tabs open.

    If I want to keep Google Reader open, but close the resulting tabs, then
    1. With Chrome or Firefox select the Google Reader tab and drag it, thereby opening it—by itself—in a new window.
    2. Close the window with all the many tabs spawned by reading things on their sites. Poof! They are gone.
    3. Voila! Only one window.

    I often minimize the Google Reader window so I can go back & read more articles later.

    This also works for Gmail or ColourLovers or other sites where multiple tabs seem to grow with wild abandon. :))

  9. posted by [email protected] on

    This is exactly what I need! I don’t like the idea of automatically closing windows and tabs, but a reminder with the option to close selected windows sounds perfect.

    Thank You!!

  10. posted by Don J on

    I think perhaps I need this… I installed an extension a while back that shows the number of tabs I have open, and right now it sits at 731. Most of my problem is that I do a lot of offline reading on my daily bus commute (about an hour and a half round trip each weekday) and so anything I want to read has to be open already. It has gotten a little out of hand, though. And yes, that is not a typo — seven hundred thirty-one tabs right now. Yeesh.

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