Google is finally getting around to fixing one of the biggest user complaints stemming from how its Chrome browser handles tabs, based on a recently spotted change on the Canary Channel of the platform. Hidden behind a Chrome flags setting, users on the experimental branch can now access the beginnings of a feature that allows tabs to be grouped together under user-defined categories.
Some users may still find a reason to complain since tab grouping doesn't seem to be fully fleshed out just yet. While other browsers such as Opera allow tabs to be dragged and dropped similar to how Android OS lets users create folders, there are still extra steps involved in the current iteration of the feature in Chrome.
After activating the feature, users are required to find the tab they want to place in a group and ensure that's active. Then they'll need to right-click -- or alt-click, for Chrome OS users -- that tab before selecting or create a new group category from the subsequent context menu. In practice, that's not too dissimilar to how tab muting in Chrome already works but could prove to be a hassle for some users.
Get access to the tab grouping feature right now
Waiting for this feature to arrive on an official release to the user-friendly Stable Channel of Chrome is most likely the best route for the majority of users since the Canary Channel can be buggy. This is one of the most sought after features for the browser, though.
Google has improved Chrome with a ton of features over the years but the ability to group tabs hasn't been one of those in spite of the demand for it. So it's not going to be easy for some to resist the allure but it isn't difficult to gain access early either.
Getting started is going to be fairly straightforward for desktop versions on Windows and macOS. Users will simply need to navigate to the download page for the Canary version of the browser, then download and install the program as they normally would any other software. Navigating to the "Chrome://flags" URL in the canary browser will load up a list of experimental features.
The appropriate flag is called "Tab Groups" and can be found by entering that term in the tag search bar at the top of the page. After switching the flag to the 'enabled' option from the drop-down menu, Chrome will restart with the feature turned on.
For users on Chrome OS, the feature will require an additional step and a complete wipe of all on-device data via a powerwash cycle. To accomplish that, for those not deterred by the need to start over, users need to navigate to the settings application and jump to the "About Chrome OS" section through the hamburger menu at the top-left-hand side of the page.
Clicking the "Detailed build information" link and then the "Change channel" button will initiate the process of switching channels. Then the above-mentioned steps can be followed to turn on the flag.
When will this arrive to everyone else?
The Canary Channel for Chrome is currently bumped all the way forward to version 73 and the Stable Channel version of the platform sits at Chrome 71. According to the most recent schedule released by Google, that means users could be waiting until March 12 for the feature arrive on desktop platforms and a bit longer for Chrome OS.
There is a small chance the feature could arrive sooner than that but that doesn't seem likely since Chrome 72 is scheduled to begin shipping in just a little over a week.
The current management of tabs in Chrome essentially just shrinks down the horizontal size of the tab as more are opened, rending them unusable fairly quickly. So regardless of when the feature arrives, it will probably be among the most popular additions in recent times.