Reduced Chrome Tab Clutter Now Close By, Google's Tests Intensify

Images have now begun cropping up of Google's long-awaited tab grouping features in Chrome after a working flag setting option's underlying features were put into operation by the source. Users can only access the flag setting -- found at "chrome://flags/#tab-groups" -- by using the Canary Channel of the search giant's browser. So it isn't quite ready for primetime just yet but does seem to be much further along in development.

With the above-mentioned flag enabled, users can now organize their tabs into their own designated groupings but it isn't clear whether or not those can be renamed just yet. The single image captured that showcases how that will look centers around a UI change that tucks grouped tabs under a uniquely-colored tab bearing the group title. Instead of the usual 'x' icon indicating where the user can click to close the tab, a three-dot menu icon appears.

Presumably, the menu will house options for renaming the tabs or possibly even recoloring the tab for easier at-a-glance recognition, in addition to options for closing the tab. It could also house options to move the tabs underneath the group tab to different windows and similar actions.

Another aspect of the feature that remains obscured is whether or not users will be able to expand and collapse the grouped tabs into the new 'group tab' itself. That's likely to be the case in the final product since the entire point of the feature is to improve organizational structure and reduce clutter.

A retained caveat

There does appear to be at least one obvious drawback to Google's integration of a grouped tab feature, noted in previous iterations and remaining through to the newest appearance. Grouped tabs have been incoming for quite some time and one of the caveats to its use has consistently been that additional clicks are required to interact with groups instead of the click-and-drag features seen in other browsers.

That means that users will need to right-click -- or alt-click, on Chrome OS -- on a given tab in order to place it into a new or existing group. That's as opposed to clicking or long-pressing the tab and sliding it into a group or onto another tab to form a new group. The options are presently added in the top segment of the context menu, just below the "New tab" option.

This is different from how the feature appears to be intended for mobile as noted earlier in Chrome on Android. on that platform, tab grouping seems to operate in a way that almost separates groups of tabs into their own Chrome instance with tabs appearing for the group that's been selected. When a user switches groups, the tabs that are shown change. A similar 'feel' for the UI could make its way over to desktop too, albeit in a form intended to take advantage of the increased screen real estate.

Not quite finished yet

Although users in the easy-to-obtain Canary version of desktop Chrome can already access the features, Chrome OS users will need to go through extra steps and the Canary Channel itself is relatively unstable. So it will be worth waiting for the Stable Channel variant to roll out for most users and it doesn't seem as though that's going to be ready in Chrome for at least a few more updates. The majority of the work has been going on underneath the hood and there is still substantial design and polishing work to be done.

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Daniel Golightly

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for AndroidHeadlines since 2016. As a Senior Staff Writer for the site, Daniel specializes in reviewing a diverse range of technology products and covering topics related to Chrome OS and Chromebooks. Daniel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering and has a background in Writing and Graphics Design that drives his passion for Android, Google products, the science behind the technology, and the direction it's heading. Contact him at [email protected]
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