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How Mozilla's Pinned Tabs Saved My Homepage

Or better titled as: Why Tab Groups will be the death of me.

For those who have experience with the two tab features of Mozilla's Firefox, I know this may seem stupid, but somehow I've used the browser for several years without even trying the "pin tab" feature. I vaguely recall when it first arrived as a permanent feature of the popular browser in 2009, but I do expressly remember one thing; I disliked it immensely. I didn't like the idea of clogging up my browser's toolbar and at the time I was more than happy with using the iGoogle homepage. I simply wanted a place where I could get as much concentrated information and content as I could and my personalized Google homepage did that well enough. So I ignored the tab feature, using iGoogle to sort my gadgets and newsfeeds until I eventually learned to neglect it as well, turning to alternatives such as reddit.com and - most lately - Prismatic to piece together my medley of interests from around the net. With the announcement of iGoogle's pending retirement though, it had finally come time to find a new official method for linking all of my sources for news and entertainment.

Cue Pinned Tab; my new found grace for organizing the mess of things I love. If you're an information freak like me, you likely have several sources of aggregated media content that you follow daily, if not hourly or even more often. When you pin a tab in Firefox, it moves the open tab over to the left hand side of the browser and shrinks it down to a simple button with just the website's icon.
Simplicity

 
Unlike normal open tabs, pinned tabs will actually notify you when certain sites you've pinned, such as Gmail or Twitter, have changed. Get a new email or tweet and the pinned tab will glow blue until you click it.


Functionality
Also unlike normal tabs, pinned tabs will remain up even after closing your browser or restarting, creating a collection of accessible homepages of all the sites you visit regularly for work or entertainment. Why use a RSS feed aggregator or virtual homepage service like iGoogle when you can have all of your original sources built in and saved each time you load up your browser.

Even using pinned tabs, the mess of websites and tabs is made infinity worse when you have someone like me trying to write. As an amateur researcher, my browser usually looks like a mess, with dozens of tabs open in multiple windows of Firefox. In the dark ages of online browsing, storing sites for use later was done with bookmarks. As my use of multiple sources for aggregated information expanded, I found it easier to leave the tabs open for fluid switching between sites. This created the clutter of my browser that I so disdained initially and I soon longed for something else to manage it all. Then, in came Tab Groups to save the day.

Tab Groups takes organizing your open tabs and windows to a new level by allowing you to create unlimited groupings of websites for fast and immediately accessible viewing. Clicking Ctrl+Shift+E or opening enough tabs to force the feature to show up (that's 12 open tabs, btw), produces the "all tabs" option which appears to the right of the "add tab" button in the browser. When choosing the create groups option, a mosaic of your current open websites will fill your screen. This is where the fun begins.

Label, size, and sort each group however you want.
By simply clicking and dragging each tab around on the screen you are able to create any number of groupings. With research, this level of organization can be a lifesaver. You are able to sort all of your research for each topic into individual groups and title them accordingly. When you click on the corresponding group that you want to access, Firefox will load up a window with only the tabs open for that group. This feature could be useful for a variety of things, from organizing one's casual browsing to helping track an on-going job search. Tab Groups offers an easy way to make your online browsing experience fluid and well organized. Check out a video describing the Tab Groups feature even more on Mozilla's website.

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So far, the only downside from the two features mentioned above is that my internet browsing is now quickly developing into an organizational frenzy. I have groups for multiple on-going projects and ideas with a few key pinned tabs readily available for all. If I'm not careful, I may never get off the Internet again. I'm just not quite sure yet if that would be a bad thing though.

PS: If you're interested in some of the aggregate content sites I mentioned above, I would highly recommend Prismatic. While it does work better if you're willing to link your gmail, facebook, and twitter accounts to it, the start-up website does an excellent job learning your likes and interests and funneling the most relevent pieces of content and information for you to read and enjoy. While Prismatic is currently limited to your computer browser, I look forward to seeing what the company can do once they release mobile apps for Android and iOS.

Happy browsing.

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