How to name your windows in Chrome
A productivity hack that’s finally made its way into the base code
Chrome version 88 came out on January 19, 2021, and it quietly introduced a feature that users have been asking for for years. I’ve been using this feature in Chrome’s “Canary” beta version for several months, and it’s become crucial to how I work.
It’s called “Window Naming”.
Window Naming: a new Chrome feature that lets you assign each window a name that will show up in menus and on the dock
Here’s the problem it solves. Have you ever hunted around in Chrome for the right window or tab? “I know I was working on project ______ in one of these tabs…”
If you only use a few tabs at a time in your browser, this isn’t for you. But if you manage multiple types of work in Chrome— for me that often means email, docs, taxes, operations (part of my job), writing, etc. — it can help to split each type of work into a separate window.
Reasons to use multiple windows:
- When you switch to the right window, you instantly have all of the tabs related to that topic…
- …and you don’t have all the tabs that aren’t related to that topic cluttering your workspace.
- This lets you keep useful tabs open to resume work later, rather than closing them, and having to find those URLs again.
Luckily, that way of working has been possible in browsers ever since tabs became a widespread feature in the early 2000s. (Yes children, browsers used to have no such thing as tabs!)
But there’s a problem, which is that it’s hard to remember what a given window is for! The “Window” menu tries to be helpful, by describing each window using the title of the webpage it currently shows. That’s better than nothing, but it’s hard to decode at a glance:
Here’s where “Window Naming” comes in. It lets you name each window, so you instead see something like:
Sold? Here’s how to enable the feature.
1. Make sure you’re using Chrome version 88 or later
First of all, you’ll need to update Chrome to version 88 or later. Go to the “About Google Chrome” menu item:
Here you can see your current Chrome version:
If Chrome is at version 88 or later, you’ve got a version that supports “Window Naming”. If not, it’ll give you an option to update; update and relaunch Chrome.
2. Turn on Window Naming
So now you’ve got Chrome up to date. By default, “Window Naming” is not turned on, so you’ll have to go to Chrome’s “flags” settings to enable it.
Go to the URL “chrome://flags”: (if your browser looks different from my screenshots, it’s just cosmetic — I use Chrome’s “dark mode”, different topic!)
You’ll see this sorta scary page:
(Note that “Window Naming” is considered an experimental feature by the Chrome team, but thousands of people have been using it for months.)
In the “Search flags” box, search for “naming”. You should see “Window Naming” come up:
Click on the “Default” dropdown menu on the right, and select “Enabled”:
3. Relaunch Chrome
At the bottom of the screen, it’ll tell you to relaunch Chrome. Make sure any of your work in various tabs is saved, and then click “Relaunch”:
4. Name your windows
Anywhere in the top of the window, in the area next to the tabs, right-click (or control-click) and select “Name Window…”:
This will give you a little popup dialog box to set that window’s name:
Do that for all your windows!
Name each window so it’s easy to know what does and doesn’t belong there.
- You can right-click any tab and select “Move Tab to Another Window” and send it to the correct window. This is very useful for tabs you open from your calendar or Google Drive, so they can go with their related tabs.
- Don’t use too many windows. If there are 10 or more, it slows me down to visually scan through the list to find the right one.
- Have a “Temp” window for random tabs, and use it when you want to check news or blogs or whatever. If you know it’s always safe to close all of those tabs, you can close them in a batch by clicking one and then shift-clicking another (this will select all tabs in between) and hitting command-w (⌘w).
- Minimize windows you’re not currently using. Then you can cycle between only the open windows using command-backtick (⌘`). Thanks to tab naming, you can even see window names if you mouseover the thumbnails of minimized windows in the dock:
Bonus: use “Tab Grouping” to label your windows
One more thing!
The Window menu now shows window names, but there’s still a problem: the windows themselves don’t show their own names! So when you’re cycling through windows, it can take a moment to recognize them.
This can be solved using an existing feature in Chrome called “Tab Grouping”. Just right-click on the first tab and select “Add Tab to New Group”:
Now type in the window’s name, and a label will appear to the left of the first tab. You can also select a distinct color if you like.
(Note that if you close that “grouped” tab, you’ll lose the label and have to add it again. I usually have at least one tab that’s basically permanent in each window, for instance a primary Google Doc for that area of work. For my “Temp” window, I just keep a “New Tab” as my first tab and never close it.)