In case you are wondering: No, it is not a typo. I mean tab dance, not tap dance.
Once upon a time, browsers were not smart enough to have tabs. To visit multiple websites at once, we had to open multiple browser windows. For those who remember using tab-less browsers, I do not need to explain what a resource drain and inconvenience those multiple browser windows presented. For those who have never used tab-less browsers, thank God you do not have to now. All browsers have tabs. You browse to a web page and pretty soon you end up with tabs spawned from links buried in that page, if you have set your browser to open new pages in new tabs, or you simply right-click a link and choose to open it in a new tab.
I don’t know about you, but I often end up with too many tabs, to the point I cannot seem to find a particular one without guessing, as the tabs are crowded together and too squeezed for me to read their titles. In order to locate a particular tab, I guess and click, hoping for a hit but am prepared for a miss. And I often have to repeat this guessing game a few times before I get a hit.
I call it tab dance. Sometimes I catch myself running amok with tab dance, especially when I am doing some heavy duty research. A typical tab dance session can be described as follows:
• I have a tab open that displays my Google search results.
• I have a few tabs open corresponding to a few specific results of the search. I jump from one tab to another to read and compare notes.
• At the same time, I have to open a few more tabs for “utility” websites such as Wikipedia, a dictionary site and Google Translate. Understandably, I would also have a URL shortening service site such as Bit.ly open in a separate tab.
• One thing leads to another, I encounter some information in metrics so I need to convert them. And I am too lazy to do it manually, so I open a new tab and type a dumb question like “How many inches is 84 centimeters?” into the search bar, and let my default search engine work out the answer for me.
• The subject I am researching involves a mysterious death of a celebrity and she died in a New England Bed and Breakfast. I need to figure out the mileage she covered going from her New York City apartment to that B&B. Therefore, I open another tab for Google Maps …
• … and I have to keep all my other tabs open so I can get to them quickly again – you know, it took some effort to find them …
Alas, how many tabs do I have now? Well, you get the picture. Reflecting on my routine overdose of tabs, I often wonder how much time I have wasted on tab dance – time I could have used on doing real research. Without a doubt, tab dance is a huge drain on our web browsing productivity. It gives us a false sense of achievement – Jumping around the tabs makes us feel that we are multitasking; we are also tricked into believing the more tabs are open the more information we are absorbing.
If only that is true. How many times have you run out of time or gotten distracted by another pressing task, and you ended up closing the entire army of open tabs? You have not gotten far in any of them but you have to shut down the mission, and pick it up where you have left it on another day. Since there are so many tabs and therefore so many URL’s to bookmark, you decide to just to close them all. After all, you started the ensemble of tabs with one single Google search, and that is super easy to replicate.
Then it is déjà vu all over again when you pick it up where you have left it. Trust me, tab dance is harmful to your productivity.
The thing is, the majority of the tasks that you open a new tab to do can be achieved in the same tab, you just need to know how.
And the know-how’s are all in my book How to Automate Everything You Do on the Web (Updated!) at http://amzn.to/1fXr6Ov.