L Kroneman

Systems, Shortcuts, and The Motivation For Building a Chrome Extension

Developing a system and extension to manage tabs in chrome



Tab management throughout a given day is a struggle. I have tabs that I always need open and refrence or work in often. Then there’s links i click on or a variety of rabbit-holes i go down when trying to solve a problem. Before I know it, I can’t see any of the titles.

Lots of Tabs

Further, one of the goals I have is to do as much as possible using the keyboard and as little as possible with a mouse. If I can build reliable systes around keyboard shortcuts then I’ll be able to navigate around my computer alot easier.

The pieces of the puzzle

A system

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to copy and paste it from another place. In my case, I have the same issues with tab management in code editors as I do with browser tabs, and have had to develop a system to manage it.

The resulting system goes as follows:

A Runner

A more recent development in software has been the concept of a command pallete or runner. Essentially it’s a search box where every possible command in the current context is searchable and can be executed. Things like the macOS spotlight, Alfred but they’ve started to show up as an expected feature in software.

The premise of all of these is a convenient way to search a command instead of browsing for it in a given menu. So why haven’t browsers caught on? Thankfully for my use case they have an extension framework taht can be used.

Existing functionality

Functionality to build

The missing pieces to realise the system above in the browser include

The result

A chrome extension called Operator extension

Once installed, open the command pallete using cntrl + space. Search for a command and hit enter to execute a command.

By default four shortcuts are assigned.

The way this allows me to easily use my tab management system is.

  1. I pin any tabs I know I need to keep open or are central to my work cmd + shift + x
  2. I organize pinned tabs using ctrl + shift + left & right arrows
  3. At a context switch I open to search for a command ctrl + space
  4. Search for close all and it will auto-complete to close all unpinned tabs and hit enter

At this point, Try for yourself and if you have any feedback, open an issue on github.

Stay tuned to learn how it’s built.

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