Keeping Chrome Light on Its Feet

Memory problems in the age of web apps

On my machine, a single Gmail tab uses around 300 MB of memory. Some data or graphics-heavy web apps like Google Sheets, Hubspot, and Figma can easily weigh in over 200 MB; while Asana, Trello, Airtable, and Google Docs tabs usually hover around 150 MB a piece.

As someone that’s working almost exclusively in cloud software, those numbers can add up quickly. Chrome does an amazing job preventing things from getting too out of hand, but that is more about keeping your computer from crashing than keeping it performant.

We launched Workona earlier this year because we recognized that people working in the browser desperately needed a way to save their work. We gave people workspaces, and they took to them like ducks to water. In fact, our users have created over 100,000 workspaces in the past three months.

So what does that have to do with memory? As it turns out, a lot.

Workona itself doesn’t weigh much more than a normal tab does, but all of the tabs that people are keeping in workspaces on the other hand… those can get pretty heavy.

Although people nearly universally love what Workona does for their productivity in the browser, we had inadvertently exacerbated the memory problem. And so we began our search for a better path forward.

We’re excited to share Workona 2.0 with you today.

The value of an open tab

As I wrote about in Working in the Browser Sucks, people keep tabs open for many reasons. Open tabs might represent your work-in-progress, reminders, to-dos, or read-it-laters. Or, perhaps you just like to keep frequently-used resources at your fingertips and in a consistent spatial location.

It’s clear that tabs are being used for far more than just active browsing. In fact, I would argue that for many people the majority of the value an open tab provides comes from it serving as a sort of mental placeholder.

The majority of the value an open tab provides comes from it serving as a sort of mental placeholder.

If you have tons of tabs open right now, I’d be willing to bet you aren’t planning on using most of them today. Yet, those tabs are still demanding resources from your system and slowing down everything you do.

Don’t worry. I’m not trying to convince you to close your tabs. They’re serving an important purpose. They’re part of the collection of loose systems we all use to stay afloat at work and in life.

I avidly use task managers like Asana, but I also keep track of to-dos by marking emails as Unread, sticking Post-it notes to my monitor, and yes… leaving tabs open. While Post-it notes don’t weigh much, the same can’t be said for all those tabs.

Suspended tabs are light as a feather

In case you aren’t already familiar with them, Workona’s workspaces are smart browser windows that auto-save the tabs you have open in them. For example, you can create a Team Meeting workspace, open six tabs, then close the workspace, and when you reopen it, all six tabs will be reopened just as you left them.

It’s incredibly useful to have a dedicated workspace for a project, meeting, or workflow that saves the work you do in it automatically. However, opening up a workspace containing a large number of tabs wasn’t the best experience in Workona 1.0.

If you’ve ever opened a bunch of tabs at once before, then you know it has a tendency to grind your computer to a halt. Which is exactly why we decided to build tab suspending into Workona.

When you open a workspace, the tabs are opened pre-suspended and only loaded when you click on them.

When you first open a workspace, the tabs are opened pre-suspended and only loaded into memory when you click on them. Because our suspended tabs are essentially just pretending to be there, Workona 2.0 opens workspaces almost instantly and keeps Chrome light on its feet.

Workona 2.0 opens workspaces almost instantly and keeps Chrome light on its feet.

All suspended tabs share a single process, so they barely increase memory usage no matter how many you have open. Now all of those mental placeholders can stay there without impacting the performance of your computer at all!

As you switch between workspaces in Workona 2.0, it will feel like you have every tab open and at your fingertips; yet, in reality, you might not have a single one in memory. When you’re ready to use a tab, simply click on it as you normally would and it will immediately load the content. The tab will then stay loaded in memory until you end the session by closing the workspace.

Just work as you normally do, and Workona 2.0 will sit behind the scenes and help your computer run faster.

Unlimited “windows” without the clutter

Previously, if you had 10 workspaces open in Workona, then you had 10 browser windows open (one window per open workspace). We had purposely designed our app to work this way in order to keep tabs in memory when you switched between workspaces.

Although people loved that Workona allowed them to access all their work from a single browser window, many didn’t like the additional windows.

Workona 2.0 solves the window clutter problem with the tab cache. The basic idea is that the tabs from all your open workspaces are kept in a single window (the tab cache) that’s permanently minimized and automatically managed by Workona. When you switch workspaces, we move tabs in and out of the tab cache in an instant.

Your open tabs are hidden away in the minimized tab cache window until you need them.

It’s helpful to see this in action, so take a look at the example above. When you switch from the Team Meeting workspace to the Secret Project workspace, Team Meeting’s tabs (blue) are moved into the tab cache, and Secret Project’s tabs (orange) are moved into your active browser window.

Work across unlimited “windows” with only two browser windows open in actuality.

In essence, workspaces have become virtual windows. These virtual windows serve the same purpose as browser windows do (an isolated space for tabs), except that they don’t clutter up your desktop. With Workona 2.0, you can work across unlimited “windows” with only two windows open in actuality.

Free up your computer’s resources instantly

You’re in the zone. You’re working toward a deadline and you’re making solid progress. A project this big requires more than a few apps and browser tabs, so your computer’s fan begins to whir. Your computer grows ever-laggier as it struggles under heavy workload you’re demanding of it.

Sound familiar? It’s unfortunate that it’s when we need them most that our computers slow or even crash.

But that was before. You know… in the dark ages before Workona 2.0. Today, you can simply use Workona 2.0's new Suspend All Tabs feature to free up your computer’s resources instantly without having to close a single window or tab. Everything will be exactly the same, but your computer will be snappy again.

Free up your computer’s resources instantly without having to close a single window or tab.

So how much memory can Workona’s new Suspend All Tabs feature save you? I decided to run a little experiment to find out.

First, I opened 100 tabs with an assortment of web apps running in them and took a snapshot of the memory Chrome was using. Those 100 tabs weighed in at a whopping 17.2 GB!

Then I clicked the button.

The result of my experiment? Workona’s Suspend All Tabs feature reduced the memory Chrome was using by over 95%.

All 100 tabs still feel like they’re open, yet they don’t weigh a thing. The only slight tradeoff is that the tabs will need to reload when I click on them next time, but this is a small price to pay for a more a nimble computer.

Workona’s Suspend All Tabs feature reduced the memory Chrome was using by over 95%.

So remember… next time your computer is getting hot and whirring away, simply pop into Workona and click Suspend All Tabs, then get back to whatever important work you were doing.

Better than ever

If you already love Workona, then we hope these changes will make you love it even more! If you still haven’t signed up, there’s never been a better time to make your work more productive and efficient with Workona.

But don’t take our word for it, see why people love Workona.

Try Workona 2.0

P.S. Interested in helping us build the OS for work in the cloud? We’re hiring!