Comparing Chrome Tab Search Extensions

Yuval Greenfield
Nov 26, 2019 · 4 min read

I don’t want to mouse around for that tab I’m looking for anymore, I need a search solution. Here’s my comparison of a few Chrome extensions that do that:

Going from most popular to least as of 2019–11–25.

Quick Tabs

51,000 users, 518 reviews, 4.5 stars, 113KiB, open source (BSD). I had to search through the support pages to find that it’s ⌘-E to activate the extension on a Mac and Ctrl-E on Windows. In tiny font at the bottom of the options screen I eventually found where they mention chrome://extensions/shortcuts as where to discover the shortcut. QuickTabs did find the tab I needed after I typed it up. Though it is a bit of a small window that takes only about a quarter of my screen width, and half of the vertical space. Another issue is that it doesn’t work when first you install it on Windows, it has to reload once. I suspect that’s because the shortcut is already in use by Chrome (to reach the search bar).

QuicKey

1,800 users, 18 reviews, 4.5 stars, 172KiB, open source (license not specified). This extension immediately mentions how to activate it in the “extension installed” pop up 👏 . The default shortcut is Ctrl-Q on a Mac. That key combo is a bit scary for me, I feel that kind of combo should shut down my browser (⌘-Q does just that). It did find what I was looking for, though the search was slightly less fuzzy. That made the results cleaner but I suspect this will be a negative when I make a typo. Another note about this one is that it seems to have a feature to search through all browsing history using /h which is kind of cool.

Spotlight — Tab Search

540 users, 8 reviews, 4.5 stars, 353KiB, closed source as far as I can tell. Spotlight doesn’t mention a hotkey, and doesn’t have an options menu either. Luckily, I was familiar with chrome://extensions/shortcuts from QuickTabs so I could discover ⌥-Space as the hotkey for this one. The search here also seems to make a few fuzzy guess too. The results take center stage here with a bigger box that’s about ⅓ of the window height and ⅓ of the window width, this is the biggest tab search box from all the contenders. I like the way this one looks the best. But I do fear this one requires the broadest permissions (read and change , has the largest payload size, and doesn’t seem open-source, which signals to me as potential for foul play.

Summary

This is how these tab searchers rank for me after using each for a bit:

  1. Quick Tabs, because it’s open source and has fuzzy search.
  2. Spotlight, it’s the prettiest, but it’s not open source and requests the most permissions. Suspicious.
  3. QuicKey, no fuzzy search. The odd choice of default keyboard shortcut makes me assume there are other bad design decisions in this one too.

I hope that one day Chrome Developers will choose to integrate a ⌘-K button of their own that would allow quick keyboard access to the tabs, settings, history, etc. It is a bit odd that the existing omnibox doesn’t search through existing tabs. Until then, I’ll be trying out Quick Tabs for a bit.

Edit — I switched to quicKey because /h is just too useful to ignore. When a tab I’m looking for was closed, I just search for it in history. I changed the hotkey to ⌘-K.

Yuval Greenfield

Written by

code + data = progress … DevRel at samsungnext.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/yuv/

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