Tabs.do

Task-Centric Browser Tab Management

Joseph Chee Chang, Yongsung Kim, Victor Miller, Michael Xieyang Liu, Brad Myers, Aniket Kittur. ACM UIST 2021 (r=25.9%, N=367)

The nature of people’s online activities has gone through dramatic changes in past decades, yet browser interfaces have stayed largely the same since tabs were introduced nearly 20 years ago. The divide between browser interfaces that only provide affordances for managing individual tabs and users who manage their attention at the task level can lead to an “tab overload” problem. We explored a task-centric tab manager called which enables users to save their open tabs to manage them with task structures and affordances that better reflect their mental models. To lower the cost of importing, Tabs.do uses a neural network in the browser to make suggestions for grouping users’ open tabs by tasks.

Abstract

The nature of people’s online activities has gone through dramatic changes in past decades as significant portions of our productivity and sensemaking tasks continue to migrate to “the cloud,” yet browser interfaces have stayed largely the same since tabs were introduced nearly 20 years ago. The divide between browser interfaces that only provide affordances for managing individual tabs and users who manage their attention at the task level can lead to serious adverse effects – commonly referred to as “tab overload.” This paper explores the design of a task-centric tab manager called Tabs.do, which enables users to import and close their open tabs to manage them as tasks. Users can structure and prioritize their tasks to better reflect their mental models and resume progress by reopening tasks into open tabs. To lower the cost of importing, Tabs.do uses machine learning to make intelligent suggestions for grouping users’ open tabs into task bundles with high precision by exploiting behavioral and semantic features. Tabs.do bridges the gap between current browser designs that treat tabs as stacks of independent webpages and users who manage their workflow and attention at the tasks level. We conducted a field deployment study where participants used Tabs.do with their real-life tasks and tabs in the wild and uncovered insights around the costs, benefits, and limitations of a task-centric approach to tab management.

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