For those keyboard ninjas who hate using a mouse, switching between tabs in a browser window is essential, as most people probably have multiple tabs open at once. I personally use the mouse to navigate the tabs, but there are times when it’s easier to use the keyboard, such as when I type a lot and need to quickly get information from another tab.
The keyboard shortcuts differ slightly depending on your browser, but fortunately many are similar. Not only that, but some browsers like Chrome have several different keyboard shortcuts for different ways of navigating tabs. You can simply scroll through them one by one from left to right, you can skip, you can go to the previous tab, or you can go to the first or last tab. Chrome even has a cool shortcut to return the last closed tab.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the four major browsers (IE, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari) and show you different ways to navigate and switch between tabs.
Internet Explorer tab shortcuts
If you are using IE, then you are on Windows, which means that you are probably familiar with the ALT + TAB keyboard shortcut for switching between open applications. If so, then all you have to do to switch between tabs in IE is press CTRL + TAB. This will simply turn you through all the tabs forward and then start over again from the beginning when you get to the last tab on the right.
If you want to go the other way, from right to left, press CTRL + SHIFT + TAB. If you want to go to a specific tab, you can press CTRL + N, where N is a number between 1 and 8. Unfortunately, you cannot go beyond 8, so if you have more than eight tabs, you will have to use another keyboard shortcut or just click on it. CTRL + 9 will take you to the last tab, even if there are more than 8!
There is another keyboard shortcut that might be useful for some: CTRL + K. This simply duplicates the current tab in a new tab. Previous versions of IE prior to IE 11 had a QuickTabs feature that allowed all tabs to be seen in a grid of thumbnails, but this has been removed. As far as tab navigation goes, that’s all for IE.
Google Chrome Tab Shortcuts
As with IE, you can navigate the Chrome tabs using the same keyboard shortcuts, which is handy if you need to use different browsers for different purposes. CTRL + TAB will work the same way and move you one tab from left to right. CTRL + SHIFT + TAB moves you from right to left one tab. You can also use CTRL + N in the same way. The only difference in Chrome is that along with CTRL + TAB and CTRL + SHIFT + TAB, you can also use CTRL + PgDown and CTRL + PgUp, respectively, if you prefer those keys.
The only additional keyboard shortcut for Chrome is CTRL + SHIFT + T, which opens the last closed tab. I have often found this particularly convenient.
Firefox Tab Shortcuts
Firefox has a few shortcuts that differ slightly from Chrome and IE. First, the same: CTRL + TAB, CTRL + SHIFT + TAB and related PgDown and PgUp, CTRL + SHIFT + T, CTRL + N and CTRL + 9.
Firefox also has several shortcuts for moving tabs. For example, if you press CTRL + SHIFT + PgUp, this will move the current tab to the left. CTRL + SHIFT + PgDown will move the current tab to the right. There are also CTRL + HOME and CTRL + END, which move the current tab to the beginning or to the end, respectively. Finally, Firefox has a handy CTRL + SHIFT + E keyboard shortcut that opens the Tab Group View, which then allows you to simply select any tab using the left and right arrows on your keyboard and hitting the Enter key.
Safari Tab shortcuts
Since Safari hasn’t been updated for Windows to version 5, we’ll only talk about Safari shortcuts on Mac. Safari 7 is the last released version of Safari for OS X Mavericks, but Safari 8 will be released in 2014 when OS X Yosemite arrives.
Again, the standard CTRL + TAB and CTRL + SHIFT + TAB also work great in Safari. You can also replace them with COMMAND + SHIFT + [and COMMAND + SHIFT +]. Unfortunately, the CTRL + N keyboard shortcut does not work in Safari. Just like Firefox has a CTRL + SHIFT + E shortcut to display all tabs, Safari has a similar view with COMMAND + SHIFT + .
You can also revert to the last closed tab, just like in other browsers, but in Safari it’s COMMAND + Z.
That’s all! Hopefully you can be more productive using these keyboard shortcuts in any browser of your choice. If you know of any shortcuts for managing tabs that I haven’t mentioned here, let us know in the comments. Enjoy!