How to Enable Vertical Tabs in Google Chrome

Update: Vertical tabs have now been removed by the Chrome development team. Read more: A fond farewell to vertical tabs in Google Chrome

I’ve been using Google’s Chrome web browser exclusively for a few months now, but one of the things I miss most about Firefox is the ability to view my tabs vertically rather than across the top of my browser.  I’m a pretty aggressive tab user, and it isn’t uncommon for me to get inundated with 15-20 tabs – these aren’t easy to manage, especially on a small screen.

Unfortunately, I’m not here to tell you that the full, hierarchical functionality of Firefox’s Tree Style Tabs is available for Chrome.  However, there is a very easy way to enable a simple version of vertical tabs in recent versions of Google’s browser without installing any extra software.

I’m not exactly sure when this feature was included in Chrome, so I’d recommend updating to the newest version of Chrome before following this guide.  You will also need to disable any custom browser themes – failing to do so will cause some major rendering problems in Chrome.

Enabling vertical tabs is much easier in new versions of Google Chrome. To get started, open Chrome and type about:flags in the URL bar and press enter. This will take you to Chrome’s hidden experimental settings page.

Click Enable under Side Tabs.

Click the Restart Now button at the bottom of the page.

To activate side tabs, right click on a tab in Chrome and select Use Side Tabs. That’s it!

Original Method

To enable vertical tabs, right click any shortcut to Chrome and select Properties.  You can usually find a shortcut to Chrome in the Start Menu and potentially on your desktop.

Locate the Target field and add –enable-vertical-tabs to the end of the string as shown below.  Note the two dashes at the beginning and include a space between chrome.exe and the new code.

C:\Users\ewondrasek\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --enable-vertical-tabs

Click Ok to save the changes, close any instances of Chrome you currently have open, then re-open Chrome.  You will now have vertical tabs!

Vertical tabs in Chrome are still experimental, so don’t be surprised to encounter graphical glitches.  For example, when vertical tabs are enabled, Chrome no longer seems to be aware of the Windows task bar when maximized and just covers it up.  You should also keep in mind that since this feature isn’t official, it could easily disappear in newer versions of Chrome.

Even though it’s a bit buggy, I’m excited that we’re one step closer to having legitimate vertical tab support in Chrome.  I’m hopeful that we’ll soon see a full version of this feature with support for tree hierarchies.

If you want a less-hacky (but not as well integrated) version of vertical tabs, check out the VerticalTabs extension for Chrome.

Image credit: Matt Biddulph
  • Mohamed Simah

    Great news. Anyone know if it's possible to resize the width of the vertical tabs?? I don't think it's possible…. :S

  • Evan Wondrasek

    It doesn't look like it's currently possible to resize the widths of vertical tabs, which I would also like to do. Let's hope they make this a mainstream feature in future versions!

  • jg

    Any thoughts on how to do this on a Mac?

  • Evan Wondrasek

    I've done some looking around and it doesn't look like this feature is currently available in any of the Mac builds of Chrome. Perhaps soon though, I'll keep my eyes out for it!

  • Adhocrocker

    It works with the devchannel on macos:
    /Applications/Google Chrome –enable-vertical-tabs
    but it looks horrible, since the tabs shape remains the same

  • Evan Wondrasek

    Nice find, thanks!

  • Evan

    Note: After adding this to the target and relaunching Chrome you will need to right-click on a tab and select “Use Side Tabs”.

  • Ian

    First of all, when I try this (Windows XP) it says that the target isn’t valid.
    So I tried just going into a command prompt and typing chrome -enable-vertical-tabs but when chrome loaded it just said “Oops! Google Chrome could not find xn--enable-vertical-tabs-2t2l”

    • Megas

      I have this problem, too

  • JJ

    Chrome’s Vertical Tab feature is annoying but better than nothing. I added the Put New Tabs on the Right Chrome Extension which makes new tabs appear below the current one instead of above. And I pinned my google app tabs which puts them above the new tab button on the vertical tab bar. Unfortunately, restarting reorders my pinned tabs. Very annoying.

    Question: The last graphic in this post showing vertical tabs. How did you get your vertical tabs to each have a white bar around them? On my pc only the current tab has a white bar and its not nearly as aesthetically pleasing.


    • Evan Wondrasek

      Hey JJ,

      I’m also using Put New Tabs at End to improve the functionality of Chrome’s vertical tabs. It helps, but vertical tabs still have a long way to come before they can rival Tree Style Tabs.

      When I wrote this article in July 2010, the visual styles of vertical tabs were different than they are now (hence the different appearance in the screenshot). I’d imagine they will change a few more times before they (maybe) make their official debut. I agree that the old way looked much nicer.

  • Janus Daniels

    Nice… still, using Chrome Side Tabs leaves a blank bar on top; has anyone got a way to use it or get rid of it?

  • Evan Wondrasek

    Currently I do not believe this is possible.

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  • Cefiar

    No longer available in 16.0.912.63 m. Just updated (automatically) and my tabs are now stuck at the top, and about:flags doesn’t have the option anymore. :(

    • Wujek Banan

      I’ve got the same problem :/

    • Koby Shayo

      me too.. couldn’t even find a good extension to do this.. :(

  • Joel Thornton

    I’ve just released a vertical Tree Style Tabs extension for Chrome, with a dockable sidebar. It attempts to implement all the key functionality of Tree Style Tabs for Firefox, plus some extra goodies like Tab Hibernation:

    Sidewise Tree Style Tabs

  • @mindianajones

    I realize I’m 2 years late to this party, but I’ve been googling tab management stuff and wound up here. I’m currently using the extension linked below, which lets you put side tabs where ever you want them — left, right, upper or lower corners, etc. I just installed it today so can’t give a thorough review, but it’s working well so far.

  • Vladyslav Volovyk

    There is more interesting solution now for this problem in Chrome:

    Check TabsOutliner extension:

    It will give you vertical desktop sidebar with full list of all open windows and tabs. This work much better and logically than wasteful sidebar for every Chrome window (especially when only several tabs present). It is also has TreeStyleTab feature (must be enabled in options, off by default), and many more really needed things for any tab addict (like possibility to save tabs/windows, manage session, crash recovering, adding notes to tabs and many more).

    • Branislav Vartík

      tried it… nah… not a replacement for TabMixPlus or VerticalTabs

      • Vladyslav Volovyk

        But it is interesting why you think it is not a replacement? Only because of its different look? Yes, then it is not a replacement. But it solve the problem for tab addicts, and do it much better than mentioned Firefox addons.

        I personally used TabMixPlus for many years, this is solution in completely different field of completely different problems, and basically not very interesting for people with really big number of tabs and windows.

        Firefox VerticalTabs is good one (yet I personally preferred Tree Style Tab) but it does not give overview of all windows. If only 3-5 tabs present in window it waste a lot of space, and I even not talk about full-screen mode. No possibility to save tabs (hibernate), not possibility to comment tabs, no possibility to save all distracting windows in one click and finally start to work, this is a toy in compare to Tabs Outliner.

        Basically TO will give you in time something like commented browsing workbook. It is go way beyond simple tabs and session management.

      • Vladyslav Volovyk

        We are talking about Chrome…

  • Jordan Vincent

    I just released an extension which revolves this problem:
    I saw that many extensions provide this service, but they aren’t user friendly (use an other window or a popup). This extension is very simple to use, unobtrusive and it works in full screen mode too ! Try it !

    • Evan Wondrasek

      Looks very promising, thank you for sharing!

  • Guest

    I couldn’t find any extension that worked like Vertical Tabs on firefox, so I create one.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t seem possible to create a sidebar in Chrome. Instead it has to be in a popup window. Works well enough for me though.

  • frankmannen

    I couldn’t find any extension that worked like Vertical Tabs on firefox, so I create one.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t seem possible to create a sidebar in Chrome. Instead it has to be in a popup window. Works well enough for me though.