Every Chromium-based web browser has a feature (or several) to distinguish it from similar competition. One of Microsoft Edge’s unique native features is vertical tabs, which exchanges your row of tabs along the top of your window for a set of icons that run down its left side instead. In fact, we highlighted vertical tabs as one of the five ways Edge beats Google Chrome right here on PCWorld.
I decided to give this kind of layout a shot after reading effusive praise of it. Most fans love the extra real estate you get and swear it improves the flow of browsing. But after a couple of months of trying vertical tabs, I have to confess: I’m still not sure how I feel about them.
There’s stuff I like, of course. For starters, switching between vertical and horizontal tabs is fast and simple. Just tap CTRL + SHIFT + , on your keyboard. Alternatively, you can head into Settings and search for the feature, or click the black window icon at the far left of your tab row.
Vertical tabs are also more convenient for keeping track of many tabs while minimizing window clutter. Each tab is reduced to an icon, which you can quickly take in at a glance. And when you hover your mouse over an icon, a bar pops out with the titles of your tabs, making clear what you’ve got open.
But most clutch is having this layout in a portrait-oriented monitor. When your monitor’s flipped that way, navigating through horizontal tabs can be a real pain—especially in Edge. Open enough of them and Microsoft’s browser squishes the tabs down so tight that you can’t make out their icons. You avoid that whole mess with vertical tabs.
But there’s stuff I struggle with, too. Primarily, that’s my muscle memory. After almost two decades of using horizontal tabs, I’m conditioned to think that if I see no tabs at the top of my screen, it’s just the one window of information…which I then close when done out of pure reflex. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve closed a window with 20+ tabs still open, then panic-revived. (On Edge, opening a recently closed window is more nerve-racking than in Chrome and Firefox—if you accidentally open another tab or window before attempting retrieval, it’s just gone.)
I also find it visually cumbersome when switching to another tab with my mouse. The sidebar with your tab info pops out the moment you hover your mouse over a tab. That means it’s constantly springing into view while clicking around, which I find annoying.
But even despite the mild awkwardness of vertical tabs, I still haven’t switched back yet. It’s slowly forcing me to pick up new muscle memory—like learning CTRL + SHIFT + A to bring up the tab search menu and hop between tabs that way.
Truth be told, one reason why I haven’t given up Edge’s vertical tabs may be because I use other browsers regularly, too, and they have the familiar spread of horizontal tabs. They’re great for my secondary monitor, and it’s easier to live in a dual system rather than switching over. But don’t let me stop you from trying it yourself. You may find that you adapt easier and end up loving them unequivocally.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.