Using Your Middle Mouse Button In Your Browser

3 minute read

Most people don't even know what a middle mouse button is, let alone how to use it. But it is enormously useful. Here are a few ways to deal with tabs in your browser much more easily.

"But I don't have a middle mouse button!": That's what 90% of people I inform about this tip say. Of course, they're wrong--unless you have a really old mouse, you have a middle mouse button. To middle-click, you just press down on the scroll wheel. (If you have a laptop, you can usually emulate a middle-click by pressing down the left and right touchpad buttons simultaneously, and if you have a Mac with one mouse button you can hold down the Command key and click.)

A disclaimer: I only had access to the Chrome and Firefox browsers while writing this tip. While I personally believe you should be using one of these two browsers, I understand you may not be, in which case these tips will probably work but I can't guarantee it.

1: Closing a Tab
To close a tab, you could aim for the little tiny "x" button in the corner of the tab. Or you could just middle-click anywhere on the tab and save yourself a couple of seconds every time you close a tab.

2: Opening a Link in a New Tab
I couldn't live without this trick. Sometimes you're researching a topic and come across a link that looks interesting, but you want to be able to easily return to the current page. Don't follow the link (and maybe several more links in the same fashion) and then click the Back button a few times--this is a lot of wasted effort, and you might even have trouble figuring out which page of the 5 you just visited was the original one. Instead, middle-click the link, then switch to the new tab. When you're done with the new page, you can simply close the tab to get back to where you were.

This is also really nice if you're reading a page and see something that looks interesting, but you don't want to stop reading the page you're on to look at it. Instead of trying to remember all the links you wanted to look at, middle-click the link, then move to that tab when you've finished reading the original page.

I also use this trick when visiting news sites: I scroll through the list of available articles, middle-click all the ones I want to read, then close the home page. In this way I can easily read all the articles I'm interested in without having to click the Back button, wait for the page to load, and find a new article each time.

3: Opening the Previous Page in a New Tab
Tip #2 is all well and good, but sometimes you don't realize that you still needed a page until after you click a link on it. In this case, you can middle-click the Back button, which will bring up the page you were just visiting in a new tab. This option is even kind enough to duplicate your browsing history in the new tab, so you can still click Back and Forward in the new one (unlike if you opened a link in a new tab, where the new tab starts with no history).

4: Duplicating a Tab
If you want to duplicate a tab, you can middle-click on the Refresh button, which will open a new tab pointed at the URL of the current page. In practice, usually this tip is unnecessary because you can use 2 or 3 to accomplish the same thing.

Soren "scorchgeek" Bjornstad

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me:

Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
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