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Google Chrome experiments with making ‘Reopen closed tab’ almost instant

Right now in Google Chrome, if you close a tab, it’s immediately unloaded to help clear out memory, something Chrome has long been notorious for hogging. That means if you accidentally close a tab and need to reopen it, you’re essentially opening the page all over again. As spotted by the folks at Chrome Story, Google Chrome is readying an experiment to make the “Reopen closed tab” feature almost instant.

Instead of immediately clearing the data out, Chrome will freeze everything about the page and store it in a special cache for a short time. Once the feature launches, if you use “Reopen closed tab” within a few seconds of closing a tab, it should be able to reopen instantly, rather than reloading the page.

The development team spells out the planned “Reopen closed tab” speedup in a public design document, calling it a “closed tab cache.” According to the doc, the closed tab cache is based on another experimental, work-in-progress feature, “BackForwardCache,” which saves some of your recently browsed pages to make Chrome’s Back and Forward buttons work almost instantly.

We want to make the ‘Reopen Closed Tab’ button instant for very recently closed tabs. We are currently (June 2020) actively working on delivering the BackForwardCache for Chrome. This cache will make back and forward navigation instant. We want to reuse the work being done there to also be able to quickly restore recently closed tabs. The main use case being accidental clicks where the restore happens shortly after the close. We expect to get a big UX win by being able to restore such tabs instantly with their entire state.

As for when we can expect to see this improvement to the “Reopen closed tab” experience, it’s likely going to be a few months at least, since the BackForwardCache is still in a “trial” state and will likely need to launch first.

Interestingly, the design document also notes that Chrome for Android already has a form of recently closed tab caching, which powers the mobile browser’s handy “Undo” option. These newly planned improvements should make the tab reopening process more consistent between Chrome for Android and the desktop versions of Chrome.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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