Organizing Browser-heavy Workflows

Organizing browser items in a heavy online workflow can present challenges. Opening one tab inevitably leads to opening more tabs until the browser is so full of tabs that it becomes essentially unusable. So you start bookmarking them for later reading and adding them to reading lists and saving them to favorites. But, if you’re like me, you can even forget that you have them in there. To prevent missing important sites, I compartmentalize my online work environments in order to more efficiently work with the sites I need for the task at hand. Here I would like to share some tips for processes that ease my workflow when I am doing work that requires using several websites at the same time.

First, let me describe some of the work processes that I do that rely entirely or substantially on websites. One such workflow is blogging, whether for this site or for others. That involves collecting online resources and writing the actual post in an online platform (I personally prefer the online interface over the WordPress app). Another workflow that involves a number of websites is translating biblical texts. Here I am accessing online typographical facsimiles, grammars, lexica, and other translational aids such as tools for parsing. A third type of work is transcription and transliteration of digitized manuscripts online. Finally, as a managing editor at this site, I have organizational and editorial tasks. Currently, I undertake basically all of this work online using various sites. That means I need to collate a lot of websites in my browsers without getting overburdened with sites irrelevant to the task at hand. In order to accomplish that, I divide the tasks between my browsers for the most efficiency, only using some browsers for some tasks, but also using one feature to better organize my materials. Here I’d like to break down those tasks and how I approach them.

Chrome

Increasingly, my impression is that everyone uses Google Chrome—at least some of the time. In my interactions with colleagues, this mostly relates to its integration with other online Google apps. For example, when doing editorial work for Digital Orientalist, the schedule and other organizational material is in Google Sheets. Preliminary drafts of posts are done in Google Docs or imported there from other applications so that authors and editors can collaborate on them. That makes using Chrome for that particular task the natural fit and the best opportunity to easily collaborate. Otherwise, I only rarely use Google products or applications (with the exception of YouTube). That keeps Chrome free of things that are irrelevant for the work I do with it. That is, I know when I’m using Chrome that I’m doing work for the Digital Orientalist. And when I’m doing work for the Digital Orientalist, I’m doing it in Chrome, whether it’s writing, editing, organizing, or corresponding. That means there are also no temptations or distractions when I fire up Chrome. (I don’t even use YouTube in Chrome; Chrome is for the Digital Orientalist.)

Look how boring Chrome is when I open it.

Edge

I like the Edge browser from Microsoft for tasks that require opening several tabs and working with them at the same time. This is the browser I rely on when I’m surfing, searching or working on transcribing, transliterating, and translation. Edge has a feature that I find to be better than bookmarking in other browsers: collections. I use the collection feature to categorize the sites I regularly visit into different tasks or types of use. For example, I collect digitized biblical manuscripts in one collection (which will soon be divided into more based on language before it gets too unwieldy). When I am looking to translate or collate specific manuscripts, I can just call them up in my collections. Anytime I come across another manuscript I want to include, I just add it my collection.

The Collections tab in Edge

Aspects beyond the purely organizational make this feature attractive to me. For example, it provides the simple (and obvious) ability to rename your links for cases in which they have unusual names or only use the URL as the site’s name. Beyond that, Edge allows you to take notes (the yellow buts in the picture above) and add them into the collection. I use this note function in order to keep tabs (pun intended) on specifics texts (i.e., references to a particular folio) that I need within a digitized biblical manuscript when they aren’t digitally keyed. That way I don’t have to flip through the folios each time to find what I’m looking for. At the same time, I can write notes about the status of the website (such as whether it is currently defunct) or write a notice about where a file related to the site, such as a transcription or translation is located on my device or in the cloud. That way, I always know where everything is. Notes can also be color coded, and the text can be formatted in simple ways, including as a list.

Opening collections can be quite easy as well. You can click on the collection and then on the sites you want to open to just open those specific sites. Or, if you organize your collections based on specific tasks and need every site in the collection at one to fulfill that task, right-clicking on the collection allows you to open every site in it. Using this feature is great for, e.g., blogging about specific collections of sites (as I have done here in the past). After saving all of the sites I want to blog about in a collection, I head to site that I am going to blog on, open a new tab and then open all of the sites in the collection, write about each one, and close the tab as I finish. While preparing the post, I can write notes in the collection about each site so that I don’t forget what I want to write about it. When I finish the assignment, I can just delete the collection if I don’t need it for anything else. Straightforward and easy, and it keeps everything clean.

Another feature is good (or bad, depending on your proclivities) for people who have loads of tabs open at the end of the workday that they have not finished dealing with. In the upper left-hand corner of Edge there is an icon with “Tab options.” You can use this to simply add all open tabs into a collection by clicking it and selecting that option. Doing this places all of your open tabs into a collection named with the date that they were saved. That’s great for people who simply need a quick, temporary repository and who will go through and clear out the material they longer need or reorganize what they do. But it can be dangerous for people who just save it in this “temporary” collection and never look back (“digital hoarders”). Whether this is practical or usable for you depends on your workflow and personal tendencies. I use this when I have been doing a lot of searching or surfing, but don’t have the time to categorize all of my tabs before shutting down for the day or moving to a different task.

Salvation or doom, depending on how you use it…

Concluding Thoughts

Dividing up the websites I work with in this manner lets me better concentrate on the work at hand without getting distracted or bogged down with unnecessary background noise or rabbit holes of temptation. It reserves my “favorites” list for things that are actually my favorite and keeps my work materials streamlined according to the task I’m working on. It may seem like an obvious solution, but I think it’s worth mentioning. I hope that you found it helpful and would love to hear some other tips that you have to keep your work in browsers well organized.

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