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How to merge and unmerge Chrome tabs in Lollipop

Everyone uses their devices just a little bit differently, and the web browser is more often than not a perfect example of that statement. Chrome for Android offers many great features, including the ability to sync all of your data across multiple devices so you are always with whatever tabs you left open elsewhere. How we use those tabs is often a topic of great debate, usually between those who keep dozens of tabs open at all times and those who swipe a tab away when they're done with it and bookmark the rest.

With the Lollipop release of Android, Google introduced a new way to handle Chrome tabs. Instead of keeping the tabs contained in one app, Android now offers individual Chrome tabs as their own cards in the multitasking panel. It's not something that works for everyone, so here's a quick explainer on turning that feature on and off.

Merge Chrome tabs

If you want all your Chrome tabs to stop mucking up your recent apps list, this is for you.

Chrome is where you want to head for the settings on this one. The menu button in the top right of Chrome includes a Settings button when you scroll down, and one of the first things you see in this panel is Merge tabs and apps. Tap this once, and you'll see a single option to either disable or enable this feature. Before you go any further, know that any tabs you have open in Incognito Mode are eliminated when switching between these two modes.

Disabling this feature will pull all of your Chrome tabs into a single app, where you can control them all from one place. If you want to enable this feature again in the future, you'll go back to tabs being individual cards in the multitask panel. There's no actual difference in how the tabs behave, just the way they are presented to you.

And there you have it. Quick, easy, and according to some users — including more than a few Android Central editors — one of the first things you should do when using Android 5.0+.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

69 Comments
  • Thanks, Russell! This has been making me crazy ever since my M8 got updated to lollipop. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Right same here. I don't understand why they made it the default setting.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • To get people to try it.
  • Yep. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yeah but it's so far off what people are used to that it'll in many cases just deliver a bad experience.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thank you so much! I hated this feature so I'm elated it could be changed. Posted via the Android Central App on my Beautiful Beast of a Note 4
  • Same here, thks for the tip.
  • This was the first thing I did when my phone updated to lollipop.. Drove me crazy Posted via the Android Central App
  • I gave it a couple of days, but it got to the point where it was either turn it off or take a hammer to my phone! Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • I made sure to change that on my phones. Absolutely stupid. Posted via the Android Central App
  • thanks! Ive needed that
  • Serious question: What is the argument in favor of merging chrome tabs with recent apps?
  • Great question. I have no clue. It annoyed me badly though... Like a screaming child on an airplane. At least the option is there to turn it off. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I know as I've never met anyone who has liked it this way, EVER!
  • Exactly, I want to know who these people 'who either love it' are. They are rare as hens teeth. Posted via Android Central App
  • Well... Ever since my LG G3 got lollipop, I've kept the merge tabs on. I adapted to it quickly and haven't seen much of a negative impact. I don't love it, but its not bothersome to me. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think I sort of get what they were going for. They thought people often tab back to previous pages in Chrome, which would make sense if you wanted to quickly switch between two or three Chrome tabs, but what they didn't take into account is the real world application of Chrome. I have 19 tabs in Chrome simply because by default, any time you tap a link in an email or in a chat, it opens a new tab and I just never close them because it's not like you see 19 tabs across the top like you do in the desktop version. I think a lot of people are like that and in the real world, that means 19 cards in my Recent Apps section.
  • And this is why we need phones with 3 GB of RAM! I am the same way.
  • Hello, I don't love the merger but I definitely like it. It's made jumping in between things much easier than before. I tried switching back but I found just having a bunch of tabs open easier and quicker to navigate through on the fly. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It makes a kind of sense. After all tabs in Chrome tend to be separate, unrelated web apps. The problem is that we're used to opening things in new tabs (and some websites open links in new tabs by default) without closing the old ones. That way, you end up with lots of tabs that you don't really intend to come back to. So this feature ends up getting in the way. Perhaps a better implementation would be to have a single Chrome card in the recent apps list that drills down to a list of Chrome tabs when you select it - with the back button taking you back to the overall recent app list. By the way, I've turned it off, but I notice that even when it's off, if I use the OK Google search feature, the results end up in their own 'recent apps' cards anyway. Shouldn't the Google Search widget and OK Google simply launch a tab in Chrome like any other one?
  • I actually like it, mainly because the only widget I use is the Bookmarks, and I use more webapps than downloaded ones. In that way, I can easily launch sites/webapps from my homepage, as if they were all distinct apps.
  • As much as I think that I am on top of Android, then I learn serving new every day. That has kind of irritated me for awhile, but now I think that I am used to it, lol. I going to go back to the old style for awhile. Thanks a bunch Mr. Holly!
  • Don't people read Google's little introduction to these features when they install them?
  • You could have stopped at "Don't people read", the answer is most often no
  • I am so darn glad there was a way around this. I hated that i couldnt switch tabs in chrome any longer. Wife the same.
  • Mostly off-topic, but Chrome-related: Is there a way to force Chrome for Android to go full-screen? I use NewsBlur in Chrome since there's no decent tablet client, but it only goes full-screen when you scroll the whole window... which NewsBlur never does. I've found a Firefox extension that mostly works, but I'd love to keep my Chrome history sync'd across devices.
  • Although I doubt there is a solution, I agree with you. It would be nice if Chrome gave us an "immersive" mode and it would just go full screen. Maybe in the future? Posted from the Nexus 6, Nexus 5, or Surface Pro 3
  • Try Dolphin Browser.
  • At the risk of sounding stupid, is this a phones only feature? My 2012 N7 on 5.1.1 isn't showing this option. And my tabs are all in Chrome, but I wanted to try it out. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My Nexus 10 only shows tabs in Chrome. It doesn't let me merge them. Merging only works on my Nexus 5. I hope they bring it to tablets eventually. I guess they figure that a larger screen works better with tabs and people would expect it to work more like it would on a computer.
  • Either way, chrome closes my open tabs all the time and it drives me nuts. Merged or not merged. I leave them open to go back and read later or leave open to show someone. Posted via Android Central App
  • Yea. It's very annoying when that happens. Posted via the Android Central App for Sailfish OS on my iPad 7
  • Report it to the devs. I'm sure they'd be willing to help you out. Posted via the Android Central App
  • this setting on a phone is cumbersome and the toggle for a tablet (like my n7 2012) isn't there but it would be nice to have as it reminds me of using the webOS browser on an HP TouchPad
  • I wish there was an "Undo" button when I accidentally close a tab when they are merged.
  • In the chrome menu, go to Recent Tabs...
  • Thanks but the "Undo" button when you close an unmerged tab reopens the tab immediately instead of requiring three taps.
  • Is there any particular reason why it does not work on tablets?
  • Seriously. I gotta be honest, this might be the most useful story ever for me personally. Since lollipop I've hated the merged option and didn't know there was anything I could do about it lol. Sweet. Thanks Russell Posted via...The One
  • Much appreciated, I've been trying to do this for months! Posted via the Android Central App
  • I quickly switched back after the jumpto Lollipop - the problem is that I'm used to switch between tabs with a flick and dismissing them the same way (pulldown and flick away), so using the recents button seriously messed up my comfy gestures.
    Another thing is, neither of my Lollipop hones have the recents pop up instantly. This was not surprising on my Galaxy S3 with a custom ROM, but my new Xperia Z2 can wait up to a full second (or more, dunno, it does feel like an eternity). It's definitely something I don't want in my browsing.
  • They need to bring back the ability to switch tabs with a swipe even when the tabs are merged. I think this would help people keep better track of how many tabs are open when they do use merged tabs.
  • The best tip in ages, thank you. Now, have you got one to merge the @&^#*! sound/priority switches?
  • I actually like the merged tabs,
    Haha, guess I'm the only one here Posted via the Android Central App
  • You are. Posted via the Android Central App
  • your not alone...i dont really mind having them that way
  • Read about that feature during the app intro and thought I'd give it a try. Unfortunately I started to lose track of the open tabs, stuck between this app and that app. Disabled it and realized I had 7 open tabs when I thought I only had a couple.
  • Can't see this setting on my Nexus 7 (2012) running Android 5.1.1. In my Chrome Settings there's nothing between 'Search Engine' and 'Auto-fill Forms'. (Ah, sorry - I see this point has been made before. Didn't see the previous comments when I first read the article.)
  • I'm kind of shocked that readers of Android Central (generally android enthusiasts) didn't already know this. I changed the setting anout 5 minutes after I first got lollipop!
  • I figured this out a long time ago too. I guess I just fiddle with the settings more than most.
  • I actually like this feature because it makes it easier to close tabs and also switching to specific tabs from other apps. Posted via the Android Central App
  • After so long, I've gotten used to it.
  • Awesome! Thank you. This I prefer it as one app on the Carousel...
  • The argument for or against mixed tabs rely heavily on the implementation of the recent apps feature. Since it now holds 40+ of all app instances, adding 10+ more chrome tabs to that list is not an appealing idea to nearly anyone.
  • Why am I just now learning this!!!! Gahhhhhh as a huge android person I have always hated that one feature that lollipop brought along so I am just so happy I can kill that feature :D ANDROID CENTRAL IS THE BEST! Posted via the Android Central App
  • It blows my mind how even people who comment on this site didn't know they could turn this off. I can just see some of you people going "Omg what is this new feature, Omg Omg I hate it so much, it's driving me crazy, if only I'd be smart enough to look into some settings, but noooooo that's not gonna happen, someone please write an article to tell me how to do this puhleaaaase" pathetic. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lol, it's not even that hard. The first time you open Chrome it tells you about it and how to disable it...
  • That's what she said.
  • Thanks! That thing was annoying me for a month. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thank you! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thank you! This has been killing me since the Lollipop update. Posted via Android Central App
  • Did none of you guys even bother to Google the answer to your question? Instead of letting it bother you for a long time, why not just Google how to disable it? I am surprised that people on Android Central couldn't figure it out.
  • very helpful, thanks
  • I don't know why so many people hate it so much. I use the merged tabs because I like having the browser change color to match the website. I even set up my own blog to work this way. It makes web sites feel like regular apps. I think that's what Google wants to achieve. They seem to be focused on making web apps indistinguishable from regular apps. Some of the new features in Android M point in that direction as well.
  • I have wanted to try this feature on my 2013 Nexus 7, but I don't seem to get that option. Has anyone else had this issue?
  • Thank you for the wonderful guidance. The mixed tabs were really annoying. I don't know why Chrome had to act oversmart and behave stupid.
  • Over the last week or two I've found I keep having to reset this setting because my phone switches back to merged tabs. In Settings it still shows as being off, so I have to enable it in order to disable it again. I have no idea what's causing it. Is anyone else having the same problem? If do, have you had any luck getting the setting to stick? (Galaxy S5 running 5.0)
  • Thanks. This confused me after switching from the Z10 to the Priv.
  • Is it true that in Dev 51.0.2700.2, users can no longer merge tabs into apps?