MuteTab Documentation

Update January 2014: This was written prior to Flash being updated to work as a Pepper plug-in and Chrome adding audio indicators; Chrome now will visually indicate which tab(s) are playing sound. (But it can be hard to see indicators when many tabs are open or when they come from another window and it doesn't have mute/pause/stop commands.)


I. Introduction

MuteTab is a Chrome extension that helps you manage the sound coming from tabs in Google Chrome. It helps you to find which tab(s) are making sounds and provides browser-wide management of tab "muting" (pausing YouTube, HTML5 video/audio, and QuickTime and stopping other sources), including automatically muting all background tabs. It does not, however, allow muting a video or game so that it can be played silently while listening to background sounds coming from another tab. (This is not possible in Chrome without either plug-ins such as Flash being updated or Chrome's plug-in architecture undergoing an unlikely major redesign.)

Please read the FAQ for more information about what this extension is and how it works.

II. Installation

  1. Download it from the Chrome web store.

  2. The MuteTab icon () will show on the top right of the browser window. Right-click on it and choose 'Manage extensions...'.

  3. Check 'Allow in incognito' if you want it to apply to incognito browser sessions and 'Allow access to file URLs' if you want to be able to list/silence sounds played by opening files directly (either from the web or your local disk).

  4. Click Options to further configure the extension.

III. How MuteTab works

MuteTab will monitor every page you visit to detect sound sources and aggregates that information into an up-to-date list. See the FAQ to learn more details.

Unlike most extensions, MuteTab will work with already-running tabs.

IV. Using MuteTab to find the source of a sound

MuteTab helps you figure out which tab is making sounds and silences it. To demonstrate how it works, we will walk through a browsing scenario.

We'll start in the middle of a user's browsing session in which they are listening to a video or audio running in the background (for this example, they are listening to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance). We'll assume that they may have various windows and/or tabs already open and -- although some of those web pages might make sound -- they aren't at the moment.

Suppose that the user is browsing reddit and just discovered a cool cat video that they want to watch. But they were already listening to Bad Romance in a background tab and they don't know where to find it to mute it.

Normally, it would be challenging to search through multiple tabs in multiple windows to find the sound source. With MuteTab, you just click on the extension icon () to list the tabs that are most likely playing the sound. It will look something like this:

Entries will be ordered from most recent to oldest. The following operations are available for each tab:

Unfortunately, it doesn't show everything (most notably it will not show sounds coming from 'Web Audio', which is typically used in newer HTML5 games). The reason that you cannot "mute" everything is due to weaknesses in plug-in implementations (most notably Flash). (See the FAQ for more details.)

You can narrow down to particular possible audio sources by clicking the '' sign next to a tab.

You can silence your background music by taking one of these actions:

Reducing the number of false positives for possible audio sources

Depending on which pages you loaded, you may find that the popup list looks a little cluttered. A great way to reduce the number of possible audio sources detected by the plug-in is to use AdBlock or AdBlock Plus. Running either will mean that the plug-in instances won't ever run so they won't show up in the list. You can get AdBlock here and AdBlock Plus here.

You can also click 'hide stopped' to remove tabs where all possible audio sources are stopped from the list.

Muting via the context menu

If you right-click within a browser window (but not on a plug-in) you will see a list of operations that can be performed for the current tab, and can stop all tabs or all other tabs. It will look something like this:

It works the same way as the extension popup discussed earlier, except it does not list information specific to tabs and possible audio sources. Note that extension context menus do not show up on certain tabs (such as chrome:// URLs or in the Chrome web store.)

V. Using MuteTab to automatically "mute" background tabs

MuteTab allows you to automatically "mute" all background tabs, by stopping/pausing sound sources as tabs go into the background. By doing so, you give up some flexibility but will less frequently need to search for background tabs making sound. You can toggle this by clicking "Enable/disable autostop background tabs" within the extension popup.

We'll demonstrate how this works by opening the same set of tabs as in the previous section. Open those tabs and then visit each and play the sound (you probably want to lower your volume first.)

Then click "Enable autostop background tabs" within the extension popup and you should observe sound from the background tab turning off.