Beautiful tab switching for Firefox 3

Among Firefox 3 pending improvements it a cool tab preview feature that shows actual thumbnails of the currently opened tabs. The feature is currently available as an experimental extension developed by Dão Gottwald, but could make its way to Firefox 3 final code.

First, the List all tabs button in the tab bar is replaced with a button that opens a black window with thumbnails and the active tab highlighted in a slightly bigger size. Tabs can be located by inspection or you can enter a few letters from the tab title you want and thumbnails are quickly filtered out.

Firefox 3 tab switching

Switching tabs with the Ctrl + Tab (Cmd + Tab on Mac) brings a black bar across the whole screen with thumbnails of the closest tabs with the site’s favicon overlayed for easier identification.

As you can notice from the screenshot below, the selected tab is shown slightly to the left (instead of the  obvious center) and may seem odd at first glance. However this position allows to see the most next tabs at a time.

Firefox 3 tab switching

To be honest, I didn’t see the benefit immediately. But after using it for a while I realize it’s really easier and quicker to reach the tab you are looking for when you can see how much apart it is. Filtering may be too much though.

Performance-wise, CPU usage spiked from 2-3% to 45-50% during high speed tab switching (that is, I kept Ctrl + Tab pressed for a while), but immediately went back to previous cool 2-3% usage.

Firefox 3 Beta 1 is expected within the next couple of weeks.

Get Ctrl+Tab from Mozilla Bugzilla.

50 thoughts on “Beautiful tab switching for Firefox 3”

  1. Hmm… my first thought was if this wouldn’t lead to very high CPU usage… will be interesting to see if it affects tab-switching performance. Are you saying it doesn’t? What’s your computer?

  2. Hmmm… I just tried the extension in Firefox 3… so far I’m *very* sceptical to this, but maybe it’ll grow on me. We’ll see. 🙂

  3. Percy, you can see that from the tab bar. If the sites are same, then their preview is also likely same, so I can’t see any value.

    Also, even if I see how far apart tab is, I will press ctrl+tab the same number of times, actually wasting time in finding how far tab is.

  4. Isn’t this just something that’s already available in IE7? Maybe not to the same extent, but IE7 has the ability to tab switch based on viewed thumbnails.

    In the end, I hope all this bloatware they are adding to Firefox 3 doesn’t kill the app for me. I really hope they continue to have ways of turning off all these unwanted (by me) extensions that are now part of FF3.

  5. I’m currently use Firefox2 on 600 MHz VIA EPIA system. Firefox is _very_ laggy and slow comparing to other browsers. Sometimes it eats all my CPU for about 20-40 seconds and almost hangs… And they continue to add more and more unneeded fancy things, instead of optimizing internal engine and performance.

    Some day I will switch to something else.

  6. Great idea. When working with macosx+expose and ubuntu with compiz-fusion+scale I realize, that to have preview when switching is a very good thing. But previews looks like jpeg now, can you fix this “feature”?

  7. Stupid jerks!
    Instead crappy and useless features you’d better:
    – make libgecko to significantly decrease memory usage for firefox, thunderbird and sunbird running at the same time (now there are 3 identical copies of gecko in memory)
    – fix bug with broken hotkeys in non-english layouts
    – allow using url like ../../../../../ for testing
    – remove “a ping” property for links which violates both privacy and standards

  8. > […] a MozillaLinks, esta nova funcionalidade consegue por a trabalhar o seu processador a mais de 45 – 50%, mas depois […]

    In English, блядь!

  9. I think it for idiots, where scalable svg, x3d and others w3c standarts?
    Where normal memory use? Now firefox on my windows machine use 104 Mb RAM and its not limit, Usually i restart firefox then it use more than 200 Mb?

  10. Idiots will be happy. I’d like some usability improvments, but not a ‘glamour’ tab switcher. Isn’t it possible to reduse memory usage? Or add menu item to switch off images, just like in opera? If you want visuals – make simple clear redisign without ‘heave’ improvments and it will be cool.

  11. Bells and whistles! Hey, developers, you have no more unclosed bugs? Your browser have passed last ACID tests or web standards? Fix russian hotkeys first, for example, this bug has opened for years.

  12. Looks kinda sweet. Thinking of it, I don’t understand why it hasn’t been implemented ages ago. After all it’s fundamental for alt+tabbing in any major OS out there!

    And for all you whiners above: MoCo is working on reducing memory usage. Google it if you don’t believe me!

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  19. Umm, you guys know that OmniWeb has had this feature (and many others..) for years now?? Just sayin..

    I’m interested in checking out v3.

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  21. There is already an existing plug-in for Firefox 2 that does roughly the same thing. I don’t remember the name of it, and since I’m at work and I only have it on my home PC I can’t give you more details about it, but its a plug-in that puts an icon on the lower right corner of the screen along with the FasterFox, AdBlock, and all those other fun icons. And basically it opens all of your tabs in an additional tab with small windows, so you can see the contents of every tab in one window.

    I don’t operate with more then 3 or 4 tabs open at any given time, and usually its less then that, so this is really of no concern to me, but I just wanted to inform that there is something similar already in the wild.

  22. Update:

    Five minutes of searching the Firefox Extension page yielded extensions like Tab Catalog and Viamatic foXpose (which is the extension I have) which do the same things.

  23. i’ll use that add-on as soon as it’s available.
    However my concerns is the same as others: cpu usage.
    And additionally: since it’s working on FF that means no matter what SO you’re using it will work, isn’t it? i would like it to see on ubuntu.

  24. The Shiira browser has been doing something quite similar to this for a while. Small tab previews instead of just tab names. And an option to view larger previews that looks a lot like OSX’s Exposé feature.

    Not saying its a bad idea. It just isn’t so new.

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  26. tabs need to give the functionality of tabmixplus especially mouseover switching. add firefox would be very much improved by thunderbird intergration.

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