Firefox new tab behavior to be updated

Firefox development lead, Mike Beltzner, has announced a slight change to the way Firefox opens new tabs, that will be featured in future releases.

Currently, when you open a link in a new tab it is added to the end of the tab bar, and the relationship with its parent tab exists only in the user’s head. I usually have to move it closer to the original tab to avoid tab scrolling.

With the new behavior, new tabs opened from a tab will be added to the right of the parent tab, unless there is already a child tab. In this case it is added to the right of the last child tab.

New tabs opened via the new tab button, File/New Tab… menu, Ctrl + T, etc. will still be opened to the end of the tab bar, as it is not possible to know if it’s contents will be related to the current tab or not.

Users of Internet Explorer 8 beta are already familiar with this behavior which also assigns a specific color to related tabs making it easier to identify them. The result, however, is a too colorful tab bar. Other approaches could be adding a small separator between tab groups, or a halo around or just below tab groups.

If you want to try this behavior, you can install Tabs Open Relative, a extension by John Mellor that does just this on Firefox 3. You will have to set extensions.tabsopenrelative.includenewtabs to false via about:config to have new tabs

I would also like to be able to press Shift while opening a new tab (via the main menu, a button, a keyboard shortcut  or modifier), to force it open right to the current tab, so I can keep tabs together.

According to Mike, the new behavior will be added to trunk builds soon, but its inclusion in Firefox 3.1 is yet to be decided.

UPDATE: People looking for a way to disable the new behavior should check this post.

59 thoughts on “Firefox new tab behavior to be updated”

  1. Suggestions

    === Parent identity ===

    Use case: opening tabs from multiple pages of search results

    I google something, glance thru hits 1-10, right click 1 3 and 4, click Next page, glance thru 11-20, right click 13 14 and 19, Next page, glance thru 21-30, right click 22 and 29. Now the tabs are ordered

    A0 A22 A29 A13 A14 A19 A1 A3 A4

    (where A0 is the search result, and A(x) is hit number x). The tabs essentially appears in random order. I usually want to read them in the order i found them.

    Partial solution: relax the “identity” concept of what a parent is.

    Clearly, in google an many other contexts, going to Next Page should not change the parent status of a tab. It should still be the head of its group or sub-group. What about a solution where a tab always keeps its parenthood when its content changes (following a link)? It will work in the google case, but it might break other use cases. Deciding what is a tab’s or a page’s identity requires a lot of thought.

    === Visual clue ===

    There is no visual clue (ver 3.6.8) how the tabs are grouped. Firefox obviously has an internal representation of “parents” or “groups” of tabs, and one should not be surprised that users get confused if it is invisible to them.

    For this feature to be useful as intended, there should at least be an easy way to see what tabs are parents, or where the group boundaries are.

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