Overhauled tabbed browsing for Firefox 3.1

Firefox 3.1 may well be remembered as the “tab release”, as tabbed browsing will be the most noticeable updated area users will face when it comes out in final form.

The latest Firefox 3.1 nightly (code named Shiretoko) features a new tab button in the tab bar, making the addition of a tab fully discoverable for the first time as it is now part of the primary UI.

A previous change, added a few days ago, made the tab bar always visible by default which allows the new tab button to be present at all times. In the past, the tab bar was hidden when there was only one page opened. A preference in Options/Tabs allowed to make it visible at all times.

The old New Tab button which was present in the Customize Toolbar dialog and could be added to the toolbars is gone at this time.

Yet another change in behavior now makes the current window go away when its last tab is closed. There is already a number of users complaining about this behavior and I also at first thought it would be annoying, but I still haven’t been in the situation of closing all tabs, yet wanting to keep Firefox open.

Anyway, and to help long time users anger, a new preference has already been added to restore the old behavior and always keep a blank tab on sight. Just access the advanced preferences (enter about:config in the location bar), and set browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab to false.

As you may know, previous Firefox 3.1 alphas introduced thumbnail tab previews when switching with the Ctrl + Tab keyboard shortcut; as well as real tab moving across windows with tab reparenting instead of just moving the web address and reloading it as in Firefox 3.0.

And there’s more to come.

The List all tabs button will most likely be replaced by an all tabs preview and, hopefully, a tab search option users who tend to have dozens of opened tabs at a time will appreciate.

The ability to tear a tab out (drag it out of a window to its own) is also in the works and under consideration for inclusion in this release. Cool tab animations when moving and tearing tabs may also come soon.

While most of these improvements are already available in Internet Explorer (tab preview, new tab button) and Chrome (tab animations, tab tear out and reparenting), I must note that they have all been in discussion for years within Mozilla and I’d guess other vendors as well. It will be great to have a good mix of other browsers’ proven good tabbed browsing features, plus some unique for Firefox like Ctrl+Tab previews and tab search.

EDIT: You can hide the new tab button adding this code to the userChrome.css file found in your profile folder:

.tabs-newtab-button {display: none;}

27 thoughts on “Overhauled tabbed browsing for Firefox 3.1”

  1. Sounds great!

    I have been wondering for a long time how to change my browser’s tab behavior; when I open more than 8 tabs, the little cross for each tab disappears and is only displayed by the current tab. How can I change it so there’ll always be a cross for each tab regardless of how many tabs there’s open?

  2. Really looking forward to the 3.1 release, guess I’ll switch over at the beta stage.

    @Wikso: There is a possibility to change that in about:config, but I can’t seem to remember what it’s called. Maybe some googling will help you out? (try specific searches, for example in the mozillazine knowledgebase)

  3. Is there any opportunity to have multi-row tabbar in Firefox by default (I mean, does anybody in Mozilla considering such feature)?

    1. There are no plans for a multirow tab bar in Firefox 3.1. Your best shot is an extension like TabKit which provides this and several other tabbed browsing improvements.


      1. Thank you, Percy, I’m already using it together with Tab Mix Lite CE. (TabKit for multi-row tabbar, Tab Mix Lite CE for all the remaining features)

  4. Awesome!!!

    Percy, I’m replying here just to tell you that MozillaLinks is the first website I read everytime I open Google Reader (and I have hundreds of sites in it).
    Your style in writing news, with legit and very interesting news is fantastic!

    thanks for maintaining MozillaLinks! 🙂

  5. The change to close the browser with the last tab was ridiculous. Tabs make Firefox an MDI application, and ALL MDI applications remain open even with no documents loaded.

    Even if all tabs disappeared and you were left looking at a blank screen, the browser should not close on its own. It’s a usability confusion nightmare. The first time it happened I thought the whole app had crashed. It’s unintuitive to say the least.

    The property is a step back in the right direction, but it needs to be set false by default, not only for people who are in the know.

  6. Are there any plans to group tabs of same web domains together, or to have a new tab open to the immediate right of the active tab? I think I’d find both useful, as having extensive horizontal lists can be difficult to manage when only the first few characters are visible on the tabs themselves.

  7. “The old New Tab button which was present in the Customize Toolbar dialog and could be added to the toolbars is gone at this time.”

    Ehrm, I want to keep my “New Tab” button in the toolbar. It’s been there since … long time. I don’t want it in the tab bar.
    Is it possible to deactivate the new tab bar button and re-activate the free customizable button I can put in the tool bar? Otherwise I’d have to stay with 3.0x 😐

    1. >Ehrm, I want to keep my “New Tab” button in the toolbar. It’s been there since … long time. I don’t want it in the >tab bar.
      >Is it possible to deactivate the new tab bar button and re-activate the free customizable button I can put in the >tool bar? Otherwise I’d have to stay with 3.0x 😐

      i totaly agree.. i’m so used to old “new tab” button, that i switched back to firefox 3.0..

      1. Is the best way to sort this out to make the tab bar buttons customizable in the same way all other buttons can be draged and dropped?
        Im not a fan of any new tab button tbh but the old button was easier to remove

  8. The placement of the New Tab button all the way to the right will definitely be something to get use to, because I am so use to having it right next to the home button on my Firefox layout.

  9. I tested out Chrome for a week and that also has the behaviour of closing the window when the last tab is closed.

    This is particularly annoying in Chrome because so much is based around the New-Tab Homepage that learns your nine favourite websites etc. There is no home button, which is a good thing imo, but this means I click the new tab button to get the homepage then go back and close the first tab. Bad.

  10. The “new tab” button should be at the beginning of the tab bar (before the first tab), not at the end.
    Buttons should be closer to each other, otherwhy we begin to have buttons everywhere on the screen, just like in IE7, and that sucks.

  11. Pingback: G@boWeb » Firefox 3.1 Beta podría llegar la próxima semana
  12. Finally a new tab button. Dont know how often I have argued in favor only to get dissed by “UI design expert” why it is not needed. Now, diss me again for saying: it belongs at the beginning of the tab bar, at least in left to right text mode.

  13. the new tab button doesn’t integrate very well within GNOME (GTK)
    any plan to improve that ? it looks like a regression (remember Firefox GUI before version 3)

  14. Goddamn it –

    I’m sick of good software ruined by overzealous developers.

    Leave the option for new tab button on the toolbar customization IN.


    Who gives a shit about the ability to pop out tabs?

    That is precisely why I DON’T use chrome/iron/chromium.

    Stop regressing and ruining my software.

    If this is kept as a feature, I will no longer be a Mozilla user…
    and I’ve stuck with Firefox/Gecko almost since 1.0RC

  15. Hi, thank you for your posting. But I need you help, thanks very much!~~
    This question is:

    How can I get “tab” object from a document object???

    My code like this:

    onTabOpened : function(e)
    var appcontent = document.getElementById(“appcontent”);

    appcontent.addEventListener(“DOMContentLoaded”, foo.fun1, false);

    fun1 : function(e)
    var doc = e.originalTarget;

    if (!doc)

    var tab = doc; // !!!!!!! Have a way to get tab by doc object?? How ??

    // tab.className should be ‘tabbrowser-tab’.

    }, 3000);

    THANKS! Hope any help!~~

  16. Thanks for this article! I’m facing the disappearing close button after 8 tabs too, and can’t find any resources on how to get it fixed. For the last tab not showing any close button, I’ve found a stylish style for it here:


    Would appreciate if the close button “problem” could be fixed. Thanks!

  17. The addition of the New Tab (plus sign icon) is very good. But what I used to have in Firefox 2 is Close current Tab icon which I don’t see anymore. This is very troubling. Is there away to get this back?

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