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;}


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