Firefox, OS X and lots of tabs
January 13, 2010
I’m what Alex Limi calls a tab power user. I always have a lots of open tabs in my Firefox. Right now it’s 38. Some of them are regular web apps that I never close (Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), some of them are websites that I’m currently using (project wikis, API references, etc.), and some of them are things I’ve opened for later reading (you might call them short-term bookmarks).
Clearly the standard tab bar in Firefox is completely impractical for this. There is, however, the Tree Style Tab extension which allows you to arrange tabs in a vertical tree at the left or right hand side of your browser window. Apart from the obvious advantages of being able to sort tabs in a tree, it also solves two simple visual problems: On modern widescreen displays you want to waste as little vertical space as possible. Moving the tab bar from a horizontal toolbar to a vertical sidebar therefore not only gives you more vertical space for the content window but also more space for the tabs. The latter is very important obviously when you have lots of open tabs.
There’s just one thing that’s always bothered me a bit about Tree Style Tab: The default theme on OS X may look nice but it wastes a lot of space by trying to make tabs look like, uh, tabs. It also doesn’t actually feel like a native OS X UI. Just consider iTunes, Apple Mail or other applications with a sidebar tree…
Enter SidebarStyleTab. This little extension I cobbled together earlier this week restyles your vertical tree style tab bar to look like a sidebar you know from other OS X applications (including the sidebar in Firefox itself). It’s not 100% perfect yet, but for me it’s a big improvement over the default OS X tree style tab theme. I might get around to fixing the few remaining UI quirks eventually, but I welcome others to beat me to it: the code is on GitHub.
P.S.: I think this is not the end of redesigning tabs in Firefox. This is obviously a much debated topic to which I might eventually add my 2 cents. But not today 🙂