The future of BarTab

December 2, 2011

BarTab has a faithful user base. Every day I get emails that look approximately like this:

Thing is, I made BarTab when I was a grad student because it was something I and Firefox needed at the time. Things have changed. I no longer am a grad student with lots of disposable time (yeah, right) and frankly, there are more important things at stake in Firefox land.

Firefox is stepping up

But! The good news is that Firefox is slowing assimilating BarTab’s feature set. That’s right! Let me show you how:

Since Firefox 8, you can tell Firefox to only load your tabs on demand, just like with BarTab. You can find this setting in the Firefox options/preferences dialog:

What’s more, my tireless colleagues Paul O’Shannessy and Tim Taubert are working on bringing even more BarTab-like features, e.g. the auto-unloading.

Who wants the keys?

As far as BarTab’s future is concerned, there might be hope. People have forked it on GitHub and apparently made it work (great work, whoever you are!), other people have made XPIs with fixes available. This is awesome, but I can’t just merge their work and release it. At least I don’t want to put my name on something that I haven’t thoroughly reviewed and tested. But, if somebody else wants to take than on, I’d be more than happy to hand the keys to BarTab over. Please get in touch with me if you’re interested!


22 Responses to “The future of BarTab”

  1. py Says:

    Thanks a lot for informing me, and other users of Bartab, about how it still exists (at least a bit) in Firefox 8.

    I was wondering how i could live 😉 without Bartab.

    Thanks a lot again,
    py from France

  2. Drugoy Says:

    I am wondering what Paul and Tim are doing. Couldn’t they just copy-paste the code from your extension into Firefox?
    Why re-invent a bicycle?

    • Erunno Says:


      read the discussion in the bug for some background information of why the implementation of BarTab is *not* suitable for the general audience. One of the more difficult issues is avoiding data loss via auto-unloading.

    • RyanVM Says:

      Quality standards for code are a lot higher when you’re shipping the code to 100+ million people by default vs. shipping an addon that people can optionally choose to install. Like Erunno said, there are situations where BarTab did things in a way that could potentially cause dataloss for unsuspecting users, which is obviously bad.

  3. madcopy Says:

    thank you!! I was about to send a Y U NO UPDATE BARTAB?!?
    again, thank you for the enlightenment.

  4. zel Says:

    IMHO, a ‘dim unloaded tabs’ setting would make FF v8 completely capable of covering all the lost functions of bartab (lite).

    Chuck in an:
    ‘unload the tab’ (on demand or timer) or maybe an ‘unload all other tabs except for this one in this window’
    and you’re really rocking the joint.


  5. Wiren Says:

    Post same how-to to BarTab Lite description of addon… You’ll not get most of the e-mails anymore 😉

  6. månen Says:

    Great to see that they have integrated Bar Tab in Firefox 8 .To be honest Bar Tab is too good not to. I’ll test it .. Thanks for the info . And thanks for Bar Tab


  7. Threshold Says:


    I hope you will be able to update the addon eventually.
    In the meanwhile anybody could tell me how to use these forks i found on Github?
    You end up with a folder but where exactly do I put it in the Firefox profile and do I need to remove the main BarTab first?


  8. Thanks for bartab 🙂 It made my firefox experience pleasant. And also this post now I can deal with latest firefox.

  9. Dornfelder Regent Says:

    I agree with zel’s comment on this.

    Similar to the way “Close tab” and “Close other tabs” work, Firefox could benefit from two (native) functions “Unload tab” and “Unload other tabs”, which should check if there is text in any input box/field on a page that is about to be unloaded or if there has been any keyboard input in the content area (other than any kind of FAYT) while the user was viewing that page and then either warn the user or save all entered text to be automatically re-entered when the tab gets loaded again.
    This might be more difficult (if doable at all) with flash contents in mind as well as in special situations (like on-screen/mouse keyboards or speech-to-text), but I dare to say those are things not being fully covered or taken into account anyway (that’s OK – the way most things work for most people just doesn’t allow *every* single variable to be reconciled).
    Of course this can become more complicated altogether than a seemingly more linear approach like BarTab (which worked fine for me, but I reckon there have been some issues for other people).
    Currently, I keep my Firefoxes load-on-demand setting enabled all the time and I’m using the now unavailable UnloadTab (0.22) which simply unloads every tab I haven’t been viewing for 10 minutes (it has a whitelist function, which doesn’t quite respect the browser’s built-in load-on-demand setting and virtually forces all tabs that match the whitelist to get loaded, even right on program start, so I don’t use it – but other than that it just does what I expect of it) and it includes those two aforementioned tab context menu options to manually unload tabs/other tabs and a dim unloaded tabs option too).
    Additionally, I’m using ‘Lazarus: Form Recovery’ which saves about any text I enter in any multi-line input field, so I very rarely lose text.

    Maybe this can help some people to work around the issues they have had with unloading tabs under certain circumstances.
    If someone would combine the updated basic functionalities of BarTab, UnloadTab and Lazarus into one add-on, to enable unloading without data loss and respect the load-on-demand setting, I think this could be what some people were hoping for in the first place.

    I don’t think that automatic timed unloading of tabs is what most people would want, so I doubt it’s something that’s going to be an integral part of Firefox, but it sure could work out to be a very fine add-on IMHO.

  10. Steven 'stevels' Smith Says:

    Thankyou for the tips Dornfelder.

    Be wary of some Tab control add-ons that can be found on Mozilla Add-on search that ‘claim’ to have an unload feature but do not.
    Meanwhile I had to find UnloadTab else where because it’s not available at the Mozilla site. I smell some politics.

    With UnloadTab and the Lazarus Form Recovery and Session Manager I am finally back to where I was in FireFox 5 and BarTab Lite. Pale Moon 9.1 is my preferred browser because it is faster than FireFox and is optimized for a dual/quad core CPU. It also had lost BarTab and I stalled it at version 3.6 for a year just like I refused to advance from Firefox 5 because BarTab failed. I missed all versions of Firefox between 5 and 11 because of BarTab not being compatible. I wonder how many other power tabbers were lost to Firefox this way?

  11. Aaron Says:

    I’m close to being lost to Firefox, but not quite. I’m still on Firefox 3.6 at home (Linux) and at work (Win 7). Still performing very well. The two extensions I can’t live without are BarTab and vimperator. The newer versions of FF don’t work with BarTab, or duplicate its functionality, and vimperator seems to chug on newer Firefox releases. Last time I tried to switch over to something more modern was FF 8- I’m just about due for another whirl.

    I’ve flirted with Chrome, but it uses up massive amounts of RAM- no BarTab analog, and no useful vimperator analog.

    I’d probably go back to Opera if I could get something like vimperator for it. I used to have none of the problems with powertabbing that I do with Firefox (sans BarTab), Chrome, and IE. It might be worth checking out for some of you disenfranchised powertabbers.

    @stevels: Thanks for the tip on Pale Moon! I’ll have to give that a try.

    • philikon Says:

      Like I wrote in the blog post, and you mention in your comment, later Firefox versions have the most important BarTab feature (loading tabs only on demand) already built in. So that should be little reason for not upgrading.

      As far as vimperator is concerned, I hear that Pentadactyl ( is the successor and it’s maintained for modern Firefoxes.

      • Aaron Says:

        Thanks for the reply!

        For me, BarTab is useful not only because it loads tab on demand but because it unloads tabs that haven’t been used in a while. If I understand the new “Don’t load tabs until selected” box, the only time a tab is in an unloaded state is when you start Firefox for the first time. I may misunderstand, but subjectively it appears to be the case. Either that, or additional resource requirements of the newer versions in general lead to that impression.

        Both vimperator (3.x) and Pentadactyl are both still supported in FF 10. However, they both feel substantially slower compared to vimperator 2.x with FF 3.6.x. Downright laggy, even. At least, this was my experience up to FF 8- not tried FF 10 yet. I’m going to give it a whirl, and see how it holds up compared to my FF3.6+vimperator 2.x setup.

      • The most important functionality of bartab was to UNLOAD unused tabs, not skip loading them at startup. FF goes out of control with my wife’s browsing habits of hundreds of tabs open, always. it’ll go to 3GB ram usage and crash.

        Only thing that helps is hibernating tabs which are not in use..

      • The Wanderer Says:

        As other people have said: the built-in Firefox functionality only supports “delayed tab loading” (and perhaps eventually “automatic tab unloading”), not the equally essential “manual tab unloading”. It also doesn’t provide a “visual indication of which tabs are and are not loaded”, and it doesn’t let you “switch to nearest already-loaded tab when the current tab closes” instead of switching to (and loading) an adjacent tab.

        All of these omitted features are IMO indispensable, and the only thing which has ever successfully provided them is BarTab. None of the attempts to continue or replace it have succeeded in providing all of them that I know of; the ones which have come close haven’t continued to work for more than one or two Firefox versions.

        I don’t absolutely need these features from BarTab, but I do need them from somewhere, and nothing else has ever provided them.

        I don’t demand that you must drop everything and start supporting BarTab again (though I’d probably like it if you did), but at the very least, please stop saying that Firefox provides BarTab’s functionality now; it doesn’t, and judging by the response to a bug I just filed requesting the missing features, it probably never will.

  12. Robert Sexton Says:

    Ugh, mute issue here, and I suppose everyone is tried of hearing it, but I tell ya, BarTab or living without it has kept my browser version down to 3.6.27 as I REFUSE to upgrade to a version where it is not supported. Only today I have learned that some of the newer versions have similar built in support so that may open the door to an upgrade, but should I have to live without BarTab functionality I will be in trouble. I may not have what another user posted about his wife and 100’s of tab’s open, but when my firefox gets around a gig of memory, my computer is maxed out and I have a 64 bit OS with 8 gigs of RAM. Certainly I could use more, but making a purchase right now is not possible as keeping the electric and internet on is more important.

    Philipp, thank you very much for your efforts as it has had a huge influence on many many people and for the better. As you can see, many of us hate to see it go away, but we for the most part do understand that you also must do what you can to keep your own electric and internet on… 🙂

    Best luck to you mister!

  13. mike Says:

    “Since Firefox 8, you can tell Firefox to only load your tabs on demand, just like with BarTab.”

    If I remember right, BarTab could be used to reopen FF and not refresh(retrieve) pages thru your internet connection, but rather a stored copy on your computer, saving bandwidth…

    I could be wrong since it has been a while, but that would be one of the biggest pluses for me since bandwidth to me is limited due to my ISP needing to charge for bandwidth instead of the great old unlimited plans that once existed.

  14. StuK Says:

    Philikon, we need you! :/ A BarTab incarnation I’ve been using semi-works, but with bugs — tabs don’t auto-reload when I go back to them (just leaving a blank white page), and it’s also causing some freezing clashes with Tree Style Tabs addon.

    Any chance you could point me in the right direction to either diagnosing and fixing this myself, or pointing toward someone who may know how?

    Much obliged!

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