Firefox 2.0: Mozilla’s Tabs Overfloweth


For many Windows users, tabbed browsing is a key attraction for the
Mozilla family of browsers. The ability to add multiple ‘tabbed’ views within one browser window is a
feature that some users like to push to extremes.

Microsoft’s current stable production version of
Internet Explorer does not include tabs, though its next
generation version 7 (currently at Beta 3) does.

So how
many tabs can you fit in one window? No matter how many you can fit into
Firefox 1.5.x, the next release of Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 will give you more.


Using a default configuration in Firefox 1.5.x, at a screen resolution of
1024×768, in tests performed by internetnews.com 34 tabs can be
squeezed in before they start to get lost.

A user can add more than 34 tabs but in a default Firefox
1.5.x installation, those tabs will fall off the end of the tab bar and will
not be very usable. Even at 34 tabs, the default tab width makes it
difficult to figure out which tab is which.


Enter a feature called “tab overflow,” which is set to make its official
debut in Firefox 2.0.


With tab overflow, the general idea is that beyond a certain fixed number of
tabs, the other tabs will overflow and be accessible via alternative means,
such as a separate pulldown.

Firefox 2.0 Beta 1, released earlier this month, provides a preliminary solution,
according to Mozilla developers.

In tests conducted by
internetnews.com, the default Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 release allows for 17
open tabs on a 1024×768 resolution, with a forward and back tab navigation
bar scroller for overflow. Further improvements in tab overflow are expected
to materialize in the Beta 2 release.


Tab overflow may be a new feature for default configuration of Mozilla
Firefox, but it is not a new idea for tabbed browsers. Microsoft’s Internet
Explorer 7 Beta 3 does tab overflow, as does Apple Safari
version 2.0.3.


The idea of tab overflow isn’t even a new idea within the Mozilla community.
There are a number of add on extensions available for Firefox that will
enable some form of tab overflow capability. Yet for various reasons, tab
overflow has not been a baked-in feature in Firefox.


Heck the idea to get some kind of tab overflow into Firefox dates back to at
least when Mozilla was still calling its next-generation browser Firebird.

There is an entry in Mozilla’s bugzilla
tracking database dated October 9, 2003 on this topic. The actual bug is
summarized as being, “when opening too many tabs you can’t move to them with
the mouse (“X” button and tabs overlap)”.

At one point it was considered to
be significant enough issue that it was a blocker for the 0.9 release of Firefox.

“Does this really block 0.9? Is there really a need to have umpteen jillion
tabs open in a single window?” a Mozilla Bugzilla commenter wrote in 2004.
“While I appreciate that some of us like to have a large number of tabs
open, IMVHO the majority of tabbed browsing users will only have at most
maybe eight tabs open at once.


“Something should definitely be developed by 1.0 – but by 0.9?”


As it turns out, something wasn’t developed to fix the problem by the Firefox 1.0
release
in 2004, but nearly years later it’s almost finally here.


Code freeze for the Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 is expected to happen by August 1,
with a tentative release date of August 8. The final release is
targeted for September 26.


Tab browsing overflow is only one of many new features and bug fixes in
Firefox 2.0. It also fixes a number of bugs, some of which date back as far as seven years, according to Mozilla developers.


“As of this writing we have taken ~2300 bug fixes, ~750 were opened before
the ship of FF1.5/Gecko1.8,” Mozilla developer Mike Schroepfer wrote in a
recent mailing list posting.

“Taken as a whole these fixes are helping to
make FF2 the best FF release to date.”

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