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March 13, 2010

Goodbye Tabbed Browsing

Filed under Software

I really like the new taskbar in Windows 7.

One of the byproducts of the new taskbar: tabbed browsing is obsolete.

Tabbed browsing was great when your window manager was overwhelmed with large numbers of internet browser windows. However, the Windows 7 taskbar works great with large numbers of open windows.

Tabbed browsing is actually worse than Windows 7’s taskbar application management. Why?

  1. With each browser window in a separate application, you can quickly ALT-TAB between the last two important apps. With tabbed browsing, you cannot use ALT-TAB to move between web browser sessions because all the tabs happen in a single app.
  2. Similarly, holding down ALT-TAB shows you thumbnails of all the open applications so you can quickly go to the application you want via a mouse click. This doesn’t work with tabbed browsing for the reason above.
  3. Tabbed browsing takes up extra screen space for the tab row. You can disable tab browsing and see more content.
  4. Windows 7 makes it easy to see applications side-by-side via Aero Snap. This works great if you disable tabbed browsing, doesn’t work at all with tabbed browsing.
  5. With tabbed browsing disabled, you can adjust the window size per browser session. Only use the screen space you need! Also, using different sizes for different session makes finding a session easier via Aero Peek.
  6. If you change Windows 7’s default taskbar setting to “Combine when taskbar is full”, you can glance down at your taskbar and select the browser session you want by the title text, just like you can with tabbed browsing. To change this taskbar setting (which I recommend changing): right click start button->properties->taskbar->taskbar buttons: [Combine when taskbar is full]
  7. For developers: You get Aero Peek for free if you do not use tabbed browsing. If you do use tabbed browsing, you must write a Windows 7 plug-in to make Aero Peek work for all the open tabs (IE had to do this, all web browsers that support tabbed browsing *should* do this if they want to function correctly in Windows 7).
  8. To quickly open another web browser session, just middle mouse click on any browser button in the taskbar. This option is available even when you are not currently working in a web browser (i.e. no need to switch to web browser and find the “open new tab” button).
  9. To quickly kill browser sessions, just hover on a browser button in the taskbar, then middle click on any thumbnail. As a visual queue, you get thumbnails of all the open browser sessions. Once you mouse over the session you want to kill, you see the web page in its entirety before making a decision to kill it.
  10. Tabbed browsing is partially duplicating what the taskbar already does…why learn two different ways of doing essentially the same thing?

To disable tabbed browsing in IE: Tools->Internet Options->General->Tabs->Settings->[ ] Enable Tabbed Browsing (requires restarting Internet Explorer)

For Firefox, use: Tools->Options…->Tabs->[ ] Open new windows in a new tab instead

Comments (9)


What do you mean "Tabbed browsing is actually worse than Windows 7’s taskbar application management. "


@bubba: you can read how tabbed browsing is worse than Windows 7's taskbar bar in a blog post I wrote here:




Linking back to your own posting that I'm asking for clarification does not answer my question. What don't you like about Window 7 taskbar application management? I thought you liked the layout of the taskbar and how you can customize it. Please elaborate.


I didn't say Win7's taskbar was bad.
On the contrary, I said it was better than tabbed browsing.
Where did I say I didn't like Win7's taskbar application management?


You said "tabbed browsing is actually worse than Windows 7’s taskbar application management" in this posting.

A is better than B.
B is worse than A.

Do you not understand these are two ways of saying the same thing?


Thanks for elaborating and clarifying.

Tab Browsing 101

Use CTRL-TAB to navigate between tabs.

@Abdoulaye Sidy:

Problems with Ctrl-Tab vs. Alt-Tab:

1. Press Alt-Tab twice to jump back and forth between the two most recent apps. Ctrl-Tab does not do this.

2. Alt-Tab is easier to press than Ctrl-Tab. You can press Alt-Tab while your hand remain close to the home keys on the keyboard. Try keeping your left index finger on the "F" key while doing Alt-Tab vs Ctrl-Tab with your left hand.

3. Why complicate matters: learn Alt-Tab and use it all the time. I don't want to have to think before pressing keys:

If currently on a web page and you want to see another web page:
- use ctrl-tab until you get to desired web page

If currently on an app, and you want to get to a web page:
- alt-tab until you get to the desired web browser
- ctrl-tab until you get to the desired web page

If currently on a web page and you want a web page from another browser window:
- alt-tab until you get to web browser containing the desired web browser
- ctrl-tab until you get to desired page

If you want to switch between apps:
- alt-tab until you get to desired app

Or....if you don't use tabbed browsing:
- press alt-tab until you get to desired page/app.

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