October 09, 2006

FireFox 2: Please fix this before it's too late

FireFox 2.0 just relased its Release Candidate 2, which means it's nearing its final version. Overall, it's much faster than 1.5 (the only new feature that I really care about, actually), but it is plagued by one change that is irking me to no ends: they changed the tabbed UI.

Compare the 1.5 version:

to the 2.0 version:

With FireFox 1.5, there is only one close button (at the very end of the bar) and all the tabs open are visible at all times. With FireFox 2.0, each tab has an individual close button and instead of bunching up, the open tabs continue off the screen, and a drop-down allows you to jump to one that's not currently visible.

This is very wrong for two reasons:

  • The close button now changes places all the time. I just never know where to find it:  I need to first find what tab is currently highlighted (not very easy to do with MacOS because the difference between the active and inactive tabs is subtle) and then click it. After two weeks using FireFox 2, I still find myself closing the wrong tab once in a while. Actually, I've sometimes even closed the tab I wanted to jump to by accident because I clicked on its close button when I only intended to activate it...
  • More than once now, my muscle memory have led my mouse cursor toward the rightmost close button, thereby expecting to close the tab I'm currently reading while, of course, closing one I haven't read yet.
This is such a huge UI mistake that I'm still shaking my head in disbelief.

Here is the rationalization offered on the Mozilla Web site:

Power users who open more tabs than can fit in a single window will see arrows on the left and right side of the tab strip that let them scroll back and forth between their tabs.
Well, sorry, but that doesn't hold water, and I'm sure that if they had conducted even only one usability study, they would have found that there is a vast majority of users who just think the older UI is more functional.

But I'm open-minded, and I certainly understand the value of evolving user interfaces over time, but when you are altering something that is so fundamental to basic navigation, the least you can do is offer a switch to users who prefer the older behavior (like Eclipse wisely did). Unfortunately, such a setting is nowhere to be found in the Tabs configuration.

I hope the FireFox developers do the right thing and introduce this setting before 2.0 goes final.

Posted by cedric at October 9, 2006 10:45 AM
Comments

I liked it at first because it lets you close tabs without switching them, but I have been closing tabs accidentally. I also find my tabs going off screen too easily. This really irks me when the key combo to switch between tabs doesn't work for some reason and I have to click the tiny drop down at the end.

Posted by: Bob Lee at October 9, 2006 06:04 PM

This already is changeable, but not via the prefs ui. Go to the url about:config, find "browser.tabs.closeButtons", and set it to "3" for the 1.5 behavior.

Posted by: neil at October 9, 2006 07:04 PM

I can see why it might be annoying, but Eclipse does something similar, and many, many people find it quite "usable." Calling it a "huge UI mistake" is hyperbole. Let me list some possible "huge" mistakes:

- Removing tabs altogether.
- Requiring triple-clicks to change tabs.
- Making Ctrl-Q and Ctrl-W the shortcuts for copy and paste.

It's important not to misuse the big words, if only so you have something left to pull out when the really bad things are proposed ;)

Posted by: Alan Green at October 9, 2006 07:10 PM

Since when have you been using a mouse?! :)

Posted by: AKeyboardUser at October 9, 2006 07:39 PM

(Caveat: Windows user here)

The only feature I would care about is to make it stop leaking memory so obscenely that I have to kill the app through the task manager every 2-3 days.

Developers, don't call it "aggressive caching". I've turned it off, and tried every other rumoured incantation in about:config I can find. Not to mention getting rid of my handful of extensions. It's about the most egregious user-hostility I've encountered in quite a while.

Fix the leaks and the security holes, and I won't care if you never add another feature again.

Grrrr.

Posted by: Mike Krell at October 9, 2006 08:00 PM

The close button on every tab sucks! It is the single reason I dropped Safari! How long until somebody creates an extension that removes the close button?

Erik

Posted by: Erik Weibust at October 9, 2006 09:46 PM

Just use the shortcut keys. If you really take your browsing seriously, it will ultimately be much faster just to learn them. Here's some to get started (on OS X):

Command + T, open new tab.
Command + W, close current tab.

And, new (or old) to 2.0 , Control + Tab and Control + Shift + Tab to cycle through tabs (one handed!).

Posted by: Chadwick at October 9, 2006 10:03 PM

I can't complain, I used to install extensions to add tabs scrolling add per-tab close buttons ^^

Posted by: Romain GUY at October 9, 2006 10:06 PM

I can't complain, I used to install extensions to add tabs scrolling add per-tab close buttons ^^

Posted by: Romain GUY at October 9, 2006 10:07 PM

Like Romain, I just can't complain since this behaviour does not match usual UIs. WShat's more, since my browser of choice is Opera, which already has this close button on each tab since ages, I think it's a good idea, although once again Firefox mimics Opera :-)

Posted by: Nicolas Delsaux at October 10, 2006 12:48 AM

Middle-click on the tab works just fine as a close button - which is as wide as the tab itself. Only problem is that it's not autodiscoverable, hence not very beginner-friendly.

I'm also using extensions to modify tab behaviour extensively (Tab Sidebar and Reveal), haven't seen the default tab bar for along time ....

Posted by: Tassos Bassoukos at October 10, 2006 01:13 AM

I don't mind the per-tab close buttons, but cannot stand the scrollbars when there are too many tabs.

I'd rather firefox keep squeezing them in, and when I decide they're too small I open a new browser window and start filling that with tabs.

If you have to mouse to a menu, you might as well click on the history list or a bookmark and not use tabs at all

Posted by: Lysander Smallhead at October 10, 2006 02:44 AM

cf in french: http://ljouanneau.com/blog/2006/10/10/599-onglets-dans-firefox-20

Posted by: G. at October 10, 2006 03:29 AM

I found the same thing immensely irritating in the default Opera install - but there is of course a preference setting to get rid of it.

"Preferences - Advanced - Tabs - Show Close Button on Each Tab"

Having said that I normally use keyboard shortcuts now anyway.

Posted by: TC at October 10, 2006 03:33 AM

It isnít a huge mistake. Itís a reasonable alternative. There are usability arguments that support both styles of interface, and they have very different affordances. Itís not really possible to declare one style better than the other, except to say that casual users tend to be better served with the per-tab style while power users tend to be better served with the single-button style. (Even then, it is not a clean divide.) I can see why Mozilla with their philosophy of making sure the casual userís needs are met would make such a decision.

I prefer the single-button style, as you do, and will be looking for a hidden pref or extension to get it back. But to raise hue and cry over this is hyperbole, IMHO.

Posted by: Aristotle Pagaltzis at October 10, 2006 04:05 AM

It isnít a huge mistake. Itís a reasonable alternative. There are usability arguments that support both styles of interface, and they have very different affordances. Itís not really possible to declare one style better than the other, except to say that casual users tend to be better served with the per-tab style while power users tend to be better served with the single-button style. (Even then, it is not a clean divide.) I can see why Mozilla with their philosophy of making sure the casual userís needs are met would make such a decision.

I prefer the single-button style, as you do, and will be looking for a hidden pref or extension to get it back. But to raise hue and cry over this is hyperbole, IMHO.

Posted by: Aristotle Pagaltzis at October 10, 2006 04:06 AM

If you want to restore a tab you closed by accident, just do:
CTRL+SHIFT+T

Posted by: G. at October 10, 2006 06:08 AM

having the close button on each tab is BETTER. you are WRONG

Posted by: doug at October 10, 2006 06:33 AM

I'd like to have it both ways. The standard close button on the right and a close button on the tab.

Posted by: DaveTheWave at October 10, 2006 06:45 AM

I'm sick of your whining, get a life!

Posted by: PeterTrogon at October 10, 2006 07:10 AM

Hi Cedric!

In lights of the Google Reader redisign, you're kinda funny making these statements!

See my reply : http://epirsch.blogspot.com/2006/10/re-otaku-cedrics-weblog-firefox-2_10.html

Posted by: Emmanuel Pirsch at October 10, 2006 07:51 AM

Try TabMix Plus. Not sure if it's available for the 2.0 release candidates, but it makes tabbed browsing SO much better in 1.5+.

Posted by: Jason Carreira at October 10, 2006 10:11 AM

Cedric, this change was made in response to usability studies done here at Google. You can read about it at http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/ben/archives/009210.html

Posted by: Keith Lea at October 10, 2006 10:48 AM

Here's how to configure the Firefox tab behavior.

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Browser.tabs.closeButtons

Simply go to "about:config" in your address bar and change "browser.tabs.closeButtons" to whatever tabbing style you like by using the relevant integer values from below.

If the "browser.tabs.closeButtons" preference doesn't exist, just create it by right clicking the page and selecting "New -> Integer".

0 - Display a close button on the active tab only

1 - Display close buttons on all tabs

2 - Donít display any close buttons

3 - Display a single close button at the end of the tab strip (Firefox 1.x behavior)

Looks like "3" is what you'd want. :P

Hope this helps!

Posted by: Adam Flanczewski at October 10, 2006 09:08 PM

Here's how to configure the Firefox tab behavior.

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Browser.tabs.closeButtons

Simply go to "about:config" in your address bar and change "browser.tabs.closeButtons" to whatever tabbing style you like by using the relevant integer values from below.

If the "browser.tabs.closeButtons" preference doesn't exist, just create it by right clicking the page and selecting "New -> Integer".

0 - Display a close button on the active tab only

1 - Display close buttons on all tabs

2 - Donít display any close buttons

3 - Display a single close button at the end of the tab strip (Firefox 1.x behavior)

Looks like "3" is what you'd want. :P

Hope this helps!

Posted by: Adam Flanczewski at October 10, 2006 09:09 PM

Sorry about the double post. I got an "Internal Server Error" when trying to post it. :/

Posted by: Adam Flanczewski at October 10, 2006 09:09 PM

If there was a usability study someone fuc-k-ed up :)

I should say first of all that I had the same negative reaction in the beginning, but eventually actually do like the new tab behavior more. The reason it's a mistake is because firefox is popular. It has become "essential" to most peoples daily lives. Once something becomes essential and things in it change beyond your control people get mad.

I've had customers scream in my face how much they hate me and how I've ruined their lives with a product, only to have them sheepishly come forward months later and admit how it really has been a huge improvement/blah blah blah..

As for these other comments of "Simple open about:config", there is nothing simple about this. That's such a ridiculous statement to make. Why don't I simply go into regedit and search/change the value there as well? So simple right? If it's so damn simple why isn't it an option in the "tabs" preferences panel?? I mean come on, you guys already have a "whole panel" dedicated to it. Would it really kill you to clutter it up with one tiny little config option that will likely save a few thousand users from cursing you under their breath? ;)

Posted by: Jesse Kuhnert at October 10, 2006 11:06 PM

Cedric,

I'm with Romain. Using 1.5, I had to install a separate extension to move "close" to each tab. I use Ctrl-W (on Windows) most of the time anyway. This allows me to close a tab without having to bring it to front first, which is very handy when you have a lot of them open.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised to see you having such a strong reaction to this change, you being such a keyboard-loving power user...

In any case, I'd be extremely surprised if there wouldn't be an extension around to let you simply rever to an old behavior.

Posted by: Eugene Kaganovich at October 11, 2006 10:23 AM

Why is the close button a huge mistake? Did you even stop to consider the obvious advantages? Primarily, now you close the tab where you are looking at it. This is better because your not selecting a tab and then navigating the mouse to a completely different area of the screen. Grouping the visual clues of the tab and its closure very close together keeps it self-evident what the button does.

Its a huge mistake not having this feature.

Posted by: Michael at October 11, 2006 10:43 AM

>>> ... cannot stand the scrollbars when there are too many tabs. I'd rather firefox keep squeezing them in

about:config -> browser.tabs.tabMinWidth sets the minimum pixel-width you want. The default is 100(?)
- I set it to 30 which roughly duplicates
the way it worked in Firefox 1.5

Posted by: Eric at October 13, 2006 08:37 AM

My opinion on close-buttons:

I find them extremely unnerving. If single-button,
the movement of tab borders as you select different
tabs is distracting. If all-button, I find myself
using extra concentration to avoid the X.
I use middle-mouse-button and would grudgingly
use alt or control key if I didn't have middle button.

My solution to many of Firefox's ills:
Just look thru about:config to find anything that
seems interesting and search for the item by its
full name.

Posted by: Eric at October 13, 2006 08:57 AM

Cedric,

Since you are a Eclipse user, the Eclipse content view tabs works like that.

Regards,

Posted by: at October 13, 2006 11:20 AM

Just use your keyboard... Oh, sorry, you're mouse-glued-to-my-palm user, aren't you?

Posted by: alex at October 14, 2006 02:11 PM

I may be one of the few opting to set the value to "2", or no close buttons at all. Middle clicking a link opens it in a new tab, middle clicking a tab closes it. Why bother with trying to target a 15x15 pixel area when you can make the whole tab your target? Usability was just fine in 1.5, but I didn't even want the close button at the end of the tab strip. Now it's great because I can hide them all. Thanks, firefox.

Posted by: at October 17, 2006 01:47 PM

IE 7 (gasp!) is even worse. There is only one close button, and it is only on the active tab. It moves all over the place all the time and is very frustrating.

Posted by: Roger at October 19, 2006 10:05 PM

I personally never used the close buttons, period. I prefer to use Control/Command W to close a tab, or if I were to use a mouse I would just middle click anywhere on the tab, which would close it out. adding the close button on each tab removes my ability to just middle click to close. I don't mind having the drop down at the end of the tab bar, but I think its silly to include tabs in it that are plainly visible. Right now I have 4 tabs open, and each has the full title showing, and that dorky drop down is there (and doesnt match up with the single close button), showing each of those 4 tabs. I'd like it, only if there are tabs not visible, and for it to only show those tabs.

Posted by: Hellmark at October 24, 2006 03:51 PM

The problem isn't with having the option to have a close button on all tabs, or a single one, or none, or a 1.5.x style one on the right.

The problem isn't even with the default.

The problem is the fact that they only made two of the possibilities settable in the default options. Having to dig in about:config and search if you don't know for sure a likely looking option will do what you want is NOT good design. Would it have hurt to have "Close Tab Button: [X] On Every Tab [ ] On Active Tab Only [ ] On No Tabs [ ] On Right-Hand Edge" radio buttons ?

No. But it's not what they did.

Posted by: Athanasius at October 24, 2006 05:27 PM

I agree, I don't like the new tab design, but I can understand why they did it. It makes sense to have the close button on the tab, because thats the tab you want to close, that's where the button is. The downside is that the location of the close button always moves around. I prefer to close several tabs at once, but just repeatedly hitting the button, so it needs to stay in the same place for me. When I close a single tab, I middle click with my mouse.
Thanks Adam, for posting the about:config change for the ff 1.5 style.
I like the drop down menu for listing all the tabs.
I don't like side scrolling for the tabs, because its faster to have all the tabs clickable without side scrolling to them. But again, it makes sense to have the tabs wide enough to read what they are, for some users.
I don't think anything is a mistake, its just a case of different user types. You have to love how FF is configurable though. I think new users will prefer this, and some power users will want to change the config.
I just think the new tab shape/style looks uglier.

Posted by: hosecoat at October 25, 2006 09:28 AM

Hmm, the idiotic close tab icon can easily be hacked away. But as far as i know the likewise idiotic tab strip feature cant be hacked away(for power users, lol). But this is just temporary i guess. I'll post back when i find a fix for this. Multiple tab bars rules.....drag and drop tabs rule. You cant drag and drop tabs you dont see. Mening the tab strip gotta go.....

Posted by: Peaks at October 25, 2006 10:43 AM

Hmm, the idiotic close tab icon can easily be hacked away. But as far as i know the likewise idiotic tab strip feature cant be hacked away(for power users, lol). But this is just temporary i guess. I'll post back when i find a fix for this. Multiple tab bars rules.....drag and drop tabs rule. You cant drag and drop tabs you dont see. Mening the tab strip gotta go.....

Posted by: Peaks at October 25, 2006 10:44 AM

>having the close button on each tab is BETTER.
>you are WRONG

NO, YOU ARE WRONG SO STFU.

1. Close button on each tab wastes space.

2. Tabs are not fixed width so you have to aim at the close button

3. It is impractical to have to hunt the close button for each tab instead of having it sitting in one place.

4. If you are serious developer you don't make such a drastic UI change a new default. You make an option and allow people to switch it on if they want.

5. Going to about:config, finding out about browser.tabs.closeButtons and figuring out proper numerical value for restoring previous default behavior is not something I enjoy doing after my browser gets updated automatically. It is a waste of time and it should be a checkbox in preferences.

There, now you have five reasons not to make the same mistake next time.

Furthermore, can someone enlighten me how to revert to the classic 3D menu look?

I am so bored with this flat Linux style poor man's menus and Classic Menus for Winstripe extension (2.5) no longer works.

Posted by: Igor at October 25, 2006 04:29 PM

fix here for tabs --I'm with you -- too Safari like
I only want one button.

Now all I got to fix is that whimpy colour scheme :-)

http://www.lifehacker.com/software/firefox-2/geek-to-live-top-firefox-2-config-tweaks-209941.php

Posted by: Judith Hall at October 25, 2006 05:53 PM

Yesh, the old 1.5 version of Tabbing was MUCH better. I found this blog when trying to google an answer to fix this bloody issue.

Im gonna get RSI from closing all the tabs!!!

Posted by: Chris at October 26, 2006 03:59 AM

I switched mine to 3 from 1. I use hot-keys (Ctrl-T, Ctrl-W) a lot but also like being able to quickly close tabs via the pointer.

The main reason I didn't like it was that with a lot of tabs open, the close button takes up a large proportion of the clickable space on the tab.

But I really dislike the new tab strip list feature.

I kinda agree with Igor and Cedric here, altho it's not that huge a deal.

Posted by: Will at October 26, 2006 07:06 AM

i'm with you. this sucks. the only reason i haven't switched to 2.0... adding this extra tab close buttons should be the Tweak and not the default.

Posted by: G at October 26, 2006 12:07 PM

A bigger UI mistake in my opinion, was changing the secure lock icon - the new colour and the fact that it isn't displayed all the time in the same place at the bottom of the screen makes it a lot more difficult to spot.

Posted by: Chris Stiles at October 27, 2006 09:17 AM

I can live with the tab close buttons...
Whats killing me atm is that you close one...and it reverts to the previous page instead of the next tab to the right...

I want to uninstall it if i cant find a fix

Posted by: Bionic at November 6, 2006 01:42 AM

I'm with Cedric, I love the look of 2.0 but haven't moved to it because of the stupid close tab position. Now I see there is a hack I'll load it up, but for heaven's sake, why not have this in the options box???

Posted by: Jonny at November 6, 2006 08:56 AM

Try the Tab Mix Plus add-on, which is just recently updated for Firefox 2. Once installed, go to the Tab Mix Plus Options -> Display -> Tab, then uncheck the checkbox for the Close tab button.

Posted by: Robert Chong at November 6, 2006 12:24 PM

As a step backwards the graphical preferences page for today's version (2.0.0.1) seems to lack any options related to the close button(s). Tools/Options/Tabs and Tools/Options/Advanced don't list it.

Thank you, Niel and Adam, for digging out the close button options and thank you Eric for finding the tab width option.

The main fix I've seen from 1.5 to 2.0 is a huge improvement in drag-to-select-text responsiveness. Go Mozilla team.

Posted by: Duncan Campbell at December 26, 2006 02:21 PM

Bionic, the tab close behaviour can be changed by modifying browser.tabs.selectOwnerOnClose I think?

Posted by: Mike at February 1, 2007 02:12 AM
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