The view-opened-tabs-as-thumbnails trend

There seems to a trend now that everyone’s offering a way to view all your opened tabs in your web browser as thumbnails, inspired by the Exposé feature in Mac OS X. There’s the foXpose extension for Firefox and now IE 7 also has it as a native feature (Opera has some advanced tiling features, but I’m not sure I would say they’re the same thing).

I’m not really sure if there’s a need for this out there, or if what we’re seeing is a new need being created. While I like the idea of making switching between tabs more visual, at first I didn’t find this feature useful at all. Also, using foxPose meant that when I use it, it opens up the thumbnails in a new tab. Annoying.

But then I started using it in IE 7 and I love the simplicity of it. Just press Ctrl + Q to show the thumbnails, and then press it again to make it disappear. Very nice! The only thing in the IE 7 thumbnail view that felt a little awkward was that the scroll bar had the old Windows 2000 look, while the web browser itself had the nice XP look.

What’s your take on this? An overrated feature or something that will be default web browsing behavior in the future?

 

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21 Comments

  • Too much effort for me. I need to press buttons and in order to make the right decision, I also need to know how the site looks like.

    No, I'd much rather use my scrollwheel to scroll through the tabs .. and I just made that one up. Is there functionality like that available standard or as an extension in Firefox?

  • Exposé is a great feature in OSX, it's sooo quick and easy! And I can see its use for quickly swapping between tabs in a browser.

    But I still don't use tabbed browsing that much, preferring to open new browser instances when necessary… maybe that's so I can quickly switch between them using Exposé? 😉

  • Chris says:

    Hi Robert,

    for Windows there's a PowerToy (TaskSwitcher, I think), which changes the behaviour of the alt-tab (switch-Task) shortcut:

    if you press it, you see thumbnails of each task and a large thumbnail of the focused task. This would be a handy extension, but I never used foXpose. To much clicks…

  • Jenny says:

    You can set an option in foXpose to open thumnails in the same window like in IE7. Uncheck the Show Tab option in the options dialog box and it will not open a new tab. Press F8 to show the tabs and press F8 again to go back.

  • Jenny says:

    The other thing I like about foxpose is that you can open the tabs using shortcuts on the titles of the thumbnails. Really cool if you use the keyboard to surf.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jeroen,

    No, sorry, I don't know of any extension like that. But when I read your comment, before I got to the question, my initial reaction was:

    Oh, there's is a solution like that? Cool.

    Steve,

    Yeah, maybe Exposé meets all of your needs then! 🙂

    Chris,

    I've tried it but didn't like it. It showed the same program instance several times and wasn't perfectly stable. Good idea, though.

    Jenny,

    That's exactly what I needed: a professional foXpose user! I found the settings (ashamed, I have to admit I hadn't looked…) and it works great. Using keys for navigating to a certain thumbnail was also very nice!

  • Veracon says:

    Overrated. And despite that, I have foXpose installed, not really knowing why.

  • G.Lindqvist says:

    This feature isn't new, maybe on PC, but not on mac. Because OmniWeb have it since a while back.

    Check it out: http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omniweb/gal

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Veracon,

    Yeah, the same goes for me with a lot of other applications… 🙂

    G. Lindqvist,

    Yes, that's right, but now it seems to have become trendy… 🙂

    I don't really know who were the first ones to offer it. Was it maybe OmniWeb?

  • Have you tried Tab Preview?

    http://ted.mielczarek.org/code/mozilla/tabpreview

    It only works with FF 1.5+ as it uses a canvas to draw the preview. The nice thing about TP is rather than using a new window or tab, you simply mouse over any tab other than the one with focus, and you get a preview of the page "under" it.

  • Ctrl + Q seems like a dangerous keyboard shortcut to me…a little to close to the Cmd + Q on a Mac shortcut that quits the active application!

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Douglas,

    Thanks for the tip. I just tried it and it was ok…

    Thing is, I try to use the keyboard as much as possible and the mouse as little as possible, so I prefer things that extend the keyboard functionality.

    Shane,

    Yeah, I can guess!

    Good thing that it will only be available for PCs then! 🙂

  • Sverre says:

    Jeroen, you can achive the desired effect (scrolling through tabs) with the Tab Mix Plus extension for Fx.

  • Sverre, awesome! Thanks for sharing Yet Another Tab Extension ™ 🙂

  • Gustaf says:

    A dangerous shortcut indeed. <code>Ctrl+Q</code> is the de-facto standard for closing an application in the GTK, qt and Mozilla toolkits (Gnome, KDE and firefox/thunderbird etc).

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Sverre,

    Thanks for the tip!

    Gustaf,

    Hmmm, that's true. I guess they just wanted a letter that was the same as the name of the feature: Quick Tabs.

  • Richard says:

    I fail to see the improvement of seeing your tabs as thumbnails. What's wrong with the page title being in the tab?

    Maybe I have the wrong end of the stick here, though, because to me, it seems like the most useless feature imaginable and a waste of space.

    @Jeroen and Robert,

    I believe the Tabbrowser Preferences extension for Firefox also offers the scrolling trough tabs functionality. Don't quote me on that, through, I just seem to remember it being an option.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Richard,

    Personally, I do fine with just the title, but I guess some people really prefer the visual navigation style.

    I have the Tabbrowser Preferences extension (which I love) but as far as I know, and can find, there's isn't any setting to control the scrollwheel action.

  • Gary says:

    I just can't get on with these new fangled thumbnail navigations, exposé et al.

    What's wrong with the good old Ctrl + Tab / Ctrl + Shift + Tab?

    By the time you've got the thumbnails up, your eyes have scanned through them and then you've moved the mouse and clicked, you could have pressed the keys and be working again.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Gary,

    Yep, that's how I work all the time.

  • Jules says:

    I have just noticed that Opera 9 Beta 2 has tab thumbnails. Hover your mousepointer over a tab and after a brief pause, the thumbnail appears along with Page title, Page URL, Page Encoding and MIME type (great for checking how many application/xhtml+xml advocate’s sites are serving as text/html ;-)).

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