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jdavidb (1361)

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J. David Blackstone has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering and nine years of experience at a wireless telecommunications company, where he learned Perl and never looked back. J. David has an advantage in that he works really hard, he has a passion for writing good software, and he knows many of the world's best Perl programmers.

Journal of jdavidb (1361)

Friday January 14, 2005
01:00 PM

Why tabbed browsing?

[ #22717 ]

When I first heard of tabbed browsing, I couldn't understand the point. I wondered why people made such a fuss when Apple released Safari without it. Then I tried it, and now I can't live without it.

But I struggle to explain the concept. I have a reasonably intelligent friend who insists he can get the same effect by opening multiple windows. Now, I have the idea that there's just so much mental overhead in opening a window that it restrains you from opening as many windows as you would tabs. I'm guessing his typical browsing sessions have a lot less windows open than I do tabs. But I'm having trouble quantifying that in a convincing way.

Can anyone explain concretely, to an engineer, what he will get out of tabs that he cannot get with windows?

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  • Why bother with directories on a hard drive? Just dump everything into one directory. Why bother with a filing cabinet? Just pile everything onto a desk.

    Personally, I've always hated applications that force me to open multiple windows (GIMP is really annoying about this.) If I have a few of them open, things quickly become a disorganized mess.

  • The point is flexibility and structure. The flexibility to have multiple browser windows if you like, or one window. As Ovid says, it's like having the option to group files in directories. You don't always need to use 'em, but it can help with structure if you're thinking heirarchically. OTOH, if somebody doesn't want to think hierarchically, tabs may be pointless.

    Similarly, I've talked with Windows users who have seen no point to having multiple desktops. I use my desktops as visual folders to furthe

    -DA []

    • Hrm; re-reading your entry, for your engineer friend, I suppose it might be the difference between how many tasks he want to be working on at the same time. I keep tons of windows and tabs open, in order to remind me what I'm working on.

      -DA []

    • I actually rarely have more than one browser window open, but I still feel tabs are indispensible. I think I'm not doing anything that couldn't be done with windows instead of tabs, but it still seems infinitely more valuable. I'm trying to figure out why I have that perception so I can express it and share it.

      J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
      • heh. I only open multiple browser windows if I want them to be on different X workspaces. such as 'generic work' vs. 'personal' vs. '5 applications for one project'

        -DA []

  • Under MS Windows, opening multiple 'documents' in one application window is known as the Multi-Document Interface or MDI. A big problem with MDI is that users can't just Alt-Tab to cycle through all their open documents. They have to Alt-Tab to each application and then switch to Ctrl-Tab (or Ctrl-F6 or whatever) to get to each document within that app. As far as MS Office is concerned, MDI seems to have been a failed experiment - recent versions of Office don't support it.

    In theory, a windowing environm

  • Because I'm one of those people who have dozens of windows open all the time, I do not want to have a task bar taking up space and telling me that I indeed have 10 terminals, a couple of kghostviews, some gimp windows and five documents open.

    I can find these windows, because I know where they are. I know where they are, because my mind is so inflexible that they must always be in the same place. Mess with my virtual desktops and I will have to kill you.

    But within an application, it is very
    • I do not want to have a task bar taking up space and telling me that I indeed have 10 terminals, a couple of kghostviews, some gimp windows and five documents open.

      Any good taskbar will autohide to save space. OS X's dock and Window's task bar both do.

      • Things that appear when I move the mouse to a certain border suck. The borders of a screen are the most important space. I want to be able to move my mouse in that direction and then aim and click. Auto hiding stuff interferes with that. I don't want docks/taskbars to auto hide, I don't want automatic virtual desktop switching.

        The top side of the screen is where title bars are. The right side is where scroll bars are. The bottom is where status bars are. And the left side, which used to be the only solutio
  • Aside from usually having a number of tabs always open, I use one or more extra tabs when I'm browsing hierarchically through a site. From a top level page that has a number of references, I just drag a link to the task bar, opening a new tab. While that page is loading, I continue reading the original page. Then I switch to the loaded page and read it. If it has many sub-links, I'll repeat and create another tab. When I'm done with a page, I go back to the previous tab and read onto the next link. I