Mozilla released Firefox 6.0 yesterday. Being the curious sort, I upgraded.
What is so new and amazing with 6.0? From what I can tell, just one thing: grouped tabs.
Wait, what are tabs?
For anyone still using one window per website, the simplest way to describe a tab is a window inside a window, or a page inside a book; one browser window can house several tabs and each tab contains its own webpage.
For anyone like me, tabs allow better organization of ideas. When I am online, I have several windows open, and each window has several tabs spanning the top of the screen. When I am doing research, one window typically contains the main topic while subsequent windows contain various research resources and the many articles housed within their databases. If I am perusing for fun, one window is specifically my social pages while another is the end result of whatever mindless search (or searches) my wandering thoughts dictate. And, even more often, when I am at work, one window is purely streaming music pages while another window holds maps, image searches, and work-relevant websites.
What are grouped tabs?
The short answer: grouped tabs are folders of tabs inside a single browser window. The way that I already sort my internet surfing, with many windows full of tabs, can be condensed to one window with several groups. This is something about which I am happy and yet of which I am wary.
Firefox 6.0 installed and upgraded fairly easily. Even with updating my Flash player (which had been out of date for some time), I was up and running in less than five minutes. To be honest, without the update screen, I would have noticed very little change from my previous version of Firefox; the overall view is pretty much the same – my browser’s theme even remained intact! The main new feature incorporated with 6.0 is the Tab Groups, so I dove right into testing this new function.
Getting started with groups is really simple: click the All Tabs button and select the Tab Groups option. This opens up the group screen and creates the Tab Groups button on the left side of the screen. This button remains visible once Tab Groups is activated.
In this screen capture, I have already created my groups, however when the groups view is first opened, all of the tabs are collected into one group. Thumbnails of the tabs, as well as the webpage titles and page icons from the tabs, are shown for quick reference. Transferring tabs between groups is as easy as click and drag: just click the thumbnail you wish to move, and drag it out of the folder.
The first tab moved out will stand alone, but once another tab is placed on top of it, a new group folder is created – much like the iPhone and iPad folder creation. Tabs can be moved to any location, any group, and any place on the screen; the groups view is a full screen canvas and groups can be arranged in any order. There is no preassigned grid, but there are automatic snap guides if you choose to use them.
Groups can be resized as desired, just click the dots on the lower right hand corner of the group folder. The thumbnails will scale with the folder, but when the folder shrinks too small, a little place holder appears with just the tab’s icon. If the group is shrunk even more, the tabs pile atop one another, resembling a stack of papers, with that group’s most recently active tab on top.
With groups that are too small to view all the thumbnails, whether the preview is in this stacked form or the icon-only view, you can get a quick glance at the tabs inside the group by clicking or hovering over the little box at the bottom center with the expansion arrows facing the corners.
A pop-up window appears above the group’s folder and from here, you can click any tab to open that group in the browser and visit that tab. To exit the preview window without activating a tab, just move the mouse (if hovering) or click outside the preview window.
What happens to App Tabs?App Tabs are tabs that are pinned to the Firefox browser. Along the tabs bar, App Tabs appear as the page icon and are intended to be quick links without having to constantly bookmark and open several webpages every time Firefox is opened. In Firefox 6.0, the App Tabs are still around, but how are they incorporated into the groups?
When in the group view, the App Tabs appear on the right side of every group folder. Regardless of size, they are shown as page icons and can be clicked in any group. When they are clicked, the group in which the App Tab was chosen will open.
Once your groups are set the way you like, you can keep them better organized by naming them. This is where Firefox becomes yours. Organize your browsing the way you want things to be. I simply merged my many-windows into many-groups, keeping the same Social Tabs, Review Tabs, and Misc Tabs together.
One of the fantastic features introduced is the Tab Search, which can be found in the group view. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have been working hard on a research paper and think of the perfect quote or fact and then realize I can’t remember where I had stuffed the tab. Was it in the window with the many database options? Was it moved to the window with important must have information? Did I even leave the tab open?
Those questions typically led to a frantic window scanning Alt+Tab and then Ctrl+Tab clicking fest, which usually resulted in a lost train of thought once I found the right page. With Firefox’s new Tab Search, all I would have to ask myself is What is the name of the tab?
Typing a keyword into the search bar darkens all tabs except those with that word or phrase in the tab’s title. If only one result appears, you can hit the enter key to go directly to the webpage, but if many tabs appear, you can click and choose with the mouse. By far, this is my favorite function for the new grouped tabs.
If in the process of organizing and managing your tabs, you click an X to close a group by mistake, there is an undo button to your rescue. It will restore the closed group immediately, however once you leave the group view, there is no going back without rebuilding that group tab by tab.
This is the first release of Firefox 6.0 and the first with grouped tabs. There are bound to be updates and add-ons that fix minor bugs, but until they come along, my complaints, though few, include animation drag and a non-saving function.
The animation between the webpage view and groups screen runs smoothly, but I did notice a little drag from groups view back into the webpage; the thumbnail preview scales up to retake the browser window and the image quickly becomes pixelated before switching to an active website.
When it is time to close the browser window, all the tabs disappear. There once was a function that I really enjoyed about Firefox that saved all the tabs in the final window to be closed (with permission, of course) so that I could pick right back up where I left off the night, day, even week before. My hopes that something similar would return have yet to be fulfilled (and I refuse to browse with the privacy filter turned OFF). To me, grouped tabs needs something like this. When the window is closed, regardless of which tab is open, all groups and nested tabs are lost. If I could have something similar to App Tabs in the Groups, like maybe Pinned Groups, I would be one happy lady.
Mozilla has offered up a support page full of anticipated questions and keyboard shortcuts (such as Ctrl+Shift+E to get to the group view) to help ease the transition into grouped tabs. They have a quick overview video as well, which you can reference in case I left off any information.
I can see how this new feature will help me, but I may find myself sticking to my old ways and keeping two or three windows open with several groups of tabs inside each. This could just feed my information-overload addiction even more…maybe I should work on that. How about you? Will this help keep you organized, feed your organizational obsession, or keep you from upgrading to Firefox 6.0?