Archive for July, 2008

Control-Tab: A New Feature for Firefox

As many of you know, Dão Gottwald has been working for awhile on his Ctrl-Tab add-on. Ctrl-Tab has two parts: a filmstrip that allows the user to quickly jump to recently used tabs, and a tab preview mode. These features have been widely used, and lately we at Mozilla have been working to give them a home as a Firefox feature.

Dão and I have been working on the design of a feature based on Ctrl-Tab, while Dão has been building patches. We’re happy to announce the filmstrip of recently-viewed tabs landed today and will show up in tomorrow’s nightlies as a new Firefox feature: Control-Tab.

Since this change will affect current Firefox users’ workflow, I want to describe briefly how Control-Tab works, why it is being added, and what changes you’ll see.

How does Control-Tab work?

Pressing Control-Tab in Firefox will bring up a filmstrip view of your recently visited tabs. Pressing Tab repeatedly with Control held down will cycle through thumbnails of the tabs you’ve visited in order, with each press of Tab going one thumbnail back in time.

Why Is Control-Tab being added?

  • Fast Switching between Tabs. Control-Tab will show thumbnails of the last tabs you have visited in the order you have visited them. This means that if you’re on Site A, pressing Control-Tab will take you to Site B that you last visited. Pressing Control-Tab again will take you back to A, and again to B, etc. This is useful if you need to quickly flip between two tabs that aren’t next to each other and makes it easier to carry out tasks which require multiple tabs.
  • Visual Navigation. Control-Tab shows thumbnails of your previously used tabs, so finding them by sight is fast. This is especially helpful if you’ve opened up so many tabs that some are obscured.

What’s going to change?

Pressing Control-Tab will no longer open the next tab (Control-PageDown still will). We know that expert users are used to this shortcut, and changing it will mean an annoying adjustment.  However, we’re creating Control-Tab because we feel the benefits it offers are greater than the drawback of having to adjust your workflow.

Control-Tab is a first step towards increased visual navigation and content organization features, and we would love to hear what you think. Usage and feedback of Control-Tab will help guide future designs and features, so please leave a comment here or in the forums to tell us your opinion.