Tabs are a feature of modern web browsers that greatly improve browsing efficiency.

Until now, one window on the taskbar has been thought of as one web page. With tabs, each window can be thought of as many pages, one behind the other.

Instead of opening a new window for each new page, you can open a new window for each topic, and then use each window to keep tabs relating to that one topic. So instead of having 50 mozilla windows open, I now have 3 - a news window, which has 10 tabs in it, an e2 browsing window which has 20, and one for the node I'm working on, which has 20. They only take up three spaces on the taskbar. Near the top of each window, underneath the navigation buttons, there is a row of tabs, which functions exactly like a taskbar.

Tabs are good because:
  • They make it easy to find the page you want when you have 50+ pages open at the same time. Tabs are easier to group by topic than windows are.
  • When you close a tab, where you go is predictable and related to what you are doing - you are still in the same window, so you can continue as normal, dealing with the same topic. In contrast, when you close a window, Windows kicks you into the last application you used, which is often unrelated to what you are doing.
  • They reduce clutter in the taskbar. I used to have ~50 mozilla windows open all the time, most of them e2. Now I have only 2 or 3 mozilla windows, each of which contains many pages, split into categories.
  • Window focus is not stolen when you open a new page: when you open something in a new window, you have to do some work to get back to where you were before. That's annoying if you want to open many pages. With tabs opening in the background, you don't lose focus, so it's nice. This is also useful for opening a link many times to move it to the top of the list of softlinks.

Here is how tabs work: instead of constantly opening new windows, just set mozilla to "open tabs in background of current window" and then open everything you want into new tabs in the background, while continuing to read the current page. It's the same as browsing by opening everything in a new window, except if you judiciously open new windows for new topics, you can keep everything seperated and easier to find, and also not have your window focus stolen constantly.

When you close a tab, mozilla shows the next tab on the left. That is the only difference between it and the windows taskbar.

The bad things about using tabs:
  • You can lose a lot of open windows accidentally; if you kill a window that has 50 open tabs in it, they're all lost, and that's annoying. At first I did this quite often, since I have been so used to quickly closing and opening many new windows all the time.
  • If a page is in a background tab and you are in another application, you can't go directly to that page - you have to first go to that window through the taskbar, and then click on that tab. This is a loss from when everything was kept on the taskbar. However, it isn't so bad.

So in general, finding out about tabs has really improved the way I browse, and I am really happy I started using them.

* if you are wondering why I use more than one window at all to browse: many people now open links in new windows, and then go back to the page they were reading before. While they are reading it, the other page has time to load. In this way, you never have to wait for something to load. The above is a more sophisticated way of opening lots of things in new windows.