Using Firefox/Browsing with Tabs

Chapters: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14

What are tabs?

The default interface bar of Firefox, with tabs visible

Firefox has been designed to be useable by any user immediately--with no learning curve. However, to truly "rediscover the web", you should become comfortable with Firefox's advanced features. One of these is the use of tabs. Firefox uses "tabs" to show multiple web pages in the same window. Several other web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, also use tabs.

Tabs are featured above the address bar, in a file folder-like layout. Tabs allow users to have one Firefox window in the taskbar, with multiple web pages open within that window. In the image, the default Firefox homepage is shown in the first tab, and Firefox Central (accessed from the "Getting Started" bookmark) is shown in the second. The number of tabs that can be opened at any one time is unlimited, though the tab bar can only hold around 20 tabs comfortably.

Create, close, and select tabs


There are many different ways to both create, close, and access tabs. First, a new blank tab can be created by clicking on FileNew Tab, or by using the keyboard shortcut [Ctrl]+[T]. If the tab bar is visible, an empty space (i.e., one not occupied by a tab) can be right clicked, and "New Tab" will create a new tab. Similarly, double clicking an empty space on the tab bar will create a new blank tab. Another way to create a tab, arguably the most common, is by clicking the middle mouse button (sometimes referred to as the third mouse button, or scroll wheel) on any link or bookmark (for instance, "Getting Started" in the above image). Finally, holding down the [Ctrl] key and left clicking a link will open that website in a new tab.

There are also a variety of different ways to close tabs. First, FileClose or [Ctrl]+[W] will close the currently selected tab. Also, the red "x" on the right edge of the tab bar will close the current tab. Finally, middle clicking on any tab (it doesn't have to be selected), or right clicking and selecting "Close Tab" will close whichever tab was selected.

Finally, there are a few different ways to select tabs. The most obvious is to simply left click on a tab. However, a keyboard shortcut also exists: [Ctrl]+[Number] where "Number" is any number 1-9. The corresponding tab will then be selected. Of course, this only works for the first 9 tabs opened. Another common keyboard shortcut is [Ctrl]+[Tab]. This will make the next tab active. Using [Ctrl][Shift]+[Tab] will select the previous tab. These shortcuts are an easy way to cycle through the currently open web pages.

A new feature in Firefox 1.5 is the ability to "Drag and Drop" tabs. By clicking and holding down the left mouse button on a tab, it is possible to change the order of tabs or put them on a different Firefox window. Once the desired location is found (as signaled by an arrow), the left button can be released, and the tab will be moved.

In addition to basic functionality, there are many other ways to use tabs.



For Tab preferences, see the chapter on Preferences.

Multiple home pages


Tabbed browsing also enables another feature: multiple home pages. With multiple home pages, it is possible to have several pages open each time the browser is opened or the "Home" button is selected.

To set multiple home pages, go to the "Preferences" window, accessible from ToolsOptions on Windows, EditPreferences on Linux, or FirefoxPreferences on OS X. Once in the Preferences window, select the General panel, and type each URL, separated by a pipe character (which is |), in the Home Page box. For example:||

An easier way to set multiple homepages is to open all of the desired sites in tabs (making sure only the desired sites are opened) and then click the Use Current Pages button from the General tab of the Preferences window.

Bookmark Groups


Bookmarks Groups are very similar to Multiple Home pages. Bookmark Groups create a folder with multiple related (or unrelated, even) bookmarks. It is then possible to open all of them at once by clicking on the created folder and clicking Open in Tabs. Alternately, you can simply open just one of the bookmarked web sites. To create a Bookmark Group, simply open each desired site in its own tab (again, be sure to only open the sites you'd like in the group). From there, a few ways exist to create a group:

  • Right click on a tab and select Bookmark All Tabs...
  • Click on BookmarksBookmark All Tabs...
  • Hit [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[D]

No matter which way you create the group, the same window will appear, asking you for a name and where to create the group.

Middle click to close tabs on Linux


When using Firefox on Linux, the default behavior when middle clicking is to try to load whatever is currently in the clipboard as if it were a URL. If you prefer to use the middle click to close tabs, type about:config in the location bar and hit enter.

In the new window that appears, type middlemouse.contentLoadURL in the box labeled Filter:. Then, right click on the preference, and select Toggle, which should set the preference to false.

(Another contributor writes: Unfortunately, in some versions--- such as the one I'm using now---this simply causes Firefox to do nothing when you middle-click a tab. 'Twould be nice to figure out how to really fix this!)

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