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Wednesday, September 27, 2021

Let that Tim guy take you on a haphazard Web surfing safari as he uses Firefox’s tabbed browsing feature as an opportunity to nurture his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. From Harlan Ellison to leatherworking to progressive rock to The Beatles, and all it took was two computers and a lot of wasted time.

The virtues of Mozilla’s browser often center on the tabs; it’s probably the second-most cited advantage over Internet Explorer (after security). As Tim points out, the tabbed interface is something that you either get or don’t get. I prefer it, and it’s the chief reason I use FF myself (and why the first thing I do when using a Mac is to turn on the tabs option in Safari). But for most users (i.e., non-geeks), who don’t consider that a browsing option other than IE even exists, it’s initially a hard concept to grasp. It even comes off as an unnecessary additional interface layer, given that opening new windows and having them reside in the computer’s taskbar is not such a big deal. And as I point out on Tim’s blog, Windows XP defaults to a quasi-tab organization for all program windows that display in the taskbar, which seemingly supplants the need for browser tabs (and if that doesn’t, the forthcoming IE 7 will include tabs as well).

What works and doesn’t work in graphical user interface designs has always been fascinating to me. Paramount in this area is what’s configured as the default behavior when the computer or program comes right out of the box — a fact that most hardcore users never quite grok. Casual everyday users are not going to dive into menus and submenus to tweak — they simply won’t. It’s a daunting exercise, fraught with the danger of somehow screwing things up. So those default settings determine what 90 percent (probably more) of users take in as the commonly-recognized parameters for an operating environment.

Tabbed browsing falls into that category. It’s not a default setting on Windows or Mac (note how even usually ahead-of-the-curve Apple doesn’t make it truly native on Safari; having it as an optional turn-on is nice, but ensures that it won’t be widespread), and so it’s going to be a minority experience. The new IE might change this, unless (as I suspect) Microsoft follows Apple’s lead and doesn’t make it a default setting in the new browser.

Actually, given Tim’s time-sucking experience with having so many pages loaded into the background (an experience many, including me, have shared), I think there’s even more disincentive for going tabbed. Who needs more reason to stay glued to the computer monitor?

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/27/2006 09:26:19 AM
Category: Internet, Tech | Permalink |

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  1. I wouldn’t call it a waste of time, for whatever it’s worth. I’m extremely well versed on a variety of topics, now :-) When I meet the woman of my dreams, and she happens to be a Beatles fan, I’ll totally impress her now.

    You’re right about Safari, but while it’s an excellent browser, the very nature of Mac users places them in a similar class as those who use Firefox. I really know very few Mac users who actually use Safari — my professors all use Firefox and my friends use Camino. Safari is a bit too clunky for my taste.

    I immediately disable the grouping function of XP’s taskbar as soon as I (reinstall) Windows, since I find it a huge pain. Mainly, it’s a pain because you can’t visibly see the order of the windows — one great part of tabbed browsing is the keyboard commands that let you cycle through using a ctrl-tab combination.

    Comment by tim in tampa — 09/27/2006 @ 03:22:32 PM

  2. Hopefully, that dreamgirl will also be into Cordianized leather, and Harlan Ellison too. Good luck with that;)

    True, Mac users are a minority themselves, and you’d think they’d warm to customizable solutions. But I haven’t found that to be the case at all. The main user group I’ve had experience with, graphic designers (probably Apple most rock-solidly loyal base), has used whatever’s on the machine out-of-box as far as Web apps go. Plus, that’s forever been one of the Mac’s clarion calls: Ready to go once you plug it in, without having to install other things. Of course, the definition of “ready to go” varies from person to person; but when you’re talking about broad user bases, I’m better the majority of Macheads use the default browser, Safari.

    Which leads to the XP taskbar grouping… I also disabled it; don’t like it much. But again, when I encounter just about every other XP machine that’s being used at work, school, or home, it’s on. By default. Meaning you and me are a definite minority.

    And that’s what it comes down to: The default settings define the common computing experience, like it or not. It’s great that those who want to customize can. But when looking at the big picture, a lot of your assumptions have to stem from what the operating environment is set at in the factory, and in turn, that determines how most people use their machines.

    Comment by CT — 09/27/2006 @ 07:09:17 PM

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