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Firefox - Tabbed browsing

Take advantage of Firefox's tabbed browsing to improve your information handling skills

Tabbed browsing

Firefox logoTabbed browsing is a simple idea. When you use web pages you often need to work with several at a time. For instance, if you search for something and retrieve a list of results, it's useful to keep the list itself so that you can return to it.

Rather than following a link to the result of a search, you can keep the list, opening subsequent pages in new 'Tabs' within the existing browser window. As a bonus, the new tab will tell you when the page there has loaded - it's much more restful not to have to keep looking at part loaded web pages.

It's similar to the way that you might use a book, its index, and a bookmark - and will quickly provide a more relaxed and coherent approach to information retrieval.

It's worth stressing that tabbed browsing is especially useful when your first page is an index, with a number of links you'd like to follow - you still have the original index page to hand.

Tabs: starting points

Browser tabs mean that you aren't restricted to a single starting page for your web browser. This is relevant in the workplace as you're likely to need a small set of web resources on a day to day basis.

For instance, when my copy of 'Firefox' starts, I've set it to display my help pages, the applications server for the work management system, and the Bath Spa VLE - 'Minerva'. You too can have your own choice of web resources available to you from the moment you start working with your web browser, and you can find them easily, as they'll be ready for you in a set of labelled browser tabs.

Here's what 'Firefox' looks like with four web pages open in tabs: these pages, the work management system and 'Minerva'. You're able to have all three open at once. To use one of the other pages, just select its tab. It's easy to set 'Firefox' to start with a set of pages rather than a single home page - read on for more on this.

Firefox tabs

Create new tabs.
Run 'Firefox' and select the menu 'File/New Tab'. The 'Tab' toolbar appears. Do the same again to create a 'Tab' toolbar displaying three tabs.
Set your tabs to load three web pages that are useful to you.
For example:
  • Select the first tab and load the Bath Spa University home page http://www.bathspa.ac.uk/
  • Select the second tab and load my help pages http://it-help.bathspa.ac.uk/
  • In the third, load the Google search engine http://www.google.com/
Set these tabs as your own 'Homepage group'
For this, use the menu 'Tools/Options' and then for the 'Home page' option set 'Use current pages'.

Your browser will then display those pages at startup.
Set things to open a set of pages you use frequently, in tabs, with one mouse click
Create a folder in your bookmarks toolbar and bookmark the pages in this folder.

When you need to open them all, go to the folder and select the last item in the right mouse click menu - 'Open in tabs'. This will open the set of bookmarks, each in its own tab.

Setting your home page group to include secure pages that involve logging in

It might be useful to you to set a tab to load your email account using webmail, or to load your 'Minerva' account. All you need to do is to load the page in the tab, log in to it as appropriate, and then save the group as your 'home page group' as above. When you next log in, 'Firefox' will automatically prompt you to log in to any secure pages - just provide your username and password.

Day-to-day use of tabs

Often it's useful to open a link in a new tab - retaining the original web page. Links opened in this way 'open in the background' - the original page retains your focus, and this makes searching for information on the web a more seamless process. Here's an excercise:

Firefox 2: changing the browser tabs close button

Firefox 2 now puts a close tab control on each tab. If you'd like it to revert to the previous behaviour, here's how:

The following is easier than it sounds.

Open a new tab and type 'about:config' in the address bar - this displays a long list of configuration options, and a 'Filter' option.

Put the option 'browser.tabs.closeButtons' in the filter. You'll see the option is set to have a value of '1' - which tells Firefox to put a close button on every tab.

To change the value, double click 'browser.tabs.closeButtons' and use the following accoring to your preferred behaviour.

All before you, in this world, is smoke and shadows.All before you, in this world, is smoke and shadows.
Words found on a door lintel in the garden of a house in the Cretan village of Argiroupolis.
The lintel is a fragment from the city state Lappa, which occupied the same site.