The cool feature in IE10 that felt like a bug until I figured out it was a feature


Part of the challenge of innovating is that innovation necessarily means change, and change necessarily means breaking old habits. Breaking old habits is something we humans aren’t always terribly good at – particularly me.

That’s precisely what I had happen in response to a new feature in IE10. I didn’t know there was a problem, and therefore I wasn’t seeing the solution right in front of my eyes. In previous versions of IE (as well as in other browsers), a fairly common scenario is opening up a bunch of tabs when doing some research. When you’re done, it is possible to close just that one tab, or to close all of the tabs. But … what if you just want to close up the last few tabs, but leave some open?

Well, we actually make that easier now in IE10. Watch what happens as I close off tabs.

I start with 4 tabs open:

blog1

I then close the first tab:

blog2

Then another:

blog3

And another:

blog4

Did you notice what happened? I didn’t at first either, but the tooltip should be a hint – each and every time I closed a tab, the tabs grew. Now, we’re used to that – when you get too many tabs for the default size, we automatically start crunching up the tabs to make more room for you, so as you close them, we can start to uncrunch them so you can see more. But – this is more than that. We not only uncrunch them, we grow them PAST the normal width – what we are doing is expanding the tabs so that after you close one, the close button on the next tab is directly underneath your mouse cursor so it is easier to close the one next! Then, when you move your mouse off of the tab strip, we’ll restore the tabs to their default sizes.

We will, in fact, grow the tab to some pretty big sizes. This is the biggest I can get the tabs to go on my little tablet PC, but it’s still nearly as big as my address bar:

blog5

So, you can now much more easily close tabs if you have opened up a bunch. But me – well, I didn’t notice the feature. I thought it was a bug – I was trying to figure out why the tabs would sometimes get huge for no apparent reason! My wrist is programmed to slide over to the next tab I wanted to close and try to get it. Of course, then the tabs then grew, I would miss, and have to move back.

Now that I discovered the feature, I stay put and can leverage that feature!

Of course, being able to rapidly close tabs may lead you to close too many, so you may also want to know about the ctrl-shift-t keyboard shortcut to restore a closed tab…

Comments (8)

  1. common sense missing says:

    If this is what counts for innovation at Microsoft these days, I feel sorry for you guys.

    Look at your first screenshot. Notice something? Thats right. Empty space across the top and 4 tabs named

    "Bi…". Four tabs and you already couldnt fit a four-letter word in the title. Thats stupid. Read Tufte to learn the conceptof information density. You are also completely missing on the metaphor of containment – address bar should be inside each tab not to the side. Even firefox designers know that.

  2. I also thought it was a bug but it's useful. You can close as many tabs by keeping the mouse pointer in the same position and then after some time, they will shrink to their normal sizes. 🙂 Nice. Now only if the IE team will stop removing features and put back what they removed in IE9 and we would have had a winner in IE10. Unfortunately, not.

  3. Ali Khalid says:

    Don't want to ruin your party but here is a post theinvisibl.com/…/chrometabs from 2009 describing the exact same behaviour in chrome. It just MS 3 years to copy this feature. I love MS, love the products (actually I am biased towards MS) but credit where credit is due.

  4. Joejoeinc says:

    Chrome has had this feature for years.  

  5. cjacks says:

    I don't find this feature in Chrome, and see no setting to enable it. Maybe they just don't have it on the Windows version? I'm making no claim to inventing it, just pointing out that once I discovered it, I actually stopped fighting the feature and began to enjoy it. Old habits die hard.

  6. Ian Boyd says:

    I submitted as feature request feedback during IE9 previews. It's a very useful feature that Chrome already had. But now for the real test:

    Open 10 tabs. Now close the 3rd tab. Without moving your mouse the the close button of the 4th tab will slide under your mouse.

    Keep closing tabs until there is only three tabs left. Now move your mouse away and the tabs should resize themselves – now that they no longer have to position themselves under your mouse

  7. app_designer says:

    Excellent point by first comment. What purpose does a tab serve if the tab label is meaningless ?