If you are already using Internet Explorer 7 you might have noticed our tab settings. Perhaps you already changed one or more of them to better suit your browsing habits.
Whenever we create a setting, we always have many discussions about what its default should be, what it should be called, and where it should go. In some cases we have great information (such as usability studies, customer surveys, and instrumentation) to help guide us in our decision making. In other cases we have less information. When we get features out in betas, we scour the newsgroups, blogs, bug reports, and reviews to see if we get any related feedback.
In this post I’d like to show you our tab settings, explain what they mean, and talk a bit about why the defaults are what they are.
Let’s look at our Beta 3 tab settings, and then we can walk through them:
Figure: Tab settings (Tools->Internet Options->Tab Settings)
“Warn me when closing multiple tabs”
This one is relatively straightforward. If you select this option you will get the “Do you want to close all tabs?” dialog when you close multiple tabs.
We default to prompting users because:
- The dialog was one of our top tab requests from Beta 1. We know many people want it.
- There’s an easy way to turn it off if you do not want it.
“Always switch to new tabs when they are created”
When you select a link and choose to open it (from the context menu, Ctrl+Click or middle mouse click), we default to opening it in a background tab. Selecting this option will open those tabs in the foreground.
We default this one to opening in the background because:
- Opening in the background best exposes the power of tabs.
- Helps people easily queue up multiple pages to read.
- Lets you spend less time waiting for pages to load.
- Our feedback from Beta 2 has been very positive.
- There’s a shortcut to have a specific link open a tab in the foreground – use Ctrl+Shift+Click rather then just Ctrl+Click.
“Open only the first home page when Internet Explorer starts”
There are some people who love to have a tab group as their home page, but do not necessarily want to have 8 pages load every single time they open Internet Explorer. If this setting is selected, every time you launch Internet Explorer the first page of your home page group will open. To open the rest, you simply select the home button.
The default is to launch your entire home page group because:
- We avoid introducing new concepts where possible (in this case a quasi home page).
- Feedback we received indicates most people like the current behavior.
“Open new tabs next to the current tab”
In the Beta 2 Preview new tabs would always open at the end of the tab row. With this setting newly opened tabs will insert next to the tab you are on instead.
This option is the default because:
- Related tabs are much more likely to end up grouped together.
- When you have too many tabs to fit on screen, they go into the overflow. With this setting on, tabs are less likely to open off screen in this situation.
- The MSN Toolbar shipped with this behavior, and they have been happy with the response so far.
“Open home page for new tabs instead of a blank page”
There are actually 3 options for what appears when a new tab is created. The first is the about:Tabs page (this was new in Beta 2), but when you decide you don’t want to see it anymore, you can select to have a blank page or your first home page as the page that appears when you click the new tab icon (or hit Ctrl+T).
The default is to open it in a blank page because this is faster, and we can predictably put focus directly to the address bar for blank pages. This way when you create a new tab you can just start typing. Fast is good.
The setting to open your home page here was introduced due to feedback we received!
Note: This setting only applies after the About:Tabs (or “Welcome to Tabbed Browsing”) page has been dismissed. To dismiss this page check the “Don’t show again” box and then select “Close” on the About:Tabs page.
“When a pop-up is encountered”
There are three options for how to open pop-ups:
- Let Internet Explorer decide how pop-ups should open
- Always open pop-ups in new tab.
- Always open pop-ups in a new window.
The last two are fairly self explanatory, the first “Let Internet Explorer decide…” is my favorite option, and needs a bit more explaining. Basically what this will do is open any pop-up without size or other restrictions in a new tab, the rest will open in a new window. For users experienced with tabbed browsing this is typically the best option, as it allows most windows to open in tabs, but allows pop-up style windows to open in a new window.
The default we have in Beta 3 is to always open in a new window because we had it set to always open in tabs in Beta 1, and the feedback was that this made things harder for many people who don’t understand tabs. If you’re a tab user check out the “Let Internet Explorer decide” setting.
“Open links from other programs in:”
- A new window
- A new tab in the current window
- The current tab or window
The default we have in Beta 3 is to open links from other programs in a new tab in the current window. This improves the behavior from IE6, which navigates an existing window and can cause users to lose the page they were on. By taking advantage of tabs this avoids unnecessarily creating new windows. Currently this is our only setting with a default value that introduces tabbed browsing to people who may not have used it.
“Use most recent order when switching tabs with Ctrl+Tab”
In addition to the general tabs settings, for advanced users there is a setting in the “Advanced” tab of “Internet Options”…
Figure: Advanced tab setting
This setting makes our hotkeys for switching tabs (Ctrl+Tab, Ctrl+Shift+Tab) behave like Alt+Tab in Windows. That is, it allows tabs to be switched in a most recent order (which is great for comparing web pages). When you have this setting selected we also close tabs in a most recently used order as well, so you’ll see a lot of jumping around in the tab row.
The default is to have this off:
- We value predictability over the more focused compare scenario.
- We want to be consistent with other apps that use tabs throughout the system.
Anyhow, as you can see there are many ways to customize your tabbed browsing experience. Take a look through, try out the various options and tell us what you think!
– Aaron Sauve