Introducing the IE8 New Tab Page


Hello everyone!

One of the features we improved in IE8 is the ‘new tab’ page, which is the page you see by default when you click the New Tab button on the Tab row, or if you hit CTRL+T (the keyboard shortcut that does the same thing). We’re the Program Managers for this page and would like to walk you through the history and evolution of this feature to what it is today in IE8 Beta 2.

When IE7 was released in 2006, many users did not know what tabs were, so our new tab page didn’t really do anything except say “I’m a tab” and offer a link to help content for folks who were interested in learning more. Now it’s 2008, and web users are even more sophisticated and tab-enabled browsers are ubiquitous, so we decided that it was time to start making the new tab page more useful than just saying “I’m here.” So what kinds of tasks do we add to the new tab page?

We started with our first goal for this page: provide easy access to tab-related tasks. We recognize that when you open a new tab, you’re probably on your way to go do something else in the browser like visit a new site or start a new search. So, it seemed logical to make this new tab page offer up tab-related tasks to the user, especially given our desire to make navigation easier in IE8.

However, as we looked at all the tasks and links that we might put on the page, it became clear that not all tasks were suitable. For instance, we could have added a search box to the new tab page, since we know a large number of users issue Internet searches with some frequency. However, IE’s search box is already visible and available to the user, as are any search toolbars the user may have installed, so adding yet another redundant search entry point was uninteresting. We considered adding links to commonly-visited sites (or maybe your very favorite Favorites), but again, that seemed duplicative – that list was already a click away with the new Smart Address bar autocomplete dropdown.

So here is our second goal for this page: be a discoverability aid to cool features that might otherwise be hidden, and its corollary, don’t bother with features that are already visible to the user. We know this page would be a good advertising surface for features that users might not otherwise discover. The ability to restore a closed tab from a window was new to IE8, but many users might not even know that the feature existed (our customer feedback data indicates that most users don’t right-click tabs to see what menu options are available to them).

With our two goals in mind, we created a page that showed what this might look like. Here’s an early, early version for comparison in case you’re curious:

Early Version IE8 New Tab Page

This was essentially IE7’s new tab page rearranged, with some new IE8 functionality thrown in. It had a few tab-related tasks (re-opening closed tabs & windows), and a new feature now known as InPrivate browsing.

First, we’d heard feedback that even in IE7, this page looked a lot like an error page, down to using the same color scheme and fonts. Some users might see this page and assume that something was wrong. So, we knew we needed to differentiate the page from the product’s error pages.

Second, we thought it was visually distracting. While many users would certainly use and welcome the functionality of this page, often times users don’t care what it says and just want to go somewhere else. Having large, colorful icons on the page, lots of text, and a complex layout created a page that drew your eye towards it instead of letting you focus on the task you were about to undertake.

This feedback and our early mockups led to goal #3: Don’t let the page distract users if they’re not going to use it. We knew we had to tone the page down a bit. It had to be visually serene, so it wouldn’t be jarring when users opened a new tab.

We’ve iterated a bit in our designs to take our goals & concerns into account, and so here’s what the New Tab Page looks like in IE8 Beta 2:

IE8 New Tab Page  

As you can see, we’ve changed the theme of the page so it doesn’t look like an error page, we’ve eliminated the large & colorful icons (although we kept FavIcons in), and simplified the layout. The help link at the bottom will take a user to a help topic that explains all the features on the page, tabs, and shortcuts if they want to learn more (although our help won’t be finalized until later, so for now it goes to a placeholder topic). This new look is also consistent with other IE8 informational pages, like the one you see when you start a new InPrivate browsing session.

Here’s information about each section of this page:

Reopen closed tabs

On the left, the user can easily restore a tab they’ve closed in that window just by clicking on the title of the web page. In our internal testing, this was the most commonly-used action from the new tab page, which is why it’s got the prime location on the page. When you click any web page from that list, the tab will reopen (with its entire travel log, meaning that you’ll recover the pages associated with that tab’s forward & back buttons too). The tab is then removed from this list. If you click ‘Open All,’ then all the tabs in the list will be restored, and the list will be cleared. “Reopen Last Browsing Session” will re-open the last full non-InPrivate IE window you’ve closed, with all its tabs.

If you click the green header or the arrow to the right of it, the list will be visually collapsed. This helps when you’re concerned about over-the shoulder privacy (so people in the room can’t see what tabs you’ve closed). The open or collapsed state ‘sticks,’ meaning that if you like the list to be closed, just leave it closed, and if you like it to be open, just leave it open, and it will (almost) always show that way (see the exception to the rule below).

Start InPrivate Browsing

Click the green header text to open a new InPrivate Browsing window. This launches an InPrivate Browsing session just as if you launched it from the command bar Safety menu, or via the keyboard shortcut, CTRL+SHIFT+P.

Use an Accelerator

We’ve provided a handy way for users to get to their default Accelerators via this page. Just click on any Accelerator to launch it as if you’d launched it from the Accelerator menu on any page. We’ll automatically grab whatever’s on your clipboard and send it to that Accelerator. You can click “Show Clipboard” to view what’s on your clipboard in case you’re nervous that you might send personally sensitive information before you click on an Accelerator. Like the list of closed tabs, you can ‘stick’ the list of Accelerators open or closed, depending on your preference.

This is also a handy way to use an Accelerator on text from other applications, not just from web pages. For instance, you can copy a line of text from a document in Microsoft Word, then open a new tab in IE8, and use the Accelerator with that text.

Over the shoulder privacy concerns

We know that people don’t always want to show everyone around them what’s on their machine, which is why we’ve taken care to give you ways to protect your privacy. Lists on this page will stick open or closed, depending on your preference. And, while in Windows Vista’s presentation mode, we’ll automatically collapse both lists for you whenever the New Tab Page is opened. That way, if you’re projecting your screen in a public setting with Windows Vista, you don’t have to worry about IE8 exposing your list of installed Accelerators or closed tabs to your audience. You can of course pop them open while presenting, but changes made to their open/collapsed state won’t affect your preferences when you’re not in presentation mode.

Here’s the new tab page while in Windows Vista presentation mode:

The IE8 New Tab Page in Windows Vista Presentation Mode

Changing what happens when you open a New Tab in IE8

If you wish to change the behavior when you open a new tab in IE8, you can set IE8 to open the page we’ve described in this post (the default), a blank page, or the first page of your home page set. Just go to Internet Options (off the Tools menu on the Command Bar or classic menu) and select the button on the General tab to change Tabbed Browsing Settings.

This screenshot shows the dropdown that you can select your preference with:

Tab Page Options under Tabbed Browsing Settings in the Tools Menu

Side note – corporations can lock this behavior down via Group Policy if they choose.

In IE7, there was a checkbox on the new tab page that said “don’t show me this again,” which flipped your default new tab page to the ‘blank page’ option. We removed this in IE8 because the IE7 behavior was a one-way road for less technical users – if they clicked the checkbox they had no obvious way of reversing their decision, and weren’t likely to discover the settings dialog to change it back on their own. By consolidating the option to change the behavior to one place, a user who changes the option will know how to change it back if they need to.

Finally, because we believe that this new tab page has a lot more value than its IE7 counterpart, we’ve made this new page the default new tab page for all IE8 users, even if you had changed this option in IE7 (which is especially useful for those people who accidentally checked the box in IE7 without meaning to). More technical users (like, for instance, those of you reading this blog) know how to change this setting, so you can change it back if you wish to.

In summary

That’s how IE8’s new tab page evolved, and where we are today. We are interested in your feedback about the IE8 New Tab Page so please leave us a comment in this post. Thanks, and enjoy IE8 Beta 2!

Christopher Vaughan & Harel Williams
Program Managers

Comments (53)

  1. harmony7 says:

    One general issue I have with Windows is that there is far too much text on the screen.

    Windows Vista has only made this worse.  For example, when I first logged in and got the welcome center, my first reaction was to minimize it.  The sheer amount of text and number of links totally turned me away from it.  To this day nothing has convinced me to read it.

    The Control Panel has gotten wordier, and so have many of the applets.  The more text you put up, the less likely it is that I’m going to read it, and I doubt I’m alone.  Too much text is scary and distracting.  And when it just repeats what the heading says, I find it annoying that the design of the program caused me to waste time reading something I didn’t even need to read.

    Now, I know your team was not involved with the above, but I’m bringing this up because that’s what this new tab page reminded me of.  You can put as much text as you want on that new tab page, but I really think that the fewer words you use, the better the experience will be.

    When I open a new tab, I want to do something.  I’m with you so far.  So expect that I already know what I want to be doing next.  I don’t want to see a screen with a million options.

    You said you’ve toned it down a bit, but I still think it’s too many words.

    Put my focus in the address bar so I can start typing.  Put my most recently closed tabs and my most often used bookmarks there, too, fine, but I don’t need all these words.

    Personally, I think the words in green are enough.  the black text underneath is not necessary.  Or, display that when I hover over the green text.

    I know you guys are working hard out there and I know it’s impossible to please everyone.  Thanks for listening.

  2. JackyMao says:

    That’s an exciting way on new Tab IE 8 doing!

    I think this can be more customizedable, such as set an preview pictures when "reopen closed tab".

    all this new tab page could include more information! not just TAB introduction!

  3. IEFan says:

    I like the new "New Tab" page, but if I can make a small suggestion to look into having the tab that being reopened to load in the newly created new tab, that way there won’t be a need to close the "New Tab" page after the closed tab was reopened.

  4. defan says:

    what i don’t get is when clicking a website under the reopen closed tab the website open in a new tabs. How does a user set it up to reopen website directly on the same tabs. a option should be available?

    Top 10 favorite website should be available in New tab page.

    I like to make the new tab page my homepage.

  5. Sankar says:

    (I know this comment does not fit here. But not sure where else to convey this)

    I really love the new features in IE. IE seems to finally cope up with other browsers in the market. There are a couple of things that I believe could improve user experience a lot.

    If you ask anyone using firefox for why he uses it, the non-intrusive download manager would definitely be there. IE needs to improve the old fashioned pop-up download manager.

    The new InPrivate browsing is really helpful. But a missing feature bothers me and most people in using it. Though new cookies are blocked, old cookies are still allowed to be read. Effectively even though IE does collect history information, other sites do. e.g google web history. This is very well taken care of in chrome. The InCognito mode in chrome really hides "everything".

  6. Marc F says:

    I would love to see subscribed RSS feeds on that page. Or maybe show the last 5 unread items. Feeds are my starting point with every browser session.

  7. Good job on the new tab page except for the large sized "What do you want to do next?". Remember this is a tab in IE, not Media Center. Reminds me of "Where do you want to go today?" LOL. Nearly every user I know would like to have that title proportionately reduced in size. Also instead of writing help on such topics as this one which users can figure out by using, it would be better if the team prioritized writing context sensitive help (using HTML help) for IE’s advanced options and all the security settings in a zone.

  8. Mantas LT says:

    The new tab page still looks visually distracting, especially the heading section – reminds the old slogan of Microsoft "Where do you want to go today?" :)

    The key problem – the new tab page looks like a webpage by itself even though, by definition, I intend to go somewhere else. Too much of text and therefore distracting. Do we really need all those explanations what each function does on the front page? Especially when the browser is going to be used daily and the users WILL know what each function does?

    That’s a classic design trap – to design for the newcomers while the golden medium is to design for the intermediates. MS Office is a good example. Some learning curve is involved but once you pass it, the interface feels very efficient for daily tasks.

    Choosing a truly non-obtrusive minimalistic design for the new tab page in IE8 could remedy the problem. My suggestion: list all three choices as a single (nicely, visually) bulleted list. Then add an "explain" link somewhere near, which, when clicked, would expand the section with definitions.

  9. Menny says:

    Are you going to do something about your Tools->Configuration screen. it’s about time you upgraded it

  10. I think that ‘new tab’ creates a very good additional functionality. I personally do not use the ‘new tab’, but I think it is very convenient for users, especially if they work with many applications and Web pages simultaneously.

  11. Missing Feature Request says:

    Why is it no longer possible to open a new browser window (new browsing session) with the tabs from the previous browsing session automatically opened?

    e.g: say i have a number of tabs open on a browsing session then close the ie window (i.e. end session by clicking "X" on the upper far right of the window), it would be fantastic for ie to give me the option to remember these tabs, such that on my next session they automatically open.

    Even better was if ie "remembered" this preference, and did not bother asking me whether i wanted to this each time.

    You can easily implement this on the exit dialogue box that appears if the user exits when there are multiple tabs open OR on tools > internet options > [should be on general tab] > [should see tabs section] > settings.

  12. Chris Quirke says:

    Interesting you talk about re-discoverability, which I’ve been finding a lot better in IE8b2.

    It could be better still.  Instead of a tiny "Restore Last Session (or lose those links forever?)" dialog, you could bring up those session’s links as a page, headed by each separate IE window with tabs beneath grouped by tab colors, and each heading (including the "Your Last Links" top header) can be clickable to release the lot.

    Keep it compact!  Resist the urge to extract summary text, etc.  Don’t make the usual MS mistake of creating something that looks great in a 3-item demo, but becomes an unscalable mess with 50+ items in the real world (rarely do I have anything less than 20-30 tabs open at once).

    On "scalability", we need a UI to see how many pages we have open in a given IE window, and across all windows (for those who for some reason prefer multiple windows to tabs)

    As it is, most IE8 sessions end in an unclosable mess, because IE seems to take forever to close large numbers of tabs. IE8b2 in particular is prone to tar-pit slowdowns (not actually complete lockups) of this kind – either with System and IExplore each at 50% CPU, or more commonly with Idle at 90%, but still feeling as if "something is hogging IE" (XP SP3, 3rd-party enhancements disabled, set to Prompt on active content, often many such prompts left pending).

    When resuming such sessions, the same thing usually happens.  What URLs?  I can’t tell you, because IE goes ga-ga before they are shown, and that "Resume?" dialog gives no info on what I am about to "resume".  Report problem web page?  I can’t, because IE’s Tools menu is as ga-ga as everything else.  See the problem?

    The problem’s exploitable, too, e.g. create a page that (via whatever by-design or exploit of your choice) first squirts new code into the system, then clogs up IE.  Every time user starts IE and chooses "Resume", you can update your code again, to stay ahead of av detections.

  13. I really like the new Reopen closed tabs feature but I dislike having to open the New Tab page to get to it.

    Is there a shortcut for reopening the last closed tab?

    Reopening tabs from the New Tab page opens yet another tab so if I’ve opened a new tab just to get to the list of closed tabs the sequence of actions becomes Ctrl+T, Reopen tab using mouse, click on the new tab so that the close button appears, then close it and finally switch back to the reopened tab. Surely there must be a more efficient way?

  14. Michael Ens [MSFT] says:

    @Johan Appelgren

    Ctrl+Shift+T will reopen the most recently closed tab (excluding tabs you already reopened).

    You can also right-click on any tab to access a similar list of recently closed tabs in a context menu.  It’s under the "Recently Closed Tabs" entry at the bottom.

  15. Soum says:

    The address bar dropdown lists the most recently visited sites, that too without the titles. And to take advantage of the search, one has to type something in, which means you have to move your hand from the mouse to the keyboard.

    So yeah, getting a list of most visited sites isn’t as easy as should be. Please consider putting the list of most frequently visited sites in the new tab page.

    Or at least make the address bar dropdown entries pinnable (and show page titles when the dropdown is manually opened without typing/pasting anything into the address bar.

    And like someone said above, a list of unread feeds with maybe a snippet (like what Visual Studio does with the "News").

  16. How embarassing. :) Hadn’t noticed the menu items in the tab context menu. Thanks!

  17. Phylyp says:

    This was something that I’d turned off right after installing beta 2, but upon reading this, I’ve gone and re-enabled it.

    I especially appreciate the things you’ve done to protect privacy – I might often have something I wouldn’t want seen over the shoulder.

    Having said that, give us a way to delete just a single item from that list of recently closed tabs (similar to what is offered in the address bar)

  18. Jote says:

    This "new tab" page is plain ugly. The early version looks much better.

  19. Hello everyone! One of the features we improved in IE8 is the ‘new tab’ page, which is the page you see

  20. Mudassir says:

    The new tab page is good. Specially I like the accelerators tied up with clipboard.

    It would be nice if you present a list of most visited sites, like Chrome does. I also like the idea of page thumbnails. In Chrome’s new tab page, I don’t read the page titles. I just see the image and click it.

    I like the "delete entry" feature in address bar and would like to be expanded on new tabs page as well.

    For example, if a suggested site or closed tab has stuck to my new tab page, I would like if there is an option to delete that suggestion if I don’t like that site.

    I also support harmony7, for the idea of hiding function description and showing them only on mouse hover on green task headers.

    It would be nice if the "Recently Closed Tabs" sub menu is appended at the bottom of the "Tab List" (Ctrl+Shift+Q).

  21. C-CM says:

    "In IE7, there was a checkbox on the new tab page that said “don’t show me this again,” … We removed this in IE8 …

    Finally, because we believe that this new tab page has a lot more value than its IE7 counterpart, we’ve made this new page the default new tab page for all IE8 users, even if you had changed this option in IE7 …"

    I hate those checkboxs (in all apps) that give you no clue how to change them back. But even better IMO would be a link that opens the Tabbed Browsing settings dialog, especially for those IE7 users who changed the option in IE7 and want to stay with their change. Otherwise users may think IE8 removed the ability to choose the option for their previously selected preference.

  22. AK says:

    I think that these options should be added for…

    IE Tabs:

    i.  Open New Tab Before The Current Tab

    ii. Open New Tab After Last Tab

  23. msxml says:

    Hey IE team, I would like to know why there’s nothing new wrt XML in the IE8 release. It’s almost as if the XML team is completely aloof from the browser team and focussing only on developer products (VS and DOTNET). Where is support for XML namespaces, XML Events and so on? According to Wikipedia, IE seems to be pretty deficient in terms of XML support too? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_layout_engines_(graphics)

  24. Chris says:

    I agree with the comments about removing the descriptive text under the section headings.  Maybe hide them behind a small (?) button next to the green text.

    I don’t have the beta installed on this computer, so forgive me if this is already an option, but I would like to have the ability to set the "new tab" page as my homepage (which I have done in Chrome and found very useful).

  25. Ruramuq says:

    •  The middle mouse button to open links on new tabs__

    New tabs are openned in the end of the groups. Can you add an option to open them aside/next the current tab.

    •  Reopen last Browsing session__

    Its too easy to loose the last session, Please can you add more visual feedback to notice there is a session saved, or add an option to reopen the last session "automatically"

    save more than one session, for security.

    ie. Sometimes a popup/ opens when you are closing IE8, etc and the session is lost because of that

    show me whats inside the session I’m about to recover

    I bet you can improve this all, much better

    •  closing The last Tab(webpage), impossible__

    allow me to close all the tabs, ie. when you have only one tab(webpage) open, I’d like to close it too with the middle mouse button

    •  shortcut to open "ungrouped tabs"__

    the title says it all. when opening a link or typing something in the adrees bar

    •  wipeout everything chromatic__

    gradients and bright UI colors are bad. please care my eyes

    and thanks for reading,

    [pls. post something about IE8 Feeds and IE8 Cache]

  26. HB says:

    Why is it such a pain to provide feedback? Is there some place other than actually having to register an account?

    Anyways, can you guys do something about IE losing the ClearType effect after text is affected by opacity changes?

    IE8 is looking pretty good.

  27. Roland says:

    Unfortunately, the links (especially "Start InPage Browsing") have no visual affordance. You have to hover over them to get a hand cursor to know that it’s a link you can click. Many users will think that the links are just headings.

    Helpful read: http://design.aim.com/?p=276

  28. brad says:

    my suggestion regarding the IE new tab page:

    learn again from your masters: Firefox and Chrome

    don’t bloat things

  29. Xepol says:

    You could further increase my privacy by adding a link that lets me clear the list of closed tabs.

    That way I don’t have to restart the browser if I want to clear it.

  30. Xepol says:

    @Brad -> You don’t consider Chrome’s tab bloated?  I wonder how much extra code in involved in creating thumbnails of the webpage and storing them just to show them on a new-tab page + all the code and data tracking to give you your top 9 with no additional access to your home pages…

  31. Sankar says:

    @defan,

    IE8 now has the concept of about pages. New tab page is called about:Tabs. You can just set it as your homepage. (Enter about:Tabs in the list of homepages available in Tools -> Options).

  32. Ytterbium says:

    Thanks for the tip on dissabling the text, it seemed to take a while to load on my pc and could keep up with the speed of my clicking, I perfer just a blank page :)

    The vista presentation mode looks better than B2, however to mee they just seem like advertising your new features.

  33. agreed says:

    ii. Open New Tab After Last Tab++

    ii. Open New Tab After Last Tab++

    ii. Open New Tab After Last Tab++

    ii. Open New Tab After Last Tab++

    ii. Open New Tab After Last Tab++

    The lack of this option is why I hate IE’s tabs.

  34. brad says:

    @Brad -> You don’t consider Chrome’s tab bloated?  I

    i’m refering to UI bloating, not coding bloating

  35. Alphastar says:

    My Tab feature Wishlist (maybe OT):

    Detach Tab Group (to New Window)

    WYSIWYG Print (background colors too)

    Export Tab (Group) History to Excel

    Export URL History by Date/Time

    Export Download History by Date/Time

    Deck Tabs (stack tab groups into coloured "decks" like playing cards)

    Cheers,

    A.

  36. The Man says:

    Overall the new tabs are looking really good.  

    I’d like an "open home page" option on the ‘new tab page’ (maybe under ‘reopen last browser session).  Yeah, I know I can set this to happen -ALL- the time for new tabs, but that denies me access to the new features.

  37. D. P. Cole says:

    Interesting stuff, thanks!

    I would like to see, when using the Search bart (ctrl-e, or at the top corner of the browser) put search results in a new tab.  Can this be done?

    (And off-topic, can the favorites be navigated via scroll wheel instead of the little up/down buttons?)

  38. Scott Klassen says:

    Request:  Everything that can be configured in the options area, should also be configurable in Group Policy.  IE7 made enormous strides in this area, but some tab behavior controls were lacking in GP.  Please make certain that this makes it into the IE8 dev cycle.

  39. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @D. P. Cole: You can hit ALT+ENTER in the search box to open the results in a new tab.

  40. Jatinder Mann [MSFT] says:

    @Scott Klassen

    Which tab behaviour settings are you referring to exactly? We have added over 100 new GPs in IE8 and may consider further enhancements.

  41. Bozford says:

    When I’m surfing, I used to use the CTRL-N to open the same page in a new window.  This allowed me to continue surfing to a new page, while having the old page up for comparison.  This allows multiple branches in browsing history, and the best ose of the back and forward buttons.  

    I’d like to be able to do this same thing with tabs, but I don’t have the option to have new tabs open to the same page I’m on, and no shortcut I’ve been able to find re-produces that behavior.  I’m stuck either doing the CTRL-N thing again, or having to copy/paste the URL.  

    How about adding the option to "open new tab to current page" as an option in the Tabbed Browsing Settings?

  42. Bozford, isn’t CTRL+K (the "Duplicate Tab" feature in IE8) what you’re looking for?

  43. Muonite says:

    I’d like a most visited pages list.

    and maybe three placeholders for customizable addresses (like Speed Dial).

  44. Gary Hanken says:

    First off, I have not installed this beta so forgive me if my comments are implemented in some fashion.

    This all looks fine and dandy but for me I almost always open a new tab because I right clicked on a link and selsected "open in new tab".

    A couple of suggestions:

    – Allow me to right click on an existing TAB and select "Open this page in new window" (you get the idea).

    – Allow me to drag the tab down and start a new (or add to an existing) Horizontal or Vertical tab group. Of course, I will need to be able to resize the group if needed.

    Thanks for listening!

  45. jjc says:

    I’m finding that new tabs sometimes open rather slowly. They features are all great and work great but sometimes they need to be just a little speedier.

  46. smaclell says:

    I am going to have to agree with the previous response by Soum. Including the list of most visited pages is a very useful feature and helps accelerate common web browsing tasks, the facebooks a feed readers of the world. I have been experimenting with the new Google Chrome and found my self greatly enjoying this in their new tab page.

    Another feature I like regarding the Google Chrome new tab page is the ability to see my recently bookmarked pages. This combined with my recently viewed pages covers that majority of what I want to do with my web browser.

  47. thunder@yahoo says:

    I like the feature of using the middle click button to close a tab, but this occurs immediatly. This is annoying, because you would expect that this took action when the button is actually released.

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  49. IEBlog says:

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