Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview: Multiple / Floating Tab Wells

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Coding Faster: Getting More Productive with Microsoft Visual Studio


Note: As always with pre-release software, some of the features may not make it into the final version or may change significantly before RTM. Also, although I will only show features that are publicly available, I may be using a slightly older or newer version of the build than you are so there may be slight differences in the feature set I show and the feature set you currently have.


Note: This feature was first introduced in the VS2010 Productivity Power Tools extension found here:



Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview

Continuing with our look at Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview we will examine the concept of multiple/floating tab wells that was originally created by Radames Cruz Moreno from the VS Platform Team. In VS2010 we introduced the idea of floating document windows. The only problem was, once detached; the window was a completely independent entity. This was great if all you wanted was one window but what if you wanted, say, 20 windows on one screen and 10 on another? Things get pretty out of hand fast when dealing with multiple windows beyond a certain point. Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview comes with the ability to not only detach windows but have them in multiple tab wells to better organize your windows. In this tip I’ll show you how to take advantage of this feature.


Quick Walkthrough

Open up Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview and get a couple of tabs in the tab well like I have here:



Now click and drag one of the tabs outside the IDE:



You should notice a new window is created, with a new tab well, and the tab is inside the well:



Now you can add more tabs to the new area and treat it just as you would the original tab well:




Menu Commands

I think the hardest part for people to get used to is that certain menu items impact the current active window regardless of where it is. For example, Window | New Window which makes a copy of the current window:



Will work regardless of where the active window is located:



Also, as I am sure you have guessed by now, you can have multiple independent tab wells:



So there you have it! This is a huge advantage that allows you to move and organize your VS windows the way you want.



Turning It Off

Note: When I tried this on my system the change didn’t take effect so you may not be able to turn this feature off in your pre-release build.


If you don’t like this feature it can be turned off by searching on “tabs” in the Quick Launch area (CTRL + ` [back tick]):



Selecting the entry for Environment -> Tabs and Windows:



Then turn off Enable Independent Floating Tab Wells:



This will return you to the VS2010-like experience.

For those who like menu commands the path to this option is Tools | Options | Environment | Tabs and Windows | Floating Tab Well.

Comments (5)
  1. AaronLS says:

    What is the difference between a "Floating tab well" and "Independent floating tab well"?

    These same features are present in the VS 2010 Power Tools and I have never figured out what the "Independent…" option does that is different from the "Floating tab well" option.

    I really like this feature.  I also like having the tabs along the side, but it'd be nice if they only covered up the code window where there are tabs.  I.e. they just take up the corner with enough space to display the names of the currently open documents, rather than having a big strip of empty space.

    The reason a vertical tab listing is so much better, IMHO, is it requires less scanning/eye movement to take in the names of all the open documents.  With a horizontal tab you essentially have a long skinny rectangle, but with vertical tabs you have a more square like area.  For this same reason, on wide screen monitors, I usually move my start menu to the side instead of bottom.  I would bet you a couple beers if you setup a scientific experiment where people had to pick out a name from a list of names, they could do it faster if the list was vertical instead of horizontal.

  2. AaronLS says:

    Also, if they defaulted to the right corner, they would be more likely to not be covering up code.  If a particular line extended that far, then you would just scroll up or down to bring it out from behind the list of files.  Essentially now the list of files is being placed somewhere that is usually not utilized anyway.

  3. zainnab says:

    Hey Aaron 🙂

    I don't think there is any difference between Floating Tab Wells and Independent Floating Tab Wells.  It's just depends on who is describing it.  The end result is the same as far as I know.  I like the idea of vertical tab lists and will pass the suggestion along to the team 🙂


  4. Amazingant says:

    I'd love love love to see this as an extension for 2010 while we wait for 11 to come out, and then wait for our employers to update us.

  5. zainnab says:

    Amazingant 🙂

    It IS an extension you can get today!  This feature is in the Productivity Power Tools for VS2010 that you can download here:


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