Tab Implementation Summary
This page provides a summary of the review of prior discussion of tabs in GNOME.
There is little research-based evidence in relation to tabs. At the same time, bug reports and existing discussion do highlight a number of areas that a section in the HIG on tabs could address.
1. General tab design issues
- Tab width - should this be static or dynamic? If the former, how wide? If the latter, what should be used to determine the tab width?
- Close buttons - there seems to be a consensus (and some evidence) that it is best to have close buttons on all tabs. Some have suggested that these should be removed when a large number of tabs are displayed.
- Tab states - how to feedback changes in state of tabs? Use of colours could encounter accessability issues.
- Tab bar - should the tab bar be visible when only one tab is open? How should empty space in the tab bar be used?
2. Dealing with high numbers of tabs
Problems with current tab implementations:
- Current GNOME implementations place tabs off-screen when a large number are opened. This has been reported to produce a number of usability problems (see gnomebug:330676).
- The way tab scrolling is handled is something that could be looked at in order to ease the handling of large tabs.
Previous ideas for ways to improve the handling of large numbers of tabs:
- Dynamic tab widths are one option in dealing with large numbers of tabs, though this would come with its own disadvantages (gnomebug:330676).
- Alternatives that have been discussed are a drop-down menu similiar to the one used in Firefox (gnomebug:110540 and gnomebug:501007), or multiple rows of tabs (gnomebug:440274, gnomebug:110540, gnomebug:330676).
3. Desktop consistency
UsabilityProject/Whiteboard/TabImplementation/ExistingImplementations provides a summary of the differences in tab implementation across different GNOME applications.
Areas where consistency is currently an issue:
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Tab widths
- Tab states (displaying the state of unselected tabs)
- Tab bar (should it be displayed when only one tab is open?)
4. Application integration
- Open and close menu actions and keyboard shortcuts
- Tab menu items