Mozilla’s “Tab Candy” experiment has proved so popular, the company has decided to roll it into future versions of the Firefox browser as a standard feature.
The latest nightly builds of Firefox 4 now include a new Tab Sets feature. If all goes well, the feature could be included in the final version of Firefox 4, due this autumn.
Previously referred to as Tab Candy during its development phase the last few months, Tab Sets allows you to group and quickly switch between related clusters of open tabs. Tab Sets are specifically aimed at making life easier for those of us who frequently have dozens (or more) tabs open at one time. By grouping your open tabs into sets — say a group of tabs for work and a group of tabs containing some Instapaper articles — you can keep better track of everything without needing to scroll through dozens of tabs.
Download a nightly build of Firefox and you’ll see a new Tab Sets button next to the List All Tabs button. Click it to show your tab sets. From there, just draw a box to create a new empty group, drag tabs between sets, drag a tab onto another to create a new group, re-size groups and tabs, and so on.
The feature works a bit like multiple desktops in your operating system — a la Expose on Mac OS X — except in this case it’s just web pages inside a single browser window.
Perhaps the best way to understand Tab Sets is to see them in action. The video below from Firefox designer Aza Raskin gives a nice overview of Tab Sets and why they’re incredibly useful.
As nice as Tab Sets appear, they are not without some quirks. The latest nightly builds fix a number of bugs that showed up in the initial Tab Candy release, but bugs still exist and sometimes the behavior of tabs sets is a bit confusing.
For example, App Tabs, another new feature coming in Firefox 4, are included when you’re grouping tabs in the Tab Sets interface. But because App Tabs persist across groups anyway, including them in the Tab Sets UI makes things overly cluttered and a little bit confusing.
Of course, these are nightly builds meant only for testing by developers and early adopters, and things can be very rough around the edges both in design and function. Hopefully, by the time the feature freeze for Firefox 4 rolls around in a few weeks, Mozilla will have worked out enough of the kinks to include Tab Sets.
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