Strong opinions, weakly held

Tabs versus new windows in browsers

Firefox 2.0 uses tabs more aggressively than Firefox 1.5 did. In Firefox 1.5, if you clicked on a link that attempted to spawn a new window (not a popup, just another regular browser window), Firefox did as it was asked. Now it opens those links in a new tab in the current window. As before, if you open a URL from another application, it opens that link in a new tab in the foremost browser window.

I like tabs, so I’m generally OK with that behavior, except for one thing. Some of the time, I have a small window open, usually thanks to my Movable Type “quick post” bookmarklet. I never want the browser to open a new tab in that window. In fact, if it’s the only window that’s open, I would prefer the browser open a new window entirely. I expect most other users feel the same way.

Thinking like a programmer, this looks like a problem that could be solved cleverly through code. Basically, when deciding where to put the results of an “display URL in a new window/tab” action, the browser could examine the size of the open windows, and pick one that is the same size as a new window would be if you opened a new window from the file menu. There may even be a variable that could be checked to see whether a window was opened by normal means or opened as a custom-sized window from a web page, and only use “normal” windows.

Chances are I’m not the only person annoyed by this behavior. I’m going to do some digging today to see if I can find any existing solutions.


  1. Or at the very least, only open new tabs into windows that have the navigation controls. If no open window has the nav controls displayed, open the link in a new window instead.

  2. Chances are I’m not the only person annoyed by this behavior.

    Oh, certainly not. It annoys the crap out of me. I think I’d mostly be happy if it just picked a window that already has tabs.

  3. It annoys me either!! Is there any solution?

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