Jump to content

Tab (interface)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Tab (GUI))

Example of a tabbed interface with two sets of tabs: Horizontal tabs, at the top, allow navigation to different pages within the Wiktionary website. Vertical tabs, to the left, represent languages in which a given spelling occurs, where the selected tab shows the word jam ('already') in Esperanto.

In interface design, a tab is a graphical user interface object that allows multiple documents or panels to be contained within a single window, using tabs as a navigational widget for switching between sets of documents.[1] It is an interface style most commonly associated with web browsers, web applications, text editors, and preference panels, with window managers and tiling window managers.

Tabs are modeled after traditional card tabs inserted in paper files or card indexes (in keeping with the desktop metaphor). They are usually graphically displayed on webpages or apps as they look on paper.

Tabs may appear in a horizontal bar or as a vertical list. Horizontal tabs may have multiple rows. In some cases, tabs may be reordered or organized into multiple rows through drag and drop interactions. Implementations may support opening an existing tab in a separate window or range-selecting multiple tabs for moving, closing, or separating them.[2]


The WordVision DOS word processor[3] for the IBM PC in 1982[4] was perhaps the first commercially available product with a tabbed interface.[4]

HyperTIES browser and Gosling Emacs authoring tool with pie menus on the NeWS window system

Don Hopkins developed and released several versions of tabbed window frames for the NeWS window system as free software, which the window manager applied to all NeWS applications, and enabled users to drag the tabs around to any edge of the window.[5]

The NeWS version of UniPress's Gosling Emacs text editor was another early product with multiple tabbed windows in 1988.[6] It was used to develop an authoring tool for Ben Shneiderman's hypermedia browser HyperTIES (the NeWS workstation version of The Interactive Encyclopedia System), in 1988 at the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab.[7][8] HyperTIES also supported pie menus for managing windows and browsing hypermedia documents with PostScript applets.

While Boeing Calc already utilized tabbed sheets (as so-called word pads) since at least 1987,[9][10] Borland's Quattro Pro popularized tabs for spreadsheets in 1992. Microsoft Word in 1993 used them to simplify submenus.[4] In 1994, BookLink Technologies featured tabbed windows in its InternetWorks browser. That same year, the text editor UltraEdit also appeared with a modern multi-row tabbed interface. The tabbed interface approach was then followed by the Internet Explorer shell NetCaptor in 1997. These were followed by several others like IBrowse in 1999, and Opera in 2000 (with the release of version 4 - although an MDI interface was supported before then), MultiViews October 2000, which changed its name into MultiZilla on April 1st, 2001 (an extension for the Mozilla Application Suite[11]), Galeon in early 2001, Mozilla 0.9.5 in October 2001, Phoenix 0.1 (now Mozilla Firefox) in October 2002, Konqueror 3.1 in January 2003, and Safari in 2003. With the release of Internet Explorer 7 in 2006, all major web browsers featured a tabbed interface.

Users quickly adopted the use of tabs in web browsing and web search. A study of tabbed browsing behavior in June 2009 found that users switched tabs in 57% of tab sessions, and 36% of users used new tabs to open search engine results at least once during that period.[12]

Numerous additional browser tab capabilities have emerged since then. One example is visual tabbed browsing in OmniWeb version 5, which displays preview images of pages in a drawer to the left or right of the main browser window. Another feature is the ability to re-order tabs and to bookmark all of the webpages opened in tab panes in a given window in a group or bookmark folder (as well as the ability to reopen all of them at the same time). Microsoft Internet Explorer marks tab families with different colours.


Tab behavior in an application is determined by the underlying widget toolkit (for example Firefox uses GTK) framework. Due to lack of standardization, behavior may vary from one application to the next, which can result in usability challenges.

In 2021, researchers published the first in-depth study of Web browser tab interfaces in over a decade. They found that many people struggle with tab overload and conducted surveys and interviews about people's tab use. Thereby they formalized pressures for closing tabs and for keeping tabs open. The authors then developed related UI design considerations which could enable better tools and changes to the code of Web browsers – like Firefox – that allow knowledge workers and other users to better manage – and make use of – their browser tabs.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Khola, Vivek (2023-02-17). "Tab (interface)". www.blogger.com.
  2. ^ Elliott, Matt (2014-01-28). "How to manipulate multiple tabs in Chrome or Firefox". CNET. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  3. ^ Manes, Stephen (1984-04-03). "Taking A Gamble With Word Vision". PC Magazine - The Independent Guide To IBM Personal Computers. Vol. 3, no. 6. PC Communications Corp. pp. 211–221. ISSN 0745-2500. Archived from the original on 2015-03-17. Retrieved 2015-02-15.
  4. ^ a b c Seymour, Jim (1994-03-15). "Everything Old Is New Again". PC Magazine. Vol. 13, no. 5. Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. pp. 99–100. ISSN 0888-8507. Retrieved 2015-02-15.
  5. ^ Hopkins, Don (October 1989). "The Shape of PSIBER Space: PostScript Interactive Bug Eradication Routines". Don Hopkins' Web Site. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  6. ^ Hopkins, Don (1988-08-17). "Email from Don Hopkins to James Gosling, David S H Rosenthal, Owen Densmore, Jerry Farrell about Text selection in NeMACS". Don Hopkins' Web Site.
  7. ^ Hopkins, Don (2005-09-29). "HyperTIES Hypermedia Browser and Emacs Authoring Tool for NeWS". Don Hopkins' Web Site. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  8. ^ Hopkins, Don. "HCIL Demo - HyperTIES Authoring". YouTube.
  9. ^ Malloy, Rich (June 1987). "Spreadsheets - This new crop of advanced programs offers multidimensionality and natural language". BYTE. Review (Sommer 1987 Bonus ed.). pp. 69–75. Retrieved 2020-02-12. [1][2][3]
  10. ^ corwyn. "Boeing Calc - The first truly 3-D spreadsheet". Archived from the original on 2006-02-19.
  11. ^ van Rantwijk, HJ. "Mozdev.org - multizilla: history". Mozilla. Archived from the original on 2008-12-07. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
  12. ^ Jeff Huang, Ryen W. White (2010). "Parallel Browsing Behavior on the Web" (PDF). Proceedings of the 21st ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia (HT '10).
  13. ^ "Overcoming tab overload: Researchers develop tool to better manage browser tabs". techxplore.com. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  14. ^ Chang, Joseph Chee; Hahn, Nathan; Kim, Yongsung; Coupland, Julina; Breneisen, Bradley; Kim, Hannah S; Hwong, John; Kittur, Aniket (2021-05-06). "When the Tab Comes Due:Challenges in the Cost Structure of Browser Tab Usage". Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 1–15. doi:10.1145/3411764.3445585. ISBN 9781450380966. S2CID 233987809. Available under [4]

External links[edit]