Firefox 2.0: Not Radical, but Just Right

Mozilla's return volley isn't as strong as Microsoft's serve, but does it need to be?

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4. Firefox 1.x browsers placed a single Close button, represented by an X in a red box located all the way to the right of the tab bar. To close a tab, you clicked the tab to make it active and then clicked the lone Close button. There were customizations and extensions that allowed you to both remove the Close button (which was all too easy to hit by accident) and also to create your own way to close an individual tab.

The default in Firefox 2.0 is to display the Close button on the right side of every tab, and collectively those buttons eat up a great deal of tab real estate. IE7's method of handling this issue is smarter. It places its Close button on only the active tab.

The good news is that it's very easy to customize tabs in Firefox 2.0 to change the Close-button-on-every-tab behavior. Two good alternative options are to reveal the Close button only on the active tab, as IE7 does, or to put it back on the right side of the tab bar. Here's how to make the change you prefer:

a. Open a new tab. Select that tab and in the Location (or Address) bar, type the following and press Enter:

about:config

b. Type the following into the Filter field and pause a moment:

browser.tabs

c. Double-click this line:

browser.tabs.closeButtons
Changing Firefox's Close button behavior on tabs
 

Changing Firefox's Close button behavior on tabs (Click to see larger view)

d. In the "Enter integer value" box, type the number from the list below that matches the Close button behavior you prefer:

0 = Display a Close button on the active tab only

1 = Display Close buttons on all the tabs (Default)

2 = Don't display any Close buttons

3 = Display one Close button on the right of the tab bar (Firefox 1.x's behavior)

e. The primary advantage of removing Close buttons from all but one tab is to regain some extra space for tab text descriptions. Removing the Close buttons does help slightly with this. You can also experiment with this setting in about:config to further win back text space:

browser.tabs.tabminWidth (minimum tab shrink size; the default is 100 pixels)

I found that 90 pixels was a better setting for me.

I strongly urge Mozilla to add one more option:

4 = Don't display any Close buttons; double-clicking any open tab closes it.

Once you realize that double-clicking the blank area of the tab opens a new tab, it's a very natural progression to double-click an open tab to close it.

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