5 March 2009 - 17:53About:Tab (New Tab Page From Mozilla Labs)

Mozilla Labs has a new prototype for you to try out — About:Tab [people.mozilla.com]. (Make sure you’re running Firefox 3.1 [mozilla.com] or newer!)

With this add-on, you get a listing of sites you frequently visit with thumbnails and feed items instead of a blank white page on opening a new tab. These sites are shown along the far-right edge of the page to avoid interrupting your behavior if you just want to type in the site you want to go to.

You don’t need to manually bookmark sites or pick pages or even subscribe to feeds! The new tab page is smart enough to figure out which sites you frequently go to and shows related items like feeds.

Easily access your frequently visited sites along with their feed items

Easily access your frequently visited sites along with their feed items

The sites are listed along the right edge of the page to be visible but not glaring. That’s why the thumbnails are shown in gray so that flashy sites don’t overpower the simple look. Both the thumbnail and text are faded gray until you put your mouse pointer over it to interact with it.

The page additionally will provide navigation options based on your behavior. If you’ve copied an address to map, you’ll be able easily get to the map by clicking on a link from the new tab page. Additionally, if you’ve recently closed a tab and want to get back to it, you can restore it with a single click.

Behavior-based navigation suggests actions that you'll likely want

Behavior-based navigation suggests actions that you'll likely want

Check out the official Mozilla Labs post describing the ideas behind the New Tab Page [labs.mozilla.com]. As pointed out there, the main themes behind the new tab page were were No Configuration, Streamlined, and Polite. Thanks everyone for the early feedback, and please continue to provide comments, criticisms, and suggestions [labs.mozilla.com].

This is an early prototype that Dan Mills initially started coding less than a week ago, but it’s pretty functional already as it has drawn from existing projects like Atul Varma’s Ambient News [toolness.com] and my Auto Dial. You can follow the development of this prototype [wiki.mozilla.org] to see what’s going on or even contribute.

For those using my Auto Dial add-on, you can easily uninstall it and update to About:Tab [people.mozilla.com] from Tools -> Add-ons. About:Tab provides more functionality with behavior-based navigation and feed items as well as a cleaner interface with thumbnails. :)

52 Comments | Tags: Add-on, Labs, Mozilla, New Tab

Comments:

  1. Jeroen says: 05 Mar 2009 - 11:50

    Is Firefox 3.1 beta 2 required to run this add-on? I’m using the latest nightlies on both Windows 7 & XP and when I open a new tab all I get is a blank area…

    Hopefully this will be fixed soon, because I would love to try out this extension :)

  2. I’m using the latest nightlies on both Windows 7 & XP

    Could you try copying something into your clipboard and see if it loads correctly? It should work fine on trunk + Win7/XP.

  3. DivineGod says: 05 Mar 2009 - 13:01

    It seems to me that this extension makes the awesomebar slower in finding results. Possibly because About:Tab uses time to find thumbnails.

    It would be cool if it could perform a little better.

  4. It seems to me that this extension makes the awesomebar slower in finding results.

    It shouldn’t really have much impact on the location bar speed. The new tab page keeps the thumbnails around, so they load much faster next time you open a tab and it doesn’t have to many any network connections.

  5. Jeroen says: 05 Mar 2009 - 13:35

    @Ed:

    Yes, it works now. Thanks.

  6. Very nice!

    A few suggestions:

    – The feeds list overflows into the next thumbnail’s title.

    – “search for” links should show more of the (long) link or provide a tooltip for overflowed text.

    – The thumbnails should stay colored, not gray-scale.

    – the text on the right (titles, feeds) should be a bit more black for readability.

    – it should be possible to (quickly) remove (embarrassing) thumbnails. e.g., a red X somewhere (corner of thumbnail or right of title).

    – The new tab’s favicon is too pale

    – the new tab should have some intro-text at the top-left: “This is a new tab. You can load a web page into it. On the left side, it shows some suggestions based on what you did before this tab was opened. On the right are thumbnails of web sites you’re used often.

  7. Moody Loner says: 06 Mar 2009 - 8:41

    I like the concept but some suggestions for the UI may be:

    – Smaller panels for the tab listing, it takes up too much space, have a popup preview panel when the user mouses over the favicon

    – the ability to close any entry in the listing individually

    – context menu to possibly enable bookmarking etc…

    – ability to expand on the drag/drop ordering and add drag/drop opening on the tab bar from the list to open a new tab from the list without manually clicking to open a new tab every time…

    – maybe integrate with favorites folders so user can work with their bookmarks in an easier manner i.e. enable the list to show each bookmark from any bookmarks folder

    Overall though – I still maintain that Mozilla are the most innovative company working for users. Thanks for the opportunities to try all these products out.

    (I’m running on it on W7 beta)

  8. The feeds list overflows into the next thumbnail’s title.

    Curious, what OS are you running? It might also depend on your font size, but 5 items might be too many already — it’s pretty crowded.

    “search for” links should show more of the (long) link or provide a tooltip for overflowed text.

    Yeah, there’s plans on making the actions more standard in size.

    The thumbnails should stay colored, not gray-scale.

    Any reason for that? They do become colored when hovering. But something to note.. after using Auto Dial or About:Tab for a while, you’ll notice the list doesn’t really change that much. You’ll just remember that the 3rd item is . The thumbnail is more of a “ah yes, this is the site I want.”

    But this is assuming that you already know what you wanted to go to when opening the new tab. I suppose there’s another use case of “oh.. what should I go to now? What looks interesting..”

    the text on the right (titles, feeds) should be a bit more black for readability.

    You mean before hovering? Yeah, right now there could be a lot of text to go through if feeds have long titles, and it’s hard to scan with so much.

    it should be possible to (quickly) remove (embarrassing) thumbnails. e.g., a red X somewhere (corner of thumbnail or right of title).

    There are plans for some way to reorder the list as well as drag things off to a trash perhaps, but that didn’t make it in yet.

    The new tab’s favicon is too pale

    They’re faded 30%, but why do you want them more opaque? Are you trying to find the site you want by favicon? Make it easier to scan?

    the new tab should have some intro-text at the top-left: “This is a new tab

    Hrmm.. would this show on every time you open the page? Once per session? Only once? There’s no need to keep reminding the user what to do, but an intro could be useful.

  9. “The feeds list overflows into the next thumbnail’s title.

    Curious, what OS are you running? It might also depend on your font size, but 5 items might be too many already — it’s pretty crowded.”

    I’m using WinXP with slightly larger fonts. Also, and possibly more importantly, I have Firefox Options / Content set to Arial, Size 18 and minimum size = 14. The new tab’s text should account for user-set font sizes.

    “The thumbnails should stay colored, not gray-scale.

    Any reason for that? They do become colored when hovering.”

    Users shouldn’t have to hover to get a better view of the page. Maybe a color-reduced version would serve both needs (fast recognizability and unobtrusive).

    “the text on the right (titles, feeds) should be a bit more black for readability.

    You mean before hovering?”

    Yes.

    “The new tab’s favicon is too pale

    They’re faded 30%, but why do you want them more opaque? Are you trying to find the site you want by favicon? Make it easier to scan?”

    I’m talking about the new tab’s *tab-bar* favicon. You too?

    “the new tab should have some intro-text at the top-left: “This is a new tab

    Hrmm.. would this show on every time you open the page?”

    Perhaps every time; and put a “don’t show this message again” button there.

  10. Smaller panels for the tab listing, it takes up too much space

    So you would be more in favor of just showing a larger favicon to identify sites? Kinda like the Site Launcher for EdBrowser?
    http://ed.agadak.net/2009/02/edbrowser-web-client-of-the-future

    Curious, how many sites do you see right now anyway? On my laptop I get 7, and on my desktop I get ~10. But I noticed that when using Auto Dial, I eventually only really used the first 4 or so entries.

    the ability to close any entry in the listing individually

    There are plans on adding a learning behavior to the listing, so things that you don’t use automatically get removed. Similarly, if you drag an item to a position, it’ll remember that for next time.

    context menu to possibly enable bookmarking etc…

    What do you mean by this? The list should include bookmarks and bookmarks should actually be more likely to be listed higher because of their bonus “frecency” ranking.

    ability to expand on the drag/drop ordering

    I think it should be doable to drag stuff from the new tab page. Right now it’s just jQuery handling animations, so dragging it out of the page could be tricky… But I don’t see why it couldn’t just do something similar to how we do tab dragging.

  11. I’m not sure I see the point.

    I already have the option to Open Link in New Tab in the right-click menu. (at least in the Firefox version 2 I’m using) (Surely this option wasn’t removed from Firefox version 3?)

    How are these changes any improvement over what people already have?

  12. Moody Loner says: 07 Mar 2009 - 8:50

    ” context menu to possibly enable bookmarking etc…

    What do you mean by this? The list should include bookmarks and bookmarks should actually be more likely to be listed higher because of their bonus “freqency” ranking”

    Ed,

    To expand: I currently have organised bookmarks in folders e.g. House, Mozilla, Temp etc.. and would like to use the visual style that you have created and be able to have all the bookmarks in that folder showing on the right hand side of the page. The advantage to be able to designate a group of favourites[from the bookmark menu] would omit the need to open the bookmarks menu item, find the folder, click the bookmark and go through all that again when another one is needed, all you need to do it open a new tab and there they are.

    Using the search bar is less of a chore but your visualisation provides a better way of getting where you want more cleanly.
    I could “open all in tabs” of course but that doesn’t really appeal to me.

    I hope you see what I am getting at.

  13. I already have the option to Open Link in New Tab in the right-click menu

    You might be confusing what this post is about. The new tab feature is changing what is shown when you click on the “New Tab” button or when you press “Ctrl-T”. Instead of showing a blank page, it’ll show something more useful.

  14. You might be confusing what this post is about

    Always possible.

    My point is that I never have a blank tab. I only create new tabs when I have a link I am planning on visiting. I suspect most people operate that way.

    And it is still not clear to me why having Firefox spend the resources to display something that is almost certainly not what the user wants to see is somehow a positive.

  15. Anonymous says: 08 Mar 2009 - 1:26

    Frecency alone shouldn’t determine what shows up in the new tab. You only want to show pages frequently opened immediately after opening a new tab, rather than pages reached later.

  16. […] é partilhada por Dan Mills, que está a desenvolver uma extensão para o Firefox, chamada “about:tab”, que permite definir uma página inicial dinâmica. Nesta página, o utilizador terá acesso aos […]

  17. would like to use the visual style that you have created

    Right now the new tab page is just a prototype add-on, but I would assume an actual Firefox implementation would be extensible. Add-ons can build on top of it by providing sites to show as well as behavior hooks.

    display something that is almost certainly not what the user wants to see

    Why do you say this new tab page is certainly not what the user wants to see? This new page only appears when you use the “new tab” button, and right now Firefox always shows a blank page. That’s totally not useful.

    Instead of showing nothing, the user would be able to select from actions that are actually useful.

    Frecency alone shouldn’t determine what shows up in the new tab

    And we don’t just use frecency for the reason you explained. :) We take other factors such as the user actually typing in the site as well as previous behavior when picking sites.

  18. Hi Ed,
    Screenshot and idea is very good. But I don’t know why I can not use this. When I open a new tab, it just had a suggest above “Re-open the tab you just closed…” and gray below “Frequently visited sites”. There ain’t nothing!!

    I am using FF3.1 beta 2 on Vista SP1.

    Please help,

    Vu

  19. Pietrr says: 15 Mar 2009 - 2:35

    My problems:

    – When I open a tab , I don’t have the “search for” text on it.
    – I only have two thumbnails , no mather what I do….

    I suggest that you also make a homepage link, and some links you can add yourself to make the new tab page more personal

    but the idea behind this new tab page is really good!
    (sorry for my English, I’m from Belgium and I’m 16…)

  20. Why do you say this new tab page is certainly not what the user wants to see?

    Let’s try a simple thought experiment.

    First off, I am assuming that there is a prototype of this flashy new tab available to you, and that you are using it, at least some of the time.

    If those two assumptions are valid, the obvious question is: How many times was that new, non-blank window what you wanted? By that, I mean how many times did you look at what ever that new tab showed you, and you were done? My guess is never, unless you count the times you were testing the tab itself.

    At best, this new tab is another way to see information people already have access to, and already are accessing other ways they are already used to using, and (horrors) may well prefer to keep using.

    Of course, if the Firefox V:3 tradition is followed, these existing ways will be removed as much as possible when this new tab is installed.

  21. Pietrr says: 15 Mar 2009 - 10:09

    Nice new version, nice design, etc
    don’t know how to use the ‘search’ button. (nothing happens when I click on it)

  22. […] releasing an experimental new tab page for Firefox a week ago, we’ve got a lot of great […]

  23. […] been busy updating the New Tab add-on, About:Tab, since we made it available a couple weeks back based on a lot of feedback in the comments section […]

  24. […] releasing an experimental new tab page for Firefox a week ago, we’ve got a lot of great […]

  25. I’ve made a new post about the next iteration with a Text-based new tab view:
    http://ed.agadak.net/2009/03/new-tab-text-view-customizations

    Make sure you’re running the latest version (right now 0.0.29)!

    When I open a tab , I don’t have the “search for” text on it.

    It’ll only show “search” suggestions if you have something in your clipboard. Try copying some text and opening a new tab.

    I only have two thumbnails , no mather what I do

    If you have no or few sites listed, perhaps you haven’t been typing in the URLs to sites. Right now we look for pages that you type in yourself, but there are browsing behaviors where you never type in a site, so we’ll adjust that in the future.

  26. don’t know how to use the ’search’ button. (nothing happens when I click on it)

    Oops! I’ve fixed that in 0.0.30. Thanks :)

  27. By that, I mean how many times did you look at what ever that new tab showed you, and you were done?

    Are you basically saying that because people haven’t had useful information on the new tab page and didn’t bother looking at the page when opening a new tab, they won’t bother looking even when there is useful information because they’re used to not looking?

    There are plans to make it more adaptive to the user’s behavior. Such as if you never use a certain site listed on the page, it’ll figure out that you don’t want it and automatically get rid of it and try showing something more useful.

    At best, this new tab is another way to see information people already have access to

    Just because it’s accessible in other ways doesn’t mean it could be made more streamlined. If you’re used to opening the Bookmarks Library, opening the folders you want then clicking the bookmark.. you could save a lot more time if you just clicked the site you wanted when opening a new tab.

    The option is there for you to save time by using the new tab page, but sure, if you choose not to use it, it should be smart and get rid of stuff.

  28. […] already written about the About:Tab initial prototype release that provides a streamlined new tab page that needs no configuration, so […]

  29. There are plans to make it more adaptive to the user’s behavior

    I’m not sure I want a program tracking what I do that closely, but never mind.

    … if you just clicked the site you wanted when opening a new tab.

    If you mean what I think you mean, I do that now, which is why I doubt I’ll ever use these changes.

    It sounds to me like this should be an add-on, rather than something built into the browser itself. With a little thought, I suspect the extension could be available right now to the current production versions of Version 3 and maybe even Version 2. That way, people who want it can download it and use it. People who are concerned about the resource usage or privacy issues, or just don’t see the point, can leave well enough alone.

  30. SanderG says: 20 Mar 2009 - 2:17

    About:Tab works great. One issue: for some pages (like http://www.nu.nl) it gives a title “Error Message”. Currently there is no way to edit the title of the site, to alter how it appears in the new tab page. Can this be added under the ‘edit’ functions?

  31. People who are concerned about the resource usage or privacy issues, or just don’t see the point, can leave well enough alone.

    Sure, there’ll be a way to switch between the new tab page and a blank new tab. But the new version has the new tab page pretty minimal — it’s covered up and doesn’t show the sites if you just keep typing with the keyboard.

    it gives a title “Error Message”

    Sounds like a bug, but the new tab add-on just makes use of the title stored in history. So Firefox must be doing something wrong and over-writing the good title with “Error Message”.

  32. Keith says: 23 Mar 2009 - 8:37

    Hi Ed,

    I was using Auto Dial until you informed me of About:Tab. I have installed it but I can’t get it to play nicely with Tab Mix Plus. I’ve tried changing the new tab settings to no avail. Any ideas please?

    Cheers

  33. […] been iterating quickly over the last couple of weeks to define a potential new tab screen for […]

  34. Rockridge says: 26 Mar 2009 - 20:21

    About:Tab 0.0.36 is still buggy for me. When it trys to get RSS feeds, both memory consumption and CPU usage skyroket on my PC with Firefox 3.1 Beta 3. The symptom disturbs my work flow a lot.

    I know About:Tab is included in Code Sprints, but IMO it’s not yet enough to be integrated into Firefox Core. You should change the plan and postpone integration to the next to Firefox 3.5.

  35. I can’t get it to play nicely with Tab Mix Plus

    Tab Mix Plus has a setting to configure what new tab page to show. You’ll want to set it to..
    chrome://abouttab/content/text.html

    When it trys to get RSS feeds, both memory consumption and CPU usage skyrocket

    When do you see that exactly? How many sites are being listed? The new tab page doesn’t actually fetch feeds when you open a new tab.. it does that in the background, so pin-pointing when feeds are fetched is actually kinda tricky.

  36. I almost had that Ed! In TMP for the new page I had:
    chrome://abouttab/content/tab.html
    Would that make a difference from /text.html?

  37. Both chrome://abouttab/content/tab.html and chrome://abouttab/content/text.html should result in the add-on’s new tab page. text.html is the text-based view that we’ve been updating and tab.html is the old thumbnail view. But if both don’t work in TMP, I’m not sure what to do..

  38. OK Ed thanks.

    I’ll look again at my set-up.

  39. But the new version has the new tab page pretty minimal — it’s covered up and doesn’t show the sites if you just keep typing with the keyboard.

    I’m not sure what you meant by that statement, but never mind.

    I still think these changes should be an add-on, not forced on us as part of the browser, but it is clear that option is not going to be considered.

    Bye…

  40. Rockridge says: 31 Mar 2009 - 22:38

    OK, Ed. I seemed to misunderstand a behavior of About:Tab. But my problem is not false. When I open a new tab, a few seconds later, both memory consumption and CPU usage skyrocket before any feeds are shown. Sites are less than 10.

    I confirmed the problem with a trunk build a couple of days ago. Of course I installed it cleanly with a new profile. No other add-ons than About:Tab. I suspect something in the add-on is the culprit.

  41. Sites are less than 10

    That’s probably the reason, but if so, then again it shouldn’t really spike that much.

    The reason is that the current caching behavior saves the top X sites, and if it doesn’t have enough, it’ll try grabbing more (incase you removed any pages). So because you have so few, it tries to keep looking for more. But because you have so few, it shouldn’t really hit your CPU that much…

  42. Rockridge says: 01 Apr 2009 - 17:22

    Ed, probably you hit the nail on the head.
    I’ve disabled About:Tab for about a week and then again enabled it today.
    Eventually, the add-on works fine. It still shows some CPU spike when I open a new tab, but much more moderate. It consumes memory a bit, but not bad.

    The difference is my history data. It has piled up for the days.
    It looks like I can enjoy benefits of your add-on at last.

    Thank you for your advice.

  43. Great addon!

    I don’t get any thumbnails visible, just text. Is there a setting i’ve missed somewhere?

  44. The thumbnail view is mostly for the old version, but you can still get at it by clicking the icon in the bottom corner.

  45. […] about:tab es una nueva extensión para Firefox, desarrollada por Dan Mills, que reúne todos estos conceptos, ofreciendo una interfaz bastante limpia con enlaces a las páginas web más visitadas, hilos webs, búsqueda contextual, y una opción para restaurar pestañas recientemente cerradas, siguiendo además tres principios básicos: sin configuración, limpia y dinámica. […]

  46. HOw do I get rid of the history showing in what SHOULD be my blank NEW TAB page?

    I HATE having stuff on my new tab page.

    It slows down my page loading. It confuses me as to which is a NEW tab page and which is a page I’m working on when I have multiple tabs open. And it is unwanted information in that context of use.
    I can find that info in the Closed List Tabs or elsewhere if I need it.

    So, how do I get rid of the history showing in what SHOULD be my blank NEW TAB page?

  47. Cindy, what add-ons do you have? Did you install this About:Tab add-on? There are other add-ons that change your new tab page such as Google Toolbar.

  48. Cindy says: 22 Oct 2009 - 8:16

    Hi Ed, Thank you for responding.

    It turned out to be an issue with the Google toolbar that added the “feature” of adding my history to a new tab. Yuck!

    Anyway, I turned it off by going into the Google Toolbar Options (right clicked “Google” in the toolbar and selected Options), then UNCHECKED the box that said, “Enable the Google new tab page”.

    Voila! Now I’m happy again. :)

  49. Donald says: 12 Dec 2009 - 17:13

    Is this blogger still alive? This last post is really really old.

  50. Please PLEASE PLEASE update this for FireFox 4.

    I love this thing. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do what is needed for the update. THANKS!!!!!!

  51. delya says: 29 Mar 2011 - 7:41

    sorry, I want some information or help in Romanian

  52. I installed “Add-on Compatibility Reporter 1.0″ and then installed “About:Tab” and it still works well with Firefox 8.0. Is there a reason it is shown as incompatible? I have tried New Tab King and many others, but love the simplicity of “About:Tab”!


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