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Google mimics Firefox for managing browser tabs


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Chrome programmers have begun experimental work to endow Google's browser with a full-screen tab-management interface similar to the Panorama feature Mozilla is adding to Firefox.

As browsers have expanded to accommodate ever larger amounts of computing tasks, separating different tasks into different tabs across the top of the browser window, managing them has become more onerous.

A list of five or six tabs isn't so bad, but when there are 20 or 40, it's a different story. Mozilla's Panorama, nee Tab Candy, provides a full-screen view of all a browser window's tabs, grouped how the user desires into sets.

Chrome could get a similar feature, at least on Mac OS X, called "Tabpose." Work on the project began in July, but is labeled "experimental."

Dealing with larger numbers of tabs is a bigger issue as people spend more and more time in the browser, said Linus Upson, Google's vice president of engineering for Chrome and Chrome OS. "I think Mozilla is doing interesting things there," he said. However, he cautioned, Google tries a lot of things that don't necessarily become permanent.

"We try lots of things and experiment. We put things out in the developer channel and take back if we don't like them. The key to building a great user interface is iteration and velocity," Upson said. "We try something, throw it away, and try it again. We put on a shelf, maybe pick it up a few months later."

2vl8qbs.jpgFirefox Panorama lets people group tabs in a visual array in an attempt to bring some order to browser tab chaos.

Chrome gets 'labs' ability

It seems likely people will be able to try it relatively easily, though. Tabpose is one of the features set to be enabled by a new "about:labs" mechanism to enable experimental features. Google likes the "labs" approach to letting people try new technology, with labs projects for search, Gmail, Maps, and more.

That contrasts with today's much more user-unfriendly mechanism, launching Chrome with specific options enabled via textual command-line "switches" or "flags." Changing Chrome options by using a regular browser interface is similar to Mozilla's "about:config" command, which exposes many options for tweaking Firefox behavior.

But Google has a little more on its mind than just convenience, Upson said. That's because Chrome OS doesn't expose any underlying operating system to make the change.

"With Chrome OS, it's challenging when it's the whole operating system and there is no command line you can launch it from," Upson said.

On Windows, the "about:labs" mechanism also will be used to enable a feature to put tabs on the left side of the interface.


One aspect of Chrome's hardware-acceleration approach.

Graphics chip acceleration

After a few months of planning, Google also revealed Friday its full plan for Chrome's hardware acceleration technique. Hardware acceleration lets faster, more power-efficient hardware handle tasks such as scaling images, drawing vector graphics, processing Web page display instructions, and rendering text, and it's a big performance overhaul under way in the browser market.

Google had a trickier time implementing hardware acceleration than some rivals because Chrome isolates browser rendering chores into a separate process that for security reasons isn't permitted to talk directly to the operating system's hardware interfaces. Thus, Google needed to create a separate process with appropriate authority to enable hardware acceleration.

It's not yet clear when exactly hardware acceleration will arrive in Chrome. Many features, such as accelerated compositing of two-dimensional Canvas graphics, were just pushed back from Chrome 7 to Chrome 8. The move happened about the same time that Google began working on the development version of Chrome 7.

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meh chrome still sucks unless it beats firefox in everything, not just speed.

Well, due to the numerous changes for Firefox 4.0 add-ons, Google Chrome now has more working extensions than Firefox 4.0. I never saw that coming. :blink:

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I would wait for a final release of 4.. and technically.. IMO .. tab handling still needs WORK.. ( in almost all of them ) and for anyone who has any sense left out there.. Google will never MIMIC TabMixPlus .. ( I have yet seen a company officially off the proper broad spectrum options that it offers which is necessary to take care of it ) anyways.. which I think is an essential extension.. but I dunno..' a little ' better - at a time I guess..

I think the little option is nice and eye candy-ish.. but you should have it function well enough.. to be able to fly it blind.. IMO.. even without the tab bar..

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