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Will Tabbed Windows Be the Next Big Thing? 528

Posted by timothy
from the oh-for-the-love-of-gimp dept.
kai_hiwatari writes "The recently released KDE SC 4.4 Beta 1 has introduced tabbed windows as a new feature. It is now possible to tab together windows from different applications. This looks like it will be a very good productivity tool. Like the tabbed browsers, this may well end up as a feature in all desktop environments in the years ahead."
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Will Tabbed Windows Be the Next Big Thing?

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  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ark42 (522144) <slashdot@mo[ ]eu ... t ['rph' in gap]> on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:44PM (#30346094) Homepage
    Really, what's the point of having windows not Maximized. As far as I can tell, you'd be better off with the taskbar in windows being like tabs, and being able to drag tabs together to form split pane views for side-by-side work. I hate having to manually drag the edges of windows, and I hate when they are not fullscreen (or minimized). Yes I know about "Tile Windows Horizontally" but it just makes extra fluff for the borders of each window compared to a tabbed/paned view. Pretty much a big failure on OS X that their Maximize doesn't even always make a window full screen.
  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultrabot (200914) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:45PM (#30346100)

    Why is this a big deal?

    Fluxbox (and probably something else before *box) had tab grouping windows long time ago.

    It's a big deal because a mainstream WM is finally adding it; and people don't need to lose all the KDE goodness just to get this feature.

  • by RocketRabbit (830691) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:46PM (#30346104)

    Tabbed browsing makes sense. You have one application, a web browser, with multiple pages, taking up less screen space. It's tabbed so you don't have to click on a bunch of minimized windows or use Expose or whatever shiny workalike the Gnome / KDE bunch has now to find what you want, and so you aren't cluttering up the desktop with a hundred web browser windows.

    However, there is something to be said for separating out the different applications and simply clicking the icon or what have you, to switch between them. In fact, isn't that what Windows has had for about 15 years now? Sure, the application tab bar goes on the bottom the screen by default, and is called the "Start Menu" but it is essentially, exactly what is proposed here.

    The problem is that you end up filling up the bar, and then having to collapse the bar in one of several ways, all of which are annoying.

    Expose, or whatever the Gnome / KDE equivalent is, is so much handier.

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  • Not sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:49PM (#30346152)
    I was under the impression that in OS X maximize sized the window to the content. For instance if the thing is small it will not expand the window and fill it up with whitespace. Seems a bit smarter to me than having an overly large window. Of course if the content spans past the dimensions of the monitor then it will go full screen to try and fit as much possible in.
  • by minderaser (28934) <minderaser.freeshell@de> on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:50PM (#30346160)

    Not when *nix for eons has had multiple desktops to divide up your work projects et al. For me, I keep my browser on one (albeit in tabs), comm on another (email, IM, etc), terms on another, and have another just for random programs I don't use all that often (GIMP, PDF Viewer, etc).

    How can tabbing windows of different apps be any better than just alt-tab switching them?

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZERO1ZERO (948669) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:50PM (#30346168)
    The point of the windows is that you can drag stuff between them, you can't do this efficiently if they are maximised. And view two or more thing at once together. Manually dragging the edges of windows can suck, but in 'traditional' setups, you use the lower right corner (which is a big target) to adjust the size and the title bar (which is a big target) to adjust the position. Most Linux WMs also have ALT shortcut which makes large percentages of the windows 'hot' for adjustment.

    Taking it a step further, (or back depending on POV) the original Mac WIMP implementation has a metphor of 'the desktop' and each window represents a _document_ or a physical _thing_. Desks are generally large enough to handle more than one bit of paper for example, and usually once document doesn't take up the whole desk.

  • Re:Simply put (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Interoperable (1651953) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @05:57PM (#30346232)
    It's an option. You can choose not to use it. It could be handy in some situations or appeal to particular users in which case you can use it. As long as it's stable and doesn't consume resources unduly, why wouldn't you want the option?
  • Re:Not sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Firehed (942385) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:00PM (#30346270) Homepage

    Indeed - and for this reason, it's a "zoom" button rather than "maximize" (which is just being pedantic, but I figured it's worth pointing out). Anyways, when I first switched over to the Mac platform that drove me insane. After a couple of weeks I got used to the change, and after a couple more weeks found it far more useful than having a single window fill the screen. Since windows aren't taking more space than they need, it allows me to either have more windows visible (on a large monitor, anyways) or have at least some of the other apps I'm working with partly exposed so I can click to them more easily.

    Of course, there are some situations where I want maximized windows for distraction-free work, but that's pretty limited in nature (reading or writing, in the English not code sense) and many of the apps that are very text-heavy have the zoom button do a typical maximize for that precise reason.

    And still, if it bothers you that tremendously, you can always drag the window to the full screen size.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:05PM (#30346326)
    You might as well ask what's the point of having windows. The concept never really caught on in Windows, in spite of its name, but it's very useful to be able to have many things on screen at once, especially when none of them requires a full screen anyway.

    Take this web page: if you have a large widescreen monitor and you maximize the browser, you get a silly layout, with very long text lines that make reading harder. Many websites work around this problem by using a fixed width layout, but then you just end up with two large empty areas on the sides of the actual webpages; or, worse yet, they may be filled with animated advertisements. A better solution is to make the browser window only as wide as it needs to be, so you can use the leftover space to keep an eye on other things, such as your email or an IM conversation. If you have a large monitor, you can even open two web pages side by side.
  • Re:Simply put (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:10PM (#30346370) Homepage Journal

    As long as it's stable and doesn't consume resources unduly, why wouldn't you want the option?

    Because to a lot of people on /. (and everywhere else, to be sure) the way they do things is the One True Way, and anyone who disagrees with their way of doing things is clearly evil, insane, or a moron (possibly all three.) "My workflow is Good And Right; yours is Inferior And Must Be Destroyed. Users must not even have the option to follow your unclean way, lest they be tempted from the path of righteousness!" That kind of thing.

  • Re:Simply put (Score:3, Insightful)

    by crispytwo (1144275) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:20PM (#30346456)

    I use 'spaces' on the mac or multiple desktops on linux (windows has nothing useful) for the same thing now. Why would tabs be any different?

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:29PM (#30346554) Journal

    Judging by the screenshot [], Ion appeals to a specific type of eccentric.

  • Re:Simply put (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KrimZon (912441) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:36PM (#30346628) Homepage

    Yeah, plus spaces/workspaces offer the added benefit of being able to see multiple task-relevant windows at once. For example one to read from and the other to type into, or having multiple information displays at once.

    What workspaces need though is the ability to create workspaces when you need them and destroy them when they're unneeded as opposed to having a fixed number of them, and possibly more refined or enhanced ways of identifying those spaces at a glance (without any further input needed).

  • Re:Simply put (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @06:55PM (#30346768)

    As long as it's stable and doesn't consume resources unduly, why wouldn't you want the option?

    Because to a lot of people on /. (and everywhere else, to be sure) the way they do things is the One True Way, and anyone who disagrees with their way of doing things is clearly evil, insane, or a moron (possibly all three.) "My workflow is Good And Right; yours is Inferior And Must Be Destroyed. Users must not even have the option to follow your unclean way, lest they be tempted from the path of righteousness!" That kind of thing.

    You might have meant that to be facetious (or maybe you didn't) but I have often noted the same. For most non-trivial things, there are matters of taste, preference, or opinion about which extremely informed experts can legitimately disagree. Yet there is often a great desire to make a pissing contest of these things. Some people have a very strong need to be right, and it's not good enough for them that they are "right"; someone else must also be "wrong". I believe this is rooted in some kind of personal insecurity. That is, they derive their personal security from trying to dominate or feel superior to others, rather than viewing personal security as something that comes from within. You really nailed it, however: the tendency is marked by an inability to disagree with someone on a matter of taste/preference/opinion without also portraying that person as stupid.

    I suppose that behavior has some "success", if you want to call it that, among people who are either insecure themselves (and thus intimidated by the idea that someone might think they are stupid) or unfamiliar with argumentation. When used on such people, it must achieve the desired result of a sense of superiority at least some of the time, or else it would not be so commonly practiced. However, for anyone not fitting that description, such techniques immediately and unmistakably betray the weakness of the position of anyone who uses them. They can even make a position weak that otherwise would be factually or technically correct. Usually, they also reveal various personal shortcomings. This makes the use of such techniques a sure way to humiliate oneself when dealing with anyone who can see through them.

  • Less Simply put (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dov_0 (1438253) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @07:09PM (#30346886)

    As someone who argued strongly with the Nautilus team for tabs a couple of years ago, I love tabs in applications. gedit, nautilus, firefox, gnome-terminal etc all have tab capabilities and I find all of them quite useful for having several things running IN THE SAME APPLICATION at once. Tabs within a lot of apps make sense. I find it hard however to find grouping applications together such a useful feature. I like to size my app windows differently, depending on the window layout for instance. The only common use I can really think of is connecting an open file browser window to an app. Past that, laying things out in separate desktops would seem to be a far neater alternative. If I'm really busy, I just double my number of desktops.

    This being KDE however, I can kinda understand where they are coming from. They seem to be pushing more and more to become a viable desktop environment alternative for Microsoft Windows as well as in Linux, so tabbing applications could make a lot more sense for MS Windows users who are only used to one desktop.

    My real concern however is that while KDE has some absolutely fantastic apps, great code and brilliantly logical ideas behind how they design their desktop environment, I've never found it stable enough to install on anyone's pc. It's just too easy to stuff up the taskbar etc and too busy/confusing for people who aren't very computer literate. In fact I've seen KDE (both 3 and 4) turn those interested in trying Linux into people who really distrust any Linux desktop. It's a real shame as there is a lot of really great work done in KDE.

  • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bwerf (106435) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @07:21PM (#30346974)

    I've used VirtuaWin, and a bunch of other virtual desktop apps for Windows. And I have to agree with crispytwo (windows has nothing useful). That said, I'd be very happy if someone could prove me wrong.

  • Re:So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @07:30PM (#30347066)
    Yeah, but you don't have to use KWin to use the rest of KDE. Once upon a time I used Windowmaker as a WM and KDE as a DE and it was pretty nice. I lost very little KDE goodness.
  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @07:52PM (#30347238)
    Typographers know that overlong lines make reading harder from over five centuries of experience printing books. User interface specialists confirm it. If you like 400-character lines, maybe you're special, or maybe you simply don't know any better.
    I mean no offense, but your other remark suggests the latter: I have been browsing with a non-maximized window for years, and I can assure you that there is no "constant resizing and repositioning". You can just keep your windows at slightly over 1000 pixels wide, and it works fine for all websites.
    When you do decide to adjust things a bit (perhaps to make more room for keeping another another window visible), dragging the corner of the window (I use a Mac) is no more work than clicking on a tab or on a button in the taskbar, actions you do thousands of times a day without complaining. You're just adding maybe five clicks a day to those thousands.

    OTOH, you make some good points about the history of Windows.
  • Re:Simply put (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordVader717 (888547) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @07:54PM (#30347260)

    I think the problem is that the Windows task bar just isn't very good. What made tabbed browsing so convenient was that you could load a web page with one click of the mouse while the last one was still open. Doing the same thing with new windows in the task bar is clumsy

  • Re:Not sure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IntlHarvester (11985) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @07:57PM (#30347282) Journal

    Only problem with your theory is that none of that worked on the original Macintosh. It was a single tasking OS, and the desktop was inaccessible while running an app. And "clippings" didn't appear until System 7.something.

    The original intent was probably to enable window switching within an application.

    Also I've noticed that a lot of Mac blowhards on this site love to frame these things in terms of the "original Mac" or "since 1984", when it is clear they probably have never used anything under MacOS 8.

  • Re:Not sure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by commodoresloat (172735) * on Sunday December 06, 2009 @08:17PM (#30347446)

    That's exactly my understanding of the way this should work, and OS X generally does it quite well IMHO. It does fail pretty bad in some applications though, notably MS Office apps. But the GP view is 180 degrees from my ideal user experience; the way Windows handles maximization of windows is one of the bigger reasons I have always preferred MacOS. I *like* being able to see other windows behind where I am when I'm working in multiple programs (which is almost always). I can't stand opening up a 2 paragraph document and having it take over the entire screen. And, frankly, I don't think tabbing the entire user experience will improve this at all.

    Remember, MacOS X did exactly the right thing with tabbed browsing. It was a concept *explicitly* ruled out in their human interface guidelines, but after they saw what was happening with Mozilla, they made a decision to chuck the HIGs for Safari and create the most lickable tabbed browsing experience they could. The guidelines adapted without being swept completely in another direction -- tabbed browsing is available when it makes good sense for it to be available, but it doesn't dominate the user experience. Hopefully OS X will show similar restraint if tabbed windows do in fact "become the next big thing."

  • Re:Simply put (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nested (981630) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @08:47PM (#30347712)
    I use three desktops and bind Spaces to F1 and then Expose Show All Windows to F2. So a quick hit of F1 then F2 shows a complete overview of everything I'm working on. Love for the OS X.
  • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @08:50PM (#30347740)

    Isn't the point of having a windowed user interface that you can multiple windows concurrently open _next_ to each other? If you tab them contextually you then limit interaction to a single window. So, next big thing? How about, the old thing we all know?

    It's an interesting idea to group applications by task into what would essentially become an IDE. That model only works if you can save and restore the context in some efficient manner that you can tear-down and rebuild on the fly.

  • Re:Simply put (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KibibyteBrain (1455987) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @08:53PM (#30347760)
    But Workspaces have been around for years and years and have never caught on. This model might offer greater usability. Also, it reduces two use modes to one, as people already use tabbed applications. It's worth experimenting with, at least.
  • Re:Simply put (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BrokenHalo (565198) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @10:36PM (#30348554)
    But Workspaces have been around for years and years and have never caught on.

    On Windows, that might be because not many people went to any trouble to publicise or install them. Most Linux or *nix desktops have had workspaces by default for so long, they've become an integral and normal part of the way people work, and for most people they are now indispensible.
  • Actually (Score:3, Insightful)

    by commodoresloat (172735) * on Sunday December 06, 2009 @10:48PM (#30348616)

    If you want to combine the best of OSX and Windows, you absolutely need Switcher.

    Actually, if you combine the best of OS X and Windows, what you get is OS X.

  • by SuperDre (982372) on Monday December 07, 2009 @04:57AM (#30350554) Homepage
    I'm sorry to say this, but 'good productivity tool'? is all in the eye of the beholder.. personally I don't think tabbed browsing is anything better as seperate windows. And having different windows tabbed together don't seem like a handy tool to me.. but as I said it's all in the eye of the beholder, wahat works for you certainly doesn't mean it works for someone else..
  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HateBreeder (656491) on Monday December 07, 2009 @05:51AM (#30350826)

    Forget about the non-gurus...
    even gurus don't have the will to tinker about their settings for days on end just to get something trivial working.

    We want to it to work already so that we could get around to doing our OWN work.

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