Tabs are a hack

I don’t like Safari-style tabs. Sure, I use them — and in NetNewsWire if you want to use the built-in web browser, there is no choice) — but I’ve always thought that there should be better ways to manage windows, and it should be built into the operating system. As left to third-party developers, each application implements tabs in a slightly different way. Everything from the visual appearance of tabs, to where they are attached to a window (drawer, sidebar, or toolbar), to how the close box works, to the keyboard shortcuts for opening and closing tabs, to the persistence of tabs.

Instead, Apple should have built upon Exposé to offer system-wide window grouping state, so that in any document-based application the user is in control of how windows are tabbed. Actions like dragging to rearrange tabs could be implemented once and work consistently across all applications.

Of course with Tiger now shipping, it’s probably too late. By the time 10.5 is announced a year from now the damage will be all but permanent. It always impressed me that Apple was so quick to roll out a standard toolbar implementation in both Cocoa and Carbon, and I think we would have seen similar gains from a tabs framework.

Manton Reece @manton