FireFox 2.0 just relased its Release Candidate 2, which means it’s nearing its final version. Overall, it’s much faster than 1.5 (the only new feature that I really care about, actually), but it is plagued by one change that is irking me to no ends: they changed the tabbed UI.

Compare the 1.5 version:

to the 2.0 version:

With FireFox 1.5, there is only one close button (at the very end of the bar) and all the tabs open are visible at all times. With FireFox 2.0, each tab has an individual close button and instead of bunching up, the open tabs continue off the screen, and a drop-down allows you to jump to one that’s not currently visible.

This is very wrong for two reasons:

  • The close button now changes places all the time. I just never know where
    to find it:  I need to first find what tab is currently highlighted (not very easy to do with MacOS because the difference between the active and inactive tabs is subtle) and then click it. After two weeks using FireFox 2, I still find myself closing the wrong tab once in a while. Actually, I’ve sometimes even closed the tab I wanted to jump to by accident because I clicked on its close button when I only intended to activate it…

  • More than once now, my muscle memory have led my mouse cursor toward the
    rightmost close button, thereby expecting to close the tab I’m currently
    reading while, of course, closing one I haven’t read yet.

This is such a huge UI mistake that I’m still shaking my head in disbelief.

Here is the rationalization offered on the Mozilla Web site:

Power users who open more tabs than can fit in a single window will see arrows on the left and right side of the tab strip that let them scroll back and forth between their tabs.

Well, sorry, but that doesn’t hold water, and I’m sure that if they had conducted even only one usability study, they would have found that there is a vast majority of users who just think the older UI is more functional.

But I’m open-minded, and I certainly understand the value of evolving user interfaces over time, but when you are altering something that is so fundamental to basic navigation, the least you can do is offer a switch to users who prefer the older behavior (like Eclipse wisely did). Unfortunately, such a setting is nowhere to be found in the Tabs configuration.

I hope the FireFox developers do the right thing and introduce this setting before 2.0 goes final.