Work Around for Firefox 3’s ‘Open in Tabs’ Overwrite Bug

Firefox 3 bugBugzilla Reports: Bug 175124Bug 395024
Forum Threads: mozillaZine | whirlpool
Last Update: August 1, 2008


[Nov 8. 2008 Update: There is a new add-on from the Mozilla add-on directly to solve the problem: ‘Openintabs-erase’. If you try it, please let us know how it went for you in the comment section  below. I haven’t tried it because I’m happy with Martijn’s solution (below).]

[June 30, 2009 Update: Martijn has updated the ReplaceTabs Extension to work with Firefox 3.5. Read about it on the Bugzilla here or download it here. I have tested it both on the iMac and on Windows 7 RC and it works just fine. Do not used the old one crossed-out below if you have Firefox 3.5 or above]


[Update: August 1, 2008: We have a solution! Martijn Warger posted the "ReplaceTabs Extension 1" available here that completely solves the problem! I have replaced all the add-ons discussed below with this tiny Firefox extension (open the downloaded .xpi file with Firefox), and set the about:config ‘browser.tabs.loadFolderAndReplace’ option to ‘true’. Browsing with folder groups in Firefox 3.0.1 now works just as it did in earlier versions of Firefox – overwriting open tabs with your new tabs.  For complete details see my new Fix for Firefox 3’s ‘Open in Tabs’ Overwrite Bug post. Thanks so much Martijn!]


Firefox allows you to organize bookmarks into folders. You can simultaneously open all bookmarks in a given folder by either: 1)  clicking on the " Open all in Tabs" option in the folder; or by 2) middle clicking on the folder itself.

When I use Firefox to browse the Internet, I almost exclusively use this feature to browse by folder groups rather than browsing one site of a time. For example, when I want to catch up on the news, I middle click on the "News" folder on my toolbar. When I wish to read my forums, I middle click on the " Forums" folder on my toolbar. I use dozens of such folders, set up on my Firefox toolbar and in my bookmark hierarchy, to navigate the Internet on any given day.

The Problem

For as long as I’ve been using Firefox (a couple years now), middle clicking on any folder group (the "Forums" folder, in the example above) would overwrite all previously opened tabs (the "News" folder tabs in the example above) . So, for example, if the "News" folder contained eight sites and the "Forums" folder contained 10 sites, after middle clicking on the ‘Forums’ folder, just 10 open tabs would remain.

Starting with Firefox 3, when a new folder group is opened, new tabs are appended to the previously opened tabs rather than overwriting them. So, in the example above, after middle clicking on the ‘Forums’ folder, 18 tabs would remain open instead of 10.

You can see then that, if you browse by folders, as I do, within a short time you could have 100 or more open tabs. This becomes untenable very quickly!

Cascading Tabs' Resulting from Firefox 3 'Open in Tabs' Overwrite Bug

Prior to Firefox 3, if user wanted tab groups be appended, as they are in Firefox 3 by default, they could have set the following ‘about:config’ option to "false" instead of the default  "true".


That about:config option no longer works. Along the way to FF3 a bug crept in and, regardless of whether ‘browser.tabs.loadFolderAndReplace’ is set to ‘true’ or ‘false’, newly clicked tab groups are always appended to open tabs. Open tabs are never overwritten. There is no functioning option at all in Firefox 3 to set it up to overwrite tabs when opening groups the way Firefox has always worked.

I have no problem with the Mozilla developers choosing to change the default group tab navigation behaviour by setting this option to ‘true’ by default instead of ‘false’. Just please fix the bug so that we can set the option to “true” and return overwriting as an option.

There are numerous bug reports on Bugzilla about this. See, for example, here (Bug 175124) and here (Bug 395024). Nonetheless the developers have knowingly decided to release Firefox 3 without fixing the bug.

Four Possible Workarounds (So Far)

[June 19, 2008 Update: This post is getting a lot of attention (for my blog anyway – more than 200 views in one day yesterday).  Workarounds keep coming in. I’ll keep adding better workrounds as they come in.]

Work Around 1:  Second ‘Tab Mix Plus’ Extension (Right Click) Option

[June 19, 2008 Update: Thanks to ajm786 on the Bugzilla forum here and for François X’s subsequent clarification in an email to me, I’m back to using the Tab Mix Plus extension.]

Unbeknownst to me when I wrote the Tab Mix Plus (middle click) option below, by default, the Tab Mix Plus extension has an easy to use right-click workaround. [Update: Aug 1, 2008:  Version. 0.3.7pre.080728 of the Tab Mix Plus extension is downloadable here – note the download page labels it as version… but it isn’t – it seems the developer keeps linking to the newest build without updating the download page. Note also that this newest version is needed for the newest Firefox version 3.0.1].

As you can see below, if you right click on a folder of tabs (in my case I have several folders on my tool bar) the first option in the dialogue box is “Open All in Tabs”. When Tab Mix Plus is installed by default selecting this option results in the new tabs overwriting the old – just the way we like it.

Tab Mix Plus Right Click Solution

This is my current favourite workaround. It’s still a two click solution but its a bit faster and easier than the two-click workarounds below – at least for me.

Work Around 2: The ‘Tab Clicking  Option 0.6.9’ Extension Option

[June 18, 2008 Update: Thanks to cooch for suggesting Tab Clicking Options 0.6.9 (download here) on June 18, 2008 in the comments below.]

Tab Clicking Options 0.6.9 extension does the same thing as the Tab Mix Plus workaround (below) with a lot less overhead.

Note: The two extensions are mutually incompatible. You can choose only one or other.

As shown below, after downloading and installing the Tab Clicking Options extension, open the Options screen, select the “middle click” tab and chose “Close all Tabs” for the ‘on a tab” option.

Tab Clicking Options Extention

Once done, you can middle click on any open tab to close all the currently open tabs before selecting the next group of tabs to open. A two step process, but the best I’ve found so far.

If you don’t need/want all the functionality that ‘’Tab Mix Plus’ extension gives you, this is a light-weight solution.

Work Around 3:  First “Tab Mix Plus’ Extension (Middle Click) Option

[May 28, 2008 Update: This ‘Tab Mix Plus’ section is an update to the original post .]

Thanks to benWorks (here) for pointing out that there is a stable development build (v. of Tab Mix Plus here) that works with Firefox 3 RC1. It does not provide the exact function I’m after that Tab Browser Preferences does in pre-Firefox 3 releases, but it’s a tiny bit better than the Toolbar Button method mentioned below.

In Tab Mix Plus there is a setting to customize what middle clicking on a Tab does. As, you can see below, I set the ‘Middle-click – on a tab’ option to ‘Close all Tabs’.

Middle Click Options on Tab Mix Plus Options Screen

Now when I want to open a new group of tabs I middle-click on any open tab  and then immediately middle-click on the tab group I want to view next. There’s no need to hunt down the little red Toolbar Buttons - 'Close Other Tabs' Button as I did above before opening a new tab group.

Admittedly not a huge difference, but a slight improvement that works better for me.

Work Around 4: The ‘Toolbar Buttons’ Extension Option

[Update: The following was written before I discovered the other extensions above.]

Despite many hours of Google searching I have not found an elegant solution to this problem. None of the Firefox extensions that contain group tab functionality work with Firefox 3. And, I suspect that, even if they did they all rely on the now buggy ‘browser.tabs.loadFolderAndReplace’ option and would thereby be ineffective at providing group tab overwriting functionality.

The only original option I came up with was to close all open tabs prior to opening a new group of tabs. This can be manually done in Firefox by right clicking on any tab and then choosing ‘Close Other Tabs’ before opening the new tab group. The downside, of course, is that this takes multiple clicks and mouse movements and still results in one of the original tabs remaining open.

I also searched through all the Firefox 3 compatible extensions and, as expected, I could not find one that provides a 1-click ‘Close all Tabs’ option.

The first work around I found uses the Toolbar Button extension.

Toolbar Buttons Extension

This nifty extension allows you to add any of dozens of buttons to Firefox 3’a toolbar. One such button is the " Close Other Tabs" button Toolbar Buttons - 'Close Other Tabs' Button. By installing this button on your Firefox 3 toolbar you can, as you’d expect, use it to close all open tabs save one, prior to opening your next group of tabs’.

Toolbar Button also contains a "Close All" button Toolbar Buttons - 'Close All' Button . While it does indeed close all open tabs as you’d expect, it is much slower than using the ‘Close Other Tabs’ button Toolbar Buttons - 'Close Other Tabs' Button.

To add this button, after installing the Toolbar Button extension, right click anywhere on the Firefox 3 toolbar, click ‘Customize’, find it in the group of buttons, then drag and drop it onto your Firefox toolbar.

Incidentally, Toolbar Button contains many other useful buttons making it a worthy addition to your FireFox 3 extension library in any event.

Please add a comment below if you have a better solution.



26 Replies to “Work Around for Firefox 3’s ‘Open in Tabs’ Overwrite Bug”

  1. I really thought I was the only one who used this functionality, and it really pains me to see it gone. I have reverted back to FF2 until I see a working solution.

  2. I feel your pain Joseph! I would revert back myself but FF2 was just too unstable for me – routinely pulling down my systems with memory leaks. As soon as I find a solution, I’ll post it here. I’m keenly looking every day.

  3. What kills me about this is that in all the hue and cry about losing the ability to overwrite existing tabs, people seem to have forgotten that with respect to the append behaviour, there’s also been a change that is not overridable: previous if you had N tabs open and you appended a folder with X tabs, you’d end up with N + X open tabs. Now appending overwrites your current tab with the first of the X tabs and you end up with N – 1 + X open tabs.

    Sure, it’s minor, and sure, it was changed because when you load a single bookmark, it overwrites your current tab and they want to provide consistent behaviour… but it’s still a big change to how things worked before and they don’t provide any way to get back to that behaviour that I got used to… and I assume I’m not the only person who got used to things this way. Having to open another blank tab BEFORE I load a bookmark folder is annoying. Having to finish with the contents of my current tab before I load a bookmark folder is annoying.

    Here’s an example of my personal browsing behaviour where this is annoying: say I’m checking out a movie on IMDb. I have a folder of Google movie showtime bookmarks for the 5 or 6 theatres nearest me. I used to be able to open that folder and not worry about the info on the movie from IMDb getting overwritten by the first theatre’s showtime listings. In Firefox 3, I lose the IMDb content… not permanently because I can always hit “Back” but I can’t have both my IMDb content and my first movie showtime listing content open at the same time. So now I have to open a new window or create a blank tab before I quickly and conveniently open up my showtime listings tabs. *sigh*

  4. I’m glad I’m not alone in this as well. I will be sticking with FF2 until they resolve this.

  5. Joey, I’m not having your experience. If I have just one tab open and I open a group of tabs all at once (and I just tried your exact example of IMDb and local theatres because I do the same thing), the new group opens to the right of the currently open Tab. So, if I had 1 open and open a new group of 5 more tabs I end up with 6 tabs when I, personally, would only want the 5.


  6. I am experiencing exactly this problem as well – for me, it’s nearly use-breaking. I simply don’t understand the logic behind literally removing the functionality of a config option in a new version. It was working before – why SWAP the default behaviour AND prevent users from switching it back? Senseless.

  7. I have run into the same issue, and short of convincing the dev team to reconstitute the ‘missing feature’ into FF3, the following addon seems to help get there from here in the short run – try installing

    Tab Clicking Options (0.6.9 as of this post)

    Its easy to set up a keyboard/mouse combination that closes *all* tabs. If I could hack it to eliminate the need for a mouse click, so much the better, but for now, it at least lets me easily close all active tabs before loading another new tab folder.

  8. Thanks cooch.

    I’ll give that a look. By your description, I’m not sure it gets me any further than the Tab Mix Plus extension, but if its a lighter footprint then perhaps I’ll switch to it. I’ll post an update once I’ve given it a try.

    Thanks again.


  9. Much lighter, IMO. The beta build for Tab Mix Plus works (just tried it), but is so bloated with stuff I don’t want/need, it seems like overkill for present purposes. Plus, its clearly beta – there are a number of glitches with how tabs are rendered, enough to keep me with Tab Clicking Options….for now.

    Note that the two Addons are not mutually compatible (not surprisingly) – one or the other.

  10. Dale,

    Thanks for keeping track of this, this new FF3 behavior annoys me immensely. I installed ‘tab clicking options’ and it makes life a little bit better but still not great….

    Do you have any recommendation on how we can persuade the FF developers to fix this in the next . release? Certain bug we should vote for?



  11. I excitedly downloaded 3.0 on release day and installed it. What a stupid mistake not only did it somehow wipe out my bookmarks and replace them with a set from nearly a year ago, quite what happened there is anyones guess, but it introduced this new “feature” Until a fix is available and I can toggle the behavior to “overwrite” from “append” I’ll have to stick with FF 2. Grrrrrrrrrrr 🙁

  12. This turned out to be a show stopper for me. They made great strides in the performance and memory areas and completely negated them (again, for me) by disabling this option. I can understand both sides of the replace / append argument but removing the option is not an option. Guess I’ll be another one upgrading to FF2 until a better fix comes around….

  13. Johan, all I can suggest is to become a member of Mozilla’s bugzilla development forum and contribute. That’s what I’m doing. As I mentioned above there are several bugzilla threads devoted to this topic. The one I’m participating in the most is here:

    Matt. I share your pain. But FF2 is a real dog with its memory leaks. It was constantly (almost daily) crashing my Vista 64 system and FF3 never crashes. But if you can live with FF2 you could wait it out trhere. My sense is the development team (these are all guys doing this for free so we can’t be too demanding) knows about it and will at some point get around to it. Whether that is next month or next year i can’t say.


  14. We all know about Microsoft products.
    We kwon they suck. But they are almost always backward compatible
    FF3 is not. I stay with 2 until I see a proper solution

  15. I have found another workaround, and it works without extensions. When you want to have a new tab group overwriting another already opened, just right-click one of your tabs (the nearest you can click); a menu appears; choose “close other tabs”; and then middle-click your new folder of bookmarks. The remaining tab will scroll to the left, and all the other tabs will be appended; they will even appear with the first bookmark being the first tab on the left (the older tab will disappear on the left of the browser screen).

    You can do this anytime, after all it’s not so bad to have a remaing tab on the left. I loved the old behaviour, and I’m confident that the mozilla community will add it back to the browser.


  16. I tried the “openintabs-erase” extension and it's maybe another solution for some, but not for me simply because it relies on a middle click behaviour.

    I'm working on a laptop and the middle click is out of question.

    So I'll roll back to the replacetabs extensions, once I'll found out why it makes my personal bar diseappear…

  17. I tried the “openintabs-erase” extension and it’s maybe another solution for some, but not for me simply because it relies on a middle click behaviour.rnrnI’m working on a laptop and the middle click is out of question.rnrnSo I’ll roll back to the replacetabs extensions, once I’ll found out why it makes my personal bar diseappear…rn

  18. Thanks, I’ll check it out. I’m a middle clicker on both my desktops and my laptops. I’m hoping Firefox addresses this in version 3.5 coming out sometime soon.

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