[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.
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!
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…0.3.6.1.080406 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.
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
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.
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. 0.3.6.1.080406 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’.
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 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 0.5.0.4 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 . 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 . While it does indeed close all open tabs as you’d expect, it is much slower than using the ‘Close Other Tabs’ button .
To add this button, after installing the Toolbar Button 0.5.0.4 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.