Tabs in Browsers and Operating Systems

I've been thinking more about using the web browser as an operating system (and a window manager, which is really what this post is about). There's been a lot of focus on tabbed browsing in the last couple of years. Mostly because Firefox and Opera has it while Internet Explorer lacks it. Today it occurred to me that Windows have had tabs for quite some time. At the bottom of the screen there is the bar with the start button and that contains a tab for each application. If we wish to start using the browser as a operating system it is only natural to add tabs.

One thing that I've constantly found frustrating with the tabs in Windows is that I cannot reorder them. They show up in the order the applications were started and stay that way (except for when Windows occasionally freaks out). I find this very annoying. The mind is good at remembering spatial relationships and therefore I try to keep a certain order between the tabs of the applications I use most often. For example I always have Firefox first. But if I need to restart it for some reason it ends up as the rightmost application and the only way to fix that is to close all other applications. Silly. In Firefox I prefer to have the Gmail tab first followed by the Google Reader tab. In version 1.5 it is easy to reorder the tabs if they should end up out of sync which I was very pleased to see.

But the oddest thing I noticed when I realized that Windows also have tabs is that Windows and the browsers don't agree on the placement of tabs. Windows have the tabs at the bottom of the screan while all browsers I know of have the tabs above the web page under the menu and status bar. Isn't that funny? I would think that there would be a most natural placement but so far I have heard noone complaining about either placement. But since Windows allows you to change the placement of the tabs I've now put it at the top of the screen just to see what it feels like. And if it works out I will keep it that way to that I always have my tabs at the top. But now in the beginning it is a very weird experience. I am totally unused to it and it feels very unnatural which surprises me. I suggest you try it too. It remains to be seen if I can manage to keep it this way or if I will have to change back eventually.

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