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Google gives up on the idea of vertical tabs in Chrome

Barry Collins
19 Jan 2015
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Google can't make vertical tabs concept work, admits engineer

Google has thrown in the towel on the idea of introducing vertical tabs into the Chrome browser. Google Chrome, like the rest of the major web browsers, currently puts browser tabs across the top of the screen, but had been experimenting with running them down the left-hand side. 

However, on a long-running post discussing the issue, an engineer working on Chromium - the open-source browser from which Chrome draws much of its code - says the concept has been dropped. "After some experiments with vertical tabs in Chrome, we decided that most people who want vertical tabs really want tree-style tabs," the engineer posted on a Chromium forum, referring to tabs that can be nested to appear under one another. "However, the complexity of a tree-style interface in terms of usage is beyond what most users need or want, and in terms of implementation is more than passes the cost/benefit test for building into Chrome natively as an option."

The concept may not be completely dead in the water. The engineer suggests it might be introduced as an add-on for the browser, if someone were willing to pick up the project. "I think it is completely legitimate to propose providing such UI as an extension," the engineer writes, in a post first spotted by users of Slashdot. "The key element that such an extension would need is some kind of sidebar-like surface to render the tab UI on.

"The primary blocker to such UI is having someone to work on it: no one in the community has stepped forward to do the work to drive the feature to completion. If someone seriously did so, I think we would be willing to review the patches."

Vertical tabs would arguably make better use of the available screen space for power users running a high-definition widescreen monitor. Most web pages are far narrower than PC screens, leaving blank spaces to either side, which could be filled with a sidebar containing the tabs. What's more, when a user has several tabs open at the same time, the tab labels start to be squeezed, sometimes making it hard to read the title of the page. That's not a problem if the tabs are running vertically, as the labels are always displayed at the same width.

Those who crave vertical tabs can get them if they switch to the Firefox browser and install the Tree Style Tab extension, which displays tabs as shown in the screenshot below.

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