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firefox 4 app tabsFirefox 4 has been impressing users since its release, offering many useful improvements and tweaks. In fact, MakeUseOf readers recently voted Firefox 4 as the most improved browser for its latest upgrade. That really says something about how much it has changed.

One of the new features of Firefox 4 which is incredibly useful is the idea of App Tabs. Basically, this lets you add the websites you visit all the time to a permanent position in your browser. So you don’t need to create special bookmarks or re-open these sites anymore. They will just sit there ready for your attention when required which is fantastic.

For those of you who have played with many Firefox add-ons in the past, the reality of the new App Tabs is precisely like the use of the Faviconize extension, mixed with the Permanent Tabs extension. Your App Tabs are kept open on the left hand side of your current tabs, with just an icon to indicate the service.

Set Up Your App Tabs

To create your own App Tabs, go to the website you wish to use as an App Tab. When the site is loaded, right-click the tab and choose “Pin as App Tab“. You’ll see the App Tab appear as a small tab to the left of your normal tabs, with just an icon for identification.

firefox 4 app tabs

If you want to keep adding App Tabs, open a new tab then navigate to the page you want and repeat the process. When you’ve got a few App Tabs created, you can rearrange them by dragging them left and right, as with any other tab. Note that these App Tabs will automatically load on the left whenever Firefox is started, even if you don’t normally have the rest of your tabs reload with Firefox.


how to use firefox tabs

Getting Rid Of App Tabs

If you’ve had enough of your App Tabs, simply right click on the tab and choose “Unpin Tab“. You can also drag the tab back into your normal tabs and it will revert to a normal tab itself.

Why Use App Tabs?

So, now you know how to set these App Tabs up, but you might still be wondering what use you could have for them.

Here’s a few good ideas for App Tabs:

  • Gmail, Google Calendar and other Google Docs services (or equivalents) you use.
  • Your favourite online to-do list manager, eg. Remember The Milk.
  • Facebook, Twitter (or other favourite social network).
  • Your favourite news services, eg. Google News, Google Reader, Reddit, etc.

An ideal set-up would be to use your favourite Twitter lists, Facebook friends lists and sub-Reddits in App Tabs in order to keep track of the most important information only.

Other reasons for keeping App Tabs are more practical. Since you can’t accidentally close an App Tab, you can avoid losing emails and Facebook messages you’re in the middle of writing.

App Tabs will also change colour when there’s an update on the page, for instance when you’ve received email or your Facebook news feed has updated.

The App Tabs are essentially a permanent addition to your Firefox set-up and will always open when you open Firefox, so it could potentially save you quite a bit of time with your morning coffee routine, checking email, news and updates from friends.

App Tabs can also be used within Tab Groups The 5 Best Firefox 4 Addons For Tabbed Browsing The 5 Best Firefox 4 Addons For Tabbed Browsing Read More , so you can keep your tabs nicely organised, while enjoying the benefits of these permanent tabs.

More Firefox 4 Reading

If you’ve decided to upgrade to Firefox 4, you might want to check out some of the other new developments we’ve covered at MakeUseOf:

What do you think of Firefox 4? Will you be using the App Tabs? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Jinesh
    May 18, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Use it with Tab Badge add-on for a better experience.

  2. Jinesh
    May 18, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Use it with Tab Badge add-on for a better experience.

    • Angela Alcorn
      June 12, 2011 at 5:21 am

      Thanks, that looks pretty neat!

  3. Andrew Swan
    May 11, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Another way to "accidentally" close them is to open a new window (which doesn't include your app tabs) and when you close the browser, close the new window last. It wipes out your app tabs. I've been stung by that so many times, you have two windows open side by side or something, then you maximise the one with the app tabs, browse a way for quite some time, then close it then you're like "crap, forgot about the other window!".

    The app tabs are an awesome addition ("stolen" or not, I really don't give a damn, they'll all become a standard one day like tabs in general). It'd be good if Mozilla built more functionality into them in general though. Having the option to save your app tabs in the options for instance, like your home page is, would fix a lot of issues with people losing them. It's too clumsy having it set as "whatever your last window state is". The Tab Badge addon should've been a default feature as well, makes app tabs a lot more useful then the only notification to the user being a blue glow.

    • Angela Alcorn
      May 12, 2011 at 5:38 am

      Oh boy, that really is ridiculous. I haven't had that happen to me yet, but no doubt it will. Yes, Firefox have a bit more tweaking to do on this one, for sure!

    • Walter Wego
      June 12, 2011 at 2:13 am

      go to the Foxfire tab -> history -> recent tabs -> restore tabs.

      • Angela Alcorn
        June 12, 2011 at 5:21 am

        That's a good interim fix for when you make a mistake, but Mozilla should still fix the cause of the problem. :)

  4. Joshua
    May 11, 2011 at 5:45 am

    That doesn't mean Chrome had it first. Google just implemented it into their browser because it couldn't be done through a Chrome extension. Firefox has had this functionality through an extension since before Chrome's existence.

    PermaTabs came May 12th, 2006 which made permanent tabs but left the title visible. FaviconizeTab came November 5th, 2006 which allowed you to shrink a tab to just show the favicon. You could simply use these two extensions in combination to create the same effect as Firefox 4 App Tabs.
    Mozilla previewed this feature to be part of Firefox 4. That sparked excitement and the extension App Tabs was released in 2009 which meant you could drop PermaTabs and FaviconizeTabs in favour of having only one extension to recreate the feature.source:

  5. Saikat Basu
    May 11, 2011 at 3:56 am

    The feature was 'borrowed' from Chrome, but it is a welcome addition as tab management has become easier now.

    • Joshua
      May 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Actually Chrome 'borrowed' the feature from Firefox. See my comment above.

  6. Smumdax
    May 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Chrome already had this, called Pin Tab.

  7. Vince
    May 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    "The App Tabs are essentially a permanent addition to your Firefox set-up and will always open when you open Firefox..."

    Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. For some odd reason, the App Tab functionality is tied to the Firefox browsing history. So if you have Firefox set to clear your browsing history upon exit, the App Tabs go with it, and they will not be present when you reopen Firefox. The extensions you mentioned (Faviconize, Permanent Tabs) do not suffer this glaring limitation.

    • Angela Alcorn
      May 11, 2011 at 3:50 am

      I hadn't noticed it doing this - thanks for pointing it out!