Friday, April 22, 2011

Solved! The mystery of the dissappearing app tabs.

App tabs is a lovely feature of Firefox 4. It allows you to sticky tabs turning them into small icons on the left hand side of your tab bar. Firefox will remember your stickied tabs between sessions.  I make gmail an app tab for example and every time I run Firefox there is the gmail tab waiting for me unobtrusively in the top left hand corner of my screen. I find the feature less obtrusive and yet more useful than the speed dial feature in Opera because you don't have ot go to the home page to get your frequently used tabs.

Unfortunately the current incarnation of app tabs don't seem to be as sticky as you would like them to be.One issue is that they start up to the last page you viewed in the tab rather than your chosen page. The app tab for Gmail for example is likely to show you the email you were reading the last time you shut down Firefox.  Another annoyance is that Firefox sync doesn't sync app tabs between different computers. The most infuriating feature however is that Firefox regularly seems to forget all my app tabs forcing me to set them up all over again.

Until today I couldn't figure out why this was happening. Most of the time app tabs worked great but once every few days I would open the browser to find my special tabs gone. Searching on google pointed to the fact that Firefox stores its app tabs in recent browser history and the clear history button also wipes app tabs. While this is not ideal it is not the cause of my disappearing tabs because I never clear my browser history. Today I finally stumbled across the explanation in this post on Mozilla forums.

The answer relates to the fact that Firefox stores the last state of your app tabs every time you close down. If you open multiple browser windows then it will only remember your app tabs if the last window you close has the app tabs. I use two monitors on my computer and occasionally I will spawn a second browser window to compare pages side by side. Only the main window has app tabs. If I close the main window first and the daughter window last then all my app tabs disappear.

Now that I know why this happens I can hopefully remember not to do it again but I do think it would be better if app tabs were defined in a more permanent way. If I can find a useful way of making this suggestion on Mozilla's forums I will.

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