I’ve been experimenting with how we can use tabs inside Thunderbird.
The previous tabbing post already discussed how tabs help people to keep their current context and multi-task more flexibly. I’ve created a number of designs that look into using tabs in Thunderbird so email users can have the same kind of power over their context.
In Tabs By Default
To keep your current context of email reading, searches will open up in a new tab by default. Such that anytime you’re in the All Mail tab and start a search the results will open in a new tab. Opening up the Calendar, Tasks, and Contacts will also open up by default in a new tab as well. Tabs will need to be fast to open.
Much like you could want quick bookmarks to open up the web pages that you access frequently Thunderbird needs a way for users to open up different types of tabs that are unique and used frequently.
Tab shortcuts allow us to offer a default set of tab locations that users may want to open. We can also offer this location up to extensions to enable them to add in their own shortcuts for items like CRMs, Thunderbrowse, and other elements that would want to be opened up in tabs.
With shortcuts we should also focus on some ideas for preventing people from opening up too many tabs of the same interface. Perhaps something that (on mouse over) shows you the other tabs of that type already opened.
New Tabs / Summary Views
Sometimes you just want a new tab to start fresh, there are lots of reasons to start a new tab. For this we have a new tab button that allows Thunderbird users to open a new, empty tab.
Upon opening a new tab Thunderbird could just show a blank page and focus the search bar. However it would probably make more sense to use the opportunity to open up a summary view page while the search bar is focused.
This summary page could use the widget system that Spicebird uses or just give a static summary of your mail, events, and tasks. Adding in items for recent searches could be good as well. Pulling information from places like whoisi about my contacts could be another interesting element to this summary page.
There’s still lots of work to be done and issues to understand; this design work isn’t finalized. For tracking the Thunderbird tab work that’s planned for Thunderbird 3, see bug 21899 where I’ll be posting more comments and designs. Comments on this blog are always appreciated as well.