John Gruber points out a post by Basil Safwat that defends Google Chrome’s incorrect placement of the tab close button on Mac OS X. Safwat’s defense of the button is based on some nifty optimizations that Google’s engineers have made to their tab resizing behavior, such that users can continually hover in a single spot and close a large number of tabs with impunity, whether users are closing tabs from the right side of the tab bar or from the left side (see Safwat’s screenshots, if you haven’t already read his detailed analysis).
Like the old fixed-on-the-right-edge-of-the-tab-bar tab close button found in Mozilla and early versions of Firefox, and still seen today in SeaMonkey, I find this behavior very puzzling (actually, I found the Mozilla/Firefox/SeaMonkey version infuriating as well, since when I was mousing, I had to mouse over to the right edge of the window to a close any tab) and am surprised no one has questioned optimizing for it. That is, what is the use-case for serially closing a number of tabs—but not all of the tabs in a window—within seconds of each other, such that delaying the resizing of remaining tabs and the incorrect positioning of the close button on the tab are required? When I open lots of tabs, I typically handle them one by one, closing each when I’m done with it (often opening new ones in the process), and my cursor almost certainly won’t be sitting still in the same place as I interact with and process a series of tabs. Conversely, when I’m going to declare tab bankruptcy, there’s a great close button on the left side of my window to get rid of everything in a single click (well, two, since I have Camino warn me when closing a window full of tabs, but you get the idea), saving myself however many clicks would be required to close each tab individually, immediately after one another. I’m sure now and again I’ve accumulated a small number of throw-away tabs, but it’s never happened frequently enough that I’ve wondered if there were something we could change in Camino to make serial tab closing with the mouse more efficient.
When Firefox moved the close button off of the tab bar and on to individual tabs where it belonged, there were certainly complaints from adherents of the fixed-position button, but their arguments, to the best of my recollection of those long-passed days, were simply “the fixed button makes it easy to close a bunch of tabs at once,” without any explanation of how or when or why those users got themselves into a situation where they needed to close a number of tabs, but not all of them, right after each other.
It’s curious; why put so much effort into optimizing tab resizing after close and so flagrantly violate a cardinal rule of the Mac OS X UI grammar (in Gruber’s terms) that even the notoriously un-Mac-like Opera gets correct, to promote such a seemingly obscure set of browsing habits?