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How to disable the new tab move centering animation in Firefox 17+

December 6, 2012

This article is for Firefox version 17+ users who open many tabs at a time in one browser window. If you regularly reposition some tabs and are aggravated with the changes to the way tabs now move to the center of the tab bar when you drag them, I found a solution to revert to the old behavior.

Firefox web browsers are known as tabbed browsers because they allow you to open multiple web pages inside one browser window, each in its own separate clickable tab. Clicking on a tab brings that web page into view, hiding all others behind their clickable tabs. These tabs contain the title of the document, as is displayed in the "Title Bar" that one normally sees on top of a browser window.

When one opens multiple websites, or HTML pages in separate tabs, inside one browser, the tabs line up next to each other, to the right of the previous tab, in the order in which they are launched. Normally, they are launched by the same code that used to cause a new browser window to appear. That HTML code is: target="_blank". If one clicks a hyperlink in an email message from their desktop email client, the web link will open in a new tab all the way to the right side of all previously opened tabs.

The location of the open tabs in the Firefox browser is called the "Tab Bar." By design, users have always been able to drag any tab to a different position in the tab bar. This allows one to position the most important tabs to one side or the other. I usually group my always opened tabs towards the left side of the tab bar, then open or move new tabs to the right of my primary tabs.

Let me describe what I am referring to. In previous versions of Firefox, when one had a lot of tabs open in the tab bar and wanted to relocate one or more tabs, you dragged one tab to the new position and dropped it there. Sometimes, when more than 10 or 12 tabs are open, this required us to move that tab beyond the entire visible row of open tabs. One could see the other tabs move to the right or left at whatever speed you moved the dragged tab at. When you found the desired new location, you let go and there it stayed. If you needed to move a group of related tabs to a new location, you dragged one all the way to the right or left edge and dropped it off. Then, you began dragging the rest next to it and each other, forming a little freight train of tabs. One could do this until the entire group was fully relocated in the tab bar.

The new behavior has made moving ones tabs into a game of chance. The wise guys at Mozilla have animated the tabs that are being dragged so that they remain basically centered in the tab bar, as you drag them around! Move it three browser widths and it is still apparently in the middle of the tab bar. Want to gather other related tabs to the same location? Good luck! Go find them using the right/left arrows, or the master tab finder button at the right edge of the tab bar. Then, you have to drag each one, one at a time to the new location, next to the first one you moved. Each time you drag a tab, it appears stationary and centered, even though it is flying past other tabs. This is most frustrating!

I found a fix that can be added to the browser's configuration page. It is one line of code, with one switch.

The code that disables the new animation of moving tabs is as follows:


That line does not exist in Firefox by default. It needs to be added, then you must set it to "true." Here's how.

  1. Click on the browser's title bar and press the Ctrl and T keys together.

  2. A new tab opens on the right.

  3. Click in the Location Bar and type this address: about:config then press the "Enter" key

  4. Right click inside the lower secion of the configuration section, amid all of the listed settings.

  5. From the flyout options, select New > String (click on String)

  6. Type in, or copy and paste this string into the input box labeled "Enter the preferrence name": extensions.tabutils.disableTabMoveAnimation

  7. Click the Okay button. to save the name and close the first box.

  8. A second box will now open asking for a value. Type in the word "true" and press Enter or the Okay button.

  9. Restart (close, then open) the browser for the change to take effect. Check your File menu list to see if Restart is one of the options. Mine has it, but I may have added it as an Add-on.

After adding this change I see that as I move a tab around, the ones next to it move out of the way in an animated motion, but the dragged tab moves laterally past the other tabs in the direction I am dragging it. If I drag it past the end of a window full of tabs, the new one still moves whichever way I am dragging it, past a new window full of tabs, until I find its new home. I can then go back and gather related tabs and easily drag them into a group in the new location, just like I could in previous versions of Firefox. Problem solved!

I don't know if Mozilla has any plans to reverse the action of dragged tabs, or leave this new system in place. Some may think it is a cool Web 3.0 feature, but I disagree as do many others. I like the way tabs were moved in previous versions and have had to take matters into my own hands to get that action back.

Update; 12/6/2012:

My profound thanks to the author of Tab Utilities extension for Firefox for contacting me about the solution. You can install the TabUtilities Add-on and it will allow you to revert your tabs to the previous versions' behavior, without manually editing your about:config file..

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Wiz FeinbergWiz's Blog is written by Bob "Wiz" Feinberg, an experienced freelance computer consultant, troubleshooter and webmaster. Wiz's specialty is in computer and website security and combating spam. Wizcrafts Computer Services was established in 1996.

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