Opera '10 and '11: Named tab stacks
Tuesday, January 18, 2011 6:12:24 PM
(Speaking of long-standing bugs, if mostly an annoying one: Opera 11 made a big issue of showing simplified URLs with only the most significant bits and security information in the address bar. That is fine, but the fact is that what is actually in the address bar need not be the page you are at, but some old crud that happen to be in the address bar, like an earlier page, or maybe a typed search, or something else. It is a boring and possibly extensive bug to fix, but in principle it is a security issue. If anything it seems to be worse in Opera 11.)
But I didn't write to gripe, but applaud that Opera finally has tab groups, or tab stacks. As soon as you have more than a dozen tabs active organising them is going to be an issue, and at around the double the number you lose overview completely. It is nice that you can move the tabs around, but a larger group of tabs is unwieldy. Enter the tab stack.
Neat as this may be, it risks a common syndrome of Opera development. New features are developed all the time, hopefully to completion but sometimes only to beta level, and then it is forgotten until subsumed by later features. A decade ago the duel between windows-based browsing and tab-based browsing was resolved into a combined style of browsing, which can be seen in the context menu of a link (where you can open it in a new window or tab). A couple years later Opera got sessions, a feature that left unchanged since it was partially implemented, making it much less attractive than it should have been. However sessions matter for a more important reason because this is what lets Opera restart with all your tabs intact, except of course what you have typed into them, viz bug 155102. Yet later we got some minor tab features like for instance private and pinned tabs.
What if Opera would combine the three separate features of mixed tabs and windows, sessions, and tab stacks into one unified feature? What is an Opera window but a tab stack with a duplicate chrome? What is a window could be turned into a tab stack and vice versa. Likewise a named tab stack and a session could be synonymous. You give a tab stack (or a window), and when it has a name it has an identity that can live on through sessions. The tab stack UI solves the maintenance problem of sessions, there are always some tabs that you don't want in that session any longer and there will be new ones to add. That is exactly what you naturally do with tab stacks. If you don't want a particular tab to pop up next time you activate a session, you just move it out of the tab stack (or into, as the case may be). When tab stacks are unified with sessions, the time would come to simplify the window UI, hopefully in a way that would make the desktop UI more in synch with the device UIs.
Next: Having united these three features, there is a fourth that is living a separate existence from the others, maybe it will be time for a Grand Unified Featureset of tabs and windows.