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Jaguar Brings Back Tabbed Windows?

Excitement ran high recently on TidBITS Talk, when Jim Grisham mentioned that it seemed as though some of the behavior for Mac OS 9’s tabbed windows was partially available in Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar. Further investigation showed that Apple may be aiming at returning tabbed windows to Mac OS X, but the feature isn’t quite there yet. Despite that disappointment (some of us here at TidBITS remain big fans of tabbed windows), Jaguar’s new capabilities with regard to obscured windows are welcome, and you might find them useful in your everyday work.


Pseudo Tabbed Windows — To see what caused all the excitement, first put your Dock on the left or right side of the screen. Then open a window in the Finder and drag it all the way to the bottom of the screen so only the title bar shows. It fits down there nicely, and, if the window is fairly narrow, even looks a bit like the tabs of old. Now drag a file onto the tabbed title bar and pause briefly. After about two seconds, the window smoothly slides up. (If you press the Spacebar while hovering over the tabbed title bar, the window pops up immediately.) Without letting up on the mouse button, drag the icon off the tabbed title bar, and the window smoothly slides back down, just like the tabbed windows of old. The problem is that if you actually drop the icon into the window in its open state, it stays open, which is not how tabbed windows worked.

Now, let’s say you want to get something out of this pseudo tabbed window. It has no tab to click, of course, but if you click the green zoom button, the window immediately zooms to a size large enough to display the contents of the folder. Click the green zoom button again, and it shrinks back down to the tabbed title bar look. (Occasionally, you may have to click the zoom button an extra time or two, as the Finder flips between different states for the window.) Again, it’s not quite the way tabbed windows worked, since they would open automatically when you clicked anywhere on the tab and close automatically as soon as you clicked outside the open window.

The behavior is slightly different if you put your Dock on the bottom of the screen. With the Dock showing, you can’t drag windows so only their title bar shows, and although dragging an icon to a visible portion of the window’s title bar does cause it to slide up and reveal the entire window, it’s hard to avoid dragging onto the Dock. You can hide the Dock by choosing Turn Hiding On from the hierarchical Dock menu in the Apple menu, but that doesn’t solve the problem entirely. You still can’t get only the window’s title bar to show, and dragging an icon all the way to the bottom of the screen causes the Dock to pop up.

But these behaviors provide a hint to the more generalized explanation of what is going on, which Gordon Meyer alerted us to on TidBITS Talk. In Jaguar, if you drag an icon onto a portion of a window that’s obscured, either by another window or because it’s partially off-screen, the Finder treats it like a spring-loaded folder, either by bringing the window to the front or moving it so you can see its contents. You can try this by shoving a window almost entirely off the left or right edge of the screen and then dragging an icon to it – you’ll see the window slide over smoothly. The effect is most striking if the window is in one of the lower corners of the screen, since then it slides up on a diagonal.

In short, though Jaguar doesn’t yet have tabbed windows, you can simulate some of how they worked, and no matter what, it’s good to know that dragging something to a partially obscured Finder window (you must be in the Finder when you start the drag) will cause that window to reveal itself.

Tabbed Application Launchers — If you like the tabbed window approach and want to use it in other contexts, check out Sig Software’s Drop Drawers X, an application launcher that offers a tabbed window interface. Also, the recently released DragThing 4.5, also an application launcher, offers a mode in which any of its docks can be turned into a drawer. Although both of these utilities offer extensive customization capabilities and numerous other features, neither exactly duplicates the basic functionality of Mac OS 9’s tabbed windows, which display the constantly updated contents of a folder.



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