Monday, July 7, 2008

Tabhunter - A Firefox Extension for the Tab Hoarders Among Us

First, let me get the obligatory apology for being too busy to blog. And like George Carlin's memorable moment, it's gone[1]. Let's move on. We've got a lot of work to do. For one thing, work, or at least my work, has become increasingly more web-based. And since I never was one to write URLs on post-it notes, and I find the bookmarks manager tedious to clean up, I developed a habit of using my pile of tabs as an ever-present todo list. It was convenient, but with 50 or 60 tabs spread over 3 or 4 windows it was getting harder to quickly find things. Especially partially filled in bugzilla reports.

So rather than streamline my work habits (and clean off my desk while I'm at it), I took the developer's usual way out, and wrote a Mozilla extension. It offers two main ways to navigate to any tab in any window -- either use the Tools|Tabhunter popup menu, or try out the Tabhunter Panel, where you can type a substring (actually a JavaScript regex), and it will show all tabs with matching URLs or title fields. So now I can easily switch between bug reports I'm working on, plow (ActiveState's source code search engine), mxr (Mozilla's), "^att" to see the attachments I'm currently working on, and any other pages I'm working on. Finally I don't have to close any tab before its time has come.

Just like building freeways temporarily reduces congestion, only to see an increase in total vehicle usage, I now typically have 100-120 tabs loaded these days, as opposed to the 50 or so I was struggling with a short month ago. And it's a snap to find the tab I need. Yes, you probably want to have a decent amount of RAM to really take advantage of this one. My FF3 sessions tend to run at 300-350 Megs, which these days couldn't cost much more than a pack of post-it notes.

I submitted Tabhunter a week ago to, but it doesn't seem to have gone live yet. But you can get a sneak-preview at (at version 0.6.0 right now). Unfortunately doesn't serve XPI files as Mozilla extensions, so you'll need to save it and open it in Firefox manually, and do the usual extension song-and-dance. Tested with Firefoxes 2 and 3 on the big three platforms, and just for fun, Flock 1.2.1 on Vista. Mozilla rocks.

If any of you are wondering why my side projects always seem to pay homage to pop-culture folks, well, hi David. Once I had the concept down, the name quickly followed, and I couldn't resist passing up the chance to write something with that name. That it turned out to be useful, at least for me, is icing on the cake. For the rest of you wondering what I'm talking about, Tab Hunter (or as I prefer to pronounce it to avoid any confusion, "Tab Space Hunter") is an actor whose career made a meteoric double-start in the late 50s with both #1 songs and Hollywood starring roles (mostly in movies that, shall we say, have not held up over the years). With the arrival of the British invasion and the demise of the American B movie, Tab's career shifted to television, first with his own show, then mostly in supporting roles. People in my generation probably first saw him in the revival of his film career in John Water's Polyester -- we were old enough to know he used to be famous, but too young to know what for. You all know how to google and wikipedal for more info.

I'm reminded of a more recent film: There Will Be Bugs. Please report them to In particular, I'd love a better icon, especially one that combines elements of hunting crossbar scopes and that early-1960s look with champagne glasses and pastel colors.

[1] Apparently NBC reran the very first SNL episode after Carlin's passing. I still remember one of his routines, where he tried out a you-had-to-be-there-and-stoned piece on the momentariness of moments. But in that same routine there was that classic line about how everyone on the road is either an idiot or a maniac--and isn't it amazing with all the idiots and maniacs out there, things work pretty well?

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