How-To Geek

You Really Want to Completely Disable Tabs in Firefox?

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From the unsure why you’d want to do this department comes this tip on how to completely disable tabbed browsing in Firefox. I’ve gotten quite a number of requests for this over the last few months, so I’m finally breaking down and writing an article about it.

It’s extremely simple, actually… just install the Tab Killer extension which will remove every trace of tabs from your Firefox. If you middle-click on a link, it’ll open the link in a new window instead of a new tab.

Look, no tabs!


This is probably useful if you are trying to convert somebody that is used to IE6 and doesn’t understand the concept of tabs.

Install the Tab Killer Extension from Mozilla Add-ons

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/18/07

Comments (39)

  1. Albert

    Thanks for such a quick response to my question!

  2. mysticgeek

    Once you go tabbed you never go back!

  3. Jake

    Ummm…I’m pretty sure removing the tabs in Firefox is illegal in most states…:-P

  4. The Geek

    Jake: That’s hilarious…

  5. Lucid

    Tabs are cute, but not terribly useful unless you come from Windows perspective where the UI options have always been limited.
    But for experienced Mac users, tabs are equally as tidy as they are useless. Most spatial orientation is lost and one can’t easily scan multiple windows. I can see where tabs fill a UI need for Windows, but in the Mac world it’s really a hack that ineptly tries to provide functionality already in the OS.

    Still, there are Mac users who like them, just as there for any OS. But the intransigeant mindset of FF developers, in not making the disabling of tabs a core configuration choice, is unforgiveable. Such narrow-minded, smug evangelism calls to mind the Bush administration.

  6. Kyang

    Lucid: Lol, if you, yourself do not like to use something, then do not use it. Do not go around belittling others for their choices, and then go around trying to tie in your other views on completely unrelated topics, trying to make them seem relevant.

  7. K Benderson

    Many of the chronic security issues in Firefox are directly related to tabs. Lots of exploits. I still use tabs anyway and keep up with updates. But the more security conscious users may want to disable tabs alltogether.

  8. andrew

    how can you disable tab from Firefox version three
    the tab killer add-on dose not work with Firefox three

  9. "Firefox Updated" Always Appears in a Tab -or- I just want "Firefox Updated" not in a Tab

    “Firefox Updated” Always Appears in a Tab -or- I just want “Firefox Updated” not in a Tab

    I update Firefox, restart it & the “Firefox Updated” msg is boinking with another of my windows…I NEVER open a window in a Tab & never want anything else to do it for me…I haven’t tried Tab Killer yet, but I want the Firefox Core option…

    Edit -> Preferences… -> Tabs -> New pages should be opened in -> a new window

    …to inhibit ALL automatically opened Tabs…I still want the right click menu option to open a Tab, if I want to, but NO automatic Tabs…also what happens on middle click should be another option: Tab or Window…I just want “Firefox Updated” not in a Tab…not “Firefox Updated” in a Tab…nothing in a Tab…Firefox Updated can open in a new window…I’d also go for this core option…

    Edit -> Preferences… -> Tabs -> Never automatically open a Tab (open a window instead)


    Edit -> Preferences… -> Tabs -> Disable all automatically opened Tabs (open a window instead)

    Firefox is Great, but some of the things it does are ANNOYING…like insisting on opening Tabs…not to mention they moved Edit -> Preferences… to Tools -> Options… OMG…I like Edit -> Preferences…

    I think I need to make a super-extension to Netscape 4-ify all of Firefox…

    * Netscape 4 Theme/UI (FOXSCAPE {NOT updated for Firefox 3})
    * Netscape 4 History Window (Enhanced History Manager {NOT updated for Firefox 3})
    * Netscape 4 Open Web Location (was Ctrl+O then Ctrl+Shift+L) (OpenBox {I think it is updated for Firefox 3})
    * Netscape 4 Edit -> Preferences… (EditPrefs {I think it is updated for Firefox 3}}
    * Netscape 4 No Tabs (Tab Killer? {it says it’s updated for Firefox 3?}}

    …all of those extensions just to make Firefox like it was, when it was Netscape…also since AOL dropped Netscape, I wonder if they’d release the Netscape Trademark to Firefox so they could rename Firefox BACK to Netscape…& add all of these extensions/behaviors into the BASE install of “Netscape”…

    Most people think Netscape 4 sucked…I don’t…yes the web evolved & it eventually couldn’t render a webpage to save its life, but ignoring the webpage rendering, Netscape 4 was the best-looking browser…I’ve wanted a Netscape 4 with the Gecko engine for a long time…come close with Firefox & FOXSCAPE…but I don’t know what I’m gonna do for Firefox 3…

  10. Mojojo Jojo

    Many thanks for this.

    I’ve never been a fan of tabs – they’re just not very mac-like I suppose. I’d rather have every page I’m dealing with open in a separate window.

  11. Me

    On a Mac Command-tab changes programs in their entirety, while command-` changes windows within a program. You can bounce to your e-mail and back with one stroke and without disrupting your windows or cycle through open browser windows and never see your music player.
    There’s really no need for tabs under these conditions, unless you want the names at the top of the screen. You may like them but the actual need they filled is gone. Consequently switching to a control key based system is extremely frustrating when everything else uses the command key. Having the safari default of command-click opening a tab instead of a window is aggravating as well.
    (On a side note it would do programmers good to get used to more than one platform, I discovered, despite my resistance, that things like the universal menu bar on top are quite logical and an improvement. On the other hand Mac desperately needs some form of maximize and the ability to stop cascading every window…)

  12. Mandoleer

    Just joined here – and glad to find there are others who hate tabs. I come from a background of MS-DOS 3 upwards, Windows 3.0 upwards, AND Mac from OS 1 if it had a name (and Apple II and Amstrad PCW into the bargain). OK, I don’t USE tabs. I do want to get rid to stop accidentally losing a page through hitting Open in New Tab instead of New Page (usually when the external cider level is going down…) and closing the page rather than the tab. I am a believer in opening links in new pages to save time going Back after finishing – can’t get this through to a friend of mine who will insist on using IE and direct clicking links. She’s very sensible in most respects otherwise.

    Thanks for the tip and the link.

  13. darklon

    In Firefox 3: If you go to Tools/Options/Tabs, you can choose New pages should be opened in a new window, and you won’t ever see tabs, unless you open them explicitly. So there is no need for a tab killer.

    The reason someone might want to disable tabs is really simple: They are redundant under Windows, the task bar does the same thing. Tabs only eat up screen real estate.

  14. Daydream

    I’m using FireFox 3 on a Mac. I also use RSS NewsFire. Why on earth is it every time i click on a link (in newsfire) it opens either on a NEW TAB! or a NEW Window!! i want it like before…in the SAME window!! GRRR…anyone got a solution on this??

  15. Daydream
  16. BackButton

    I agree with Daydream. I would prefer everything to open in the same window, not a new window or tab.Then I can use the back button on my mouse, without even looking, to go back where I was before without having to find the little x and put the pointer precisely over it. That’s the option I’m looking for.

  17. BackButton

    I found the answer. Tab Killer for Firefox did the trick.

  18. Dave

    It’s much simpler and faster to work without tabs. With everything in separate windows, you can use exactly the same keyboard shortcuts to switch between open webpages and between windows of other running programs.

  19. Obinna

    Thanks for the way you answer questions. I have a question on firefox which i need an answer. I want a way to disable opening advanced options in mozillar firefox. What i mean is this, assuming someone wants to make some changes in the network to use proxy(ies), by going to this steps,


    I want to limit the person to only tools and options and no advanced.

    Thsi will help me from people using some free proxies to bypass some sites that are not opening in my network.


  20. Obinna

    how do i disable firefox safe mode option when someone wants to open firefox browser.

    I run a public cafe and some people use it to disable some important programs that restricts them from visiting some sites that are not good for general views. thanks

  21. JH

    Trouble is I like to open every link I click in a separate something, in case it turns out not to be what I want. Then I can simply press Ctrl+W instead of having to wait for the page to reload. Multiple pages open mean one just gets ’99 Firefox’ or whatever in the taskbar, which isn’t helpful, so here tabs offers a good solution.

  22. phlud

    I like tabs most of the time; I just hate it whenever firefox updates its plugins, each plugin insists on opening its plugin homepage – granted not all plugins do this, but I have a few that do, when its happened that all 5 or more of these plugins updated at once, i’ll have 5 tabs opening up and rendering pages when all I want to do is get to MY homepage. This pisses me of and it’s a waste of time. I hate to kill all tabs because of one major annoyance (to me).

  23. bob rice

    it is not for you or anyone else to understand my preference to not use tabs. you would probably disapprove of my use of xp without sp3 and my six year old version of a newsreader. i like what i like and dont make apologies to anyone for my preferences. you probably wouldnt like my brand of coffee or the style of my 15 year old car, but they all suit me just fine.

  24. Wade

    I am a really fast typist and, as such, I rely on the keyboard and keyboard shortcuts for a lot of actions, especially switching between screens into which I have to enter data while at work. So, for me, tabbed browsing slows me down tremendously, as I can’t Alt+Tab to switch between them. Just so you have some insight :)

  25. Heriska

    I think tabs is the one of the best thing that firefox ever created. It can be an extremely powerful tool with 1 firefox extension – tab mix plus options. Here are a few things that you can do with tabs that I find very useful:

    – You can undo a closed tab (the most important thing in my opinion). The tab will still retain all the pages that you visited on the tab so you can still go back via the back button (or Alt+Left Arrow for shortcuts)
    – You can set to memorize as many closed tabs as you want in case you want to reopen some of the sites or just to remind you what sites you visited before (of course you can look always look in your history).
    – You can make the tabs unclosable and/or unchangable
    – You can have a tab reload every x secs/mins/etc
    – You can open up different links/bookmarks in a new tab and not have to focus on the window right away. i.e. you can open different sites but still be looking on the same page you are on without switching back (not sure if anyone understands what I mean cause it sounds like a very bad explaination)
    – You can save the tabs you open when you close firefox. So when you re-open firefox the sites that you saved are opened. It’s like having multiple home pages (as long as you don’t close those tabs)

    These are things that I used often for easier browsing. You can definitely do a lot more customizations to the tabs via this and/or other extensions. In case some ppl don’t know, just like Alt+Tab and Alt+F4 to switch and close windows you can use CTRL+Tab and CTRL+F4 (or W) to switch and close tabs. You can also set CTRL+Tab to show a list of tabs instead of just switching right away. So you can still browse quickly. IMO opening new windows is slower than opening new tab because it involves starting another program while opening a new tab does not require opening another program. I hope this motivates some people to start or go back to using tabs again.

  26. KP

    Tabs duplicates what the taskbar does. It’s a waste of time and work space. I want a page per window,-see the little boxes at the top right? -all you need. Why have a confusing mix. I don’t need 14 toolbars or 14 search lines and double access to everything. All that stuff up there could go on very few lines. Leave my workspace as big as possible. Please let me get rid of what i don’t use.

  27. Bill

    Interesting discussion. My 2 cents. I need to disable all tabs (and bookmarks history etc etc) for students here at the school I work at. Can do a degree of lockdown with forced profiles (ie start FF with a different profile) but I really really need to be able to turn off all aspects of tabs, preferably without addons. I suspect there is something in about:config, but nothing obvious. Ideas?

  28. Pete

    “This is probably useful if you are trying to convert somebody that is used to IE6 and doesn’t understand the concept of tabs.”

    I loathe this attitude. I also loathe tabs. I don’t want them. I don’t like them but that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand them. Tabs a the most annoying feature of current browsers and any browser that doesn’t give you the option of disabling them is not worth installing. Any browser that require a download in order to disable this annoying feature would have to be astonishingly good in all other areas to be worth installing.

  29. Hate Tabs

    I absolutely hate tabs, the only reason I am still using Internet Explorer 6.5 is bacause 7.0 and 8.0 have tabs and does not let you but the link bar below the address bar or use large icons with text on bottom.

    The most anoying aspect of tab browsing is when you want to exit something and your whole browser closes with all the windows you did not want to close.

  30. ron davison

    I also hate how updated extensions load in seperate tabs, I lost count at the times this has crashed my browser or computer…UuGGGgg
    Also hate how IE8 took away Ie7 tab functionality.

    Is there a way to only allow one tab to be opened at a time when extinsions are updated?

    also is there a way to save all open tabs in a window to a file for later viewing when memory resources become overloaded.
    This may seem like a lame Q for an uber-geek, but that I not is.
    Perhaps it is simple from the history?
    Anyone have any suggestions or want to build an extension for this (or add it to another Tab ext helper?)

  31. john3347

    Tabs are, to many of us, nothing but a HUGE nuisance. They can be disabled and even free up the desktop real estate that the tab toolbar robs in IE8 with one click. I never before knew how to “burn the trash tabs” in Firefox. I also never knew before until just recently, that the icon on the left side of the Firefox address bar could be dragged to the desktop to create a desktop shortcut to that webpage. I have known to click on the desktop and select “create shortcut” in IE for years. The lack of knowing how to eliminate tabs and the lack of knowing a simple way to create a desktop shortcut have powerfully stood between me and Firefox for years. Maybe I will give firefox a closer look now. Thank you for this tip. Mozilla owes you an “attaboy”.

  32. Tim

    I understand the concept of tabs perfectly, but I still hate them. I much prefer to have a separate browser window open for each page.
    I really can’t understand why everyone seems to think tabs are such a marvellous invention. Microsoft Office moved away from MDI (multi-document interface, essentially the same thing as browser tabs) and everyone said how great it was to have each document open in a separate window.
    Fact is, I’ve always preferred separate windows for each open document. I’ve never liked MDI.

  33. Rob

    Tab killer add-on won’t install on Firefox 3. It says my version of firefox is incompatible even if I click “install anyway”. Is there anything else that will eliminate tabs that works?


  34. Greg Camp

    There’s nothing currently available for Firefox 4 that I’ve been able to find. My ideal browser would open a new window when I click on a link, but I’d have to go there myself, rather than being taken there automatically. There would be no tabs.

  35. Elf

    Greg, you can disable tabs more-or-less by going to the Tab window and unchecking everything. All of Firefox’s “special” windows will load in tabs, but I don’t think this is an issue since I personally rarely use those windows. Shift + Clicking a link will load a link in a new window, and Ctrl + Clicking will load it in a new tab; you’ll see the Shift/Ctrl symmetry in just about all tab-using applications. The reason I don’t use tabs is because you cannot have multiple windows open side-by-side (well, technically you can, but it becomes a navigation nightmare when enough windows open, all with multiple tabs). Primarily the biggest reason I don’t use tabs is because they don’t work with Windows Vista/7’s navigation scheme. Hold the windows key and tap tab to cycle through windows; hold the windows key and the order of the application on the taskbar from the start menu button (like for a window directly next to the start menu, Windows Key + 1) to “alt-tab” between windows of the same group (you can additionally hold Shift when hitting the Windows Key + Number to open a new window in that group); and even ordinary Alt-Tab. None of those work with tabs.

  36. yoyoyo

    I want to try Firefox 4, but there is no way that I’m putting up with tabs since I have a computer with a task bar.

  37. Frustarted

    Yo,yo,yo. You go. Putting up with. Why should we have to put up with tabs in the first place?
    I saw an article stating “…one of the few people who do not like tabs…” and it looks and sounds to me, the more I read, the more places I visit on the web, that we who dislike tabs are not “one of the few”.
    We are one of the many and those who like tabs can keep them. We shouldn’t have to.

    ELF: That doesn’t work very well. I’ve clicked on links MANY times only to have Firefox open the link in a new tab. Shame on them. The options suck. There should be a choice in the preferences just like there is in IE to diable tabs altogether. It’s a simple thing and one that would solve this issue once and for all. I guess the programmers really only have their own interests at heart.

  38. Peter

    I, for one, don’t see the usefulness of tabs. I guess it depends on the way you browse. And no thanks. It doesn’t work for 3.6.17!! Let us know on which version it does as I really have to get rid of tabbing.

  39. Peter

    O.k. Got it. On the autor’s page there’s a link to a version that’ll work on 3.6.17 I’m a happy tab-free person now.

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