Dolphin and Tabs?

Recently a patch was sent to the KDE file manager development list to implement tab functions in Dolphin. Following this patch a discussion about pro and cons of tabs in Dolphin has started.

Dolphin, the new easy-to-use default file manager of KDE 4 (in contrast to Konqueror, the power-user default file manager for KDE 4) was designed as a very lightweight and easy to use file manager without the rich feature and configuration set Konqueror has.
For most developers this included also to not have tabs.

Now the inclusion of tabs was proposed (full thread overview):

I have talked with several individuals some which say tabs should be allowed. Others are saying that tabs shouldn’t be allowed. I think the best compromise and solution to making everyone happy is to make a setting for tabs and by default the tab feature is disabled keeping dolphin simple.

But most developers rejected the idea due to different reasons:

Ouch, honestly it doesn’t look like a good idea to me. It’ll be yet another setting for a feature you can already have elsewhere. […] That’s what we’ve done in the past, and why our userbase complains about the complexity of our settings dialogs.

Also, it was mentioned that Dolphin and Konqueror share many parts of the code base – and that Konqueror indeed supports tabs. From that point of view the better way would be to share more features of Dolphin with Konqueror.
But at least the current Konqueror version is missing quite some Dolphin tools and abilities.

However, Peter Penz made a good point:

So Dolphin aims for a different target audience and we must somewhere draw a line to stop adding features just for trying to make everybody happy. I admit that drawing this line is very difficult […]

For him tabs are on the “power user” side of the line because tabs need a collection of configuration options (see Konqueror’s options for example).

An additional point of view could be provided by the usability experts maybe, but in the end it is simply a decision someone has to make – whether to include tabs or not.
I just hope, in case the tabs will not be included with Dolphin, that Konqueror integrates the nice stuff from Dolphin and stays the power user tool I’m used to and I really like to work with.


32 thoughts on “Dolphin and Tabs?”

  1. here is a mockup i just found of dolphin with tab :

    Konqueror is really great but some people (like me) could want to use dolphin for is simplicity and beauty for simple task. But they need tabs.

    I really don’t understand devs here. Tab is not a power user feature. Less than split. Only one checkbox to active them or not. This is use in many apps and people start to know how to use them.

  2. I think that they should include tabs, but keeping it simple. I mean, just simple tab options, similar to Firefox approach, which is aimed to the non-power users.
    I agree with marseillai. For what I’ve seen, I would love to use Dolphin as my default File Manager, but i also think that tabs is a must for any file manager.

  3. We already have a desktop environment for people who like not being able to do anything. It’s Gnome. I don’t think we need to dumb down kde too…

  4. The developers should not underestimate the voice of the loud minority. Although the developers have decided against this feature, the loud and active minority (it could be a majority, I haven’t read any poll results about it) could pressure the GNU/Linux distributions into accepting this patch. If there will be 50 duplicates about the lack of tabs in the SUSE (or Fedora, or Kubuntu) bugzilla, the distributors might decide to make the loud minority happy.

    The best way to resolve this “conflict” between the developers and the loud minority is using facts. Find some facts about how many users want/need tabs in their day-to-day tasks, find out if the checkbox in the configuration dialog is really going to pollute it and make it confusing, find out if there will be some performance loss with the tabs implemented (I think there won’t, but who knows).

    Otherwise, it’s just an opinion against an opinion, and that doesn’t really solve anything. My advice for all sides — go for the facts.

  5. I constantly find myself looking for tabs in Dolphin before realizing that I need to open another window. I agree with marseillai’s comment about wanting to use Dolphin for it’s simplicity, but still wanting the option of tabs.

    Having the interface default to not showing tabs when only one is open, but add them in once someone chooses to open a folder in a tab seems like agood approach to me. That way you don’t loose screen real estate if you don’t want tabs or only have one open.


  6. Tabs are just a programs internal task manager. Use a taskbar and call it tabs and no one will know. Stupid fads.

  7. Troy, I read your thoughts about tabs, and I must say that I at least partly disagree.
    I always hated it when I had up to ten browser windows clustering the task bar (or as windows the desktop) – with tabs inside of the browser everything stays together.
    Also, and that is even a small usability part: no matter where you place the system tabs bar, the browser tab bar is always closer to the address bar of the browser, and therefore fast to reach.
    Also, konqueror or Firefox do manage the tabs much more intelligent than any task bar I’ve seen so far.

    But I think for most users it is more the psychological effect: all browsing is kept together in one window – and there it is not disturbed by anything else. It just makes it easier to keep apart the different pieces on your computer: one application for browsing – with several open things inside, but that’s still one application.

    Still, the only place I needed tabs so far have been web browsing and on rare ocations file browsing.


    I’ve been using at work for a while and it manages tabs at the WM-level. Just dock together a bunch of plain old xterm:s and it’s tab-wise just like Konsole. But with the nice exception that you can also put say emacs in one of the tabs.

    This way is superior to what KDE is doing (hardcoding tab-support into each and every application, but not some like dolphin)

    Please reconsider, global tabbing could be a big thing! 🙂

  9. Just a few notes on problems that might arise when using tabs:
    I have tried to use Konqueror as my web browser for a couple of weeks. With tabs. The problem is (KDE 3.5.7-8.fc7):

    * Konqueror only supports opening tabs in the foreground OR in the background. I would like to have middle-click to open in background tab, while shift-click opens link in new tab in the foreground.

    * When I click a link in e.g. KMail, I would like it to open in the Konqueror web browser, not the one that I use for file browsing. That is, I want to separate file browsing from web browsing. I haven’t found any way to do that (except from a nasty python wrapper script I stumbled upon on the net – and that didn’t work for me)

    If tabs are enabled in Dolphin, I would expect alot of new wishes to arise, from semi-power users that want to configure such things.

    Just my thoughts – I don’t know if I would vote for or agains tabs in Dolphin, but surely would love to be able to configure the new Konqueror even more wrt the points given above 😉

  10. For me, I don’t see the point of tabs while doing file-management. Split-view is useful because you can drag and drop from one window to the other one, but tabs would just clutter up dolphin. However, I’d like to keep it as an optional feature (disabled by default) for people who need it.

  11. I think they should not include tabs. Actually, the current config dialog is already way too complicated, they should start working on cleaning it up. Dolphin should be simple. Those asking for tabs and all other kind of things should just use Konqueror, and ask for further improvements there if that’s not good enough for them.

    Dolphin is supposed to cater the needs of those who would use for example Tunar or the spatial Nautilus… Konqi is for ‘normal’ users, and we have of course Krusader for the heavy usage.

  12. I think that there’s something to be said for not having tabs in a file manager – unlike web browsing, you tend not to have lots of windows open at once. And one of the main reasons I use tabs in Konq is to open a link in the background while I continue reading a page. That’s not an issue in a file manager.

    With the Dolphin part, I’d have thought most of the features of Dolphin should come free to Konq for the power users (I don’t know if that stuff’s finished yet, but I saw several things to do with it go past on the commit log).

  13. I can’t say I see the dev’s point of view, features are not confusing to anyone if they’re well designed. Removing features in the name of usability is just a Gnome fallacy.

    I must say fluxbox’s WM tabs sounds like a great feature, can we have it for KDE?

  14. For starters, I’d like to clarify that I’m one of those who would like to have tabs in Dolphin. But then again, I’d love to have tabs in KWrite as well, so that doesn’t count.

    Why would I like to have tabs in Dolphin, because it would be very convenient for my own use case, and apparently for some people as well. However, it is not the use case that Dolphin is intended to address. Dolphin is designed to be a file manager for simple uses, with the emphasis being on simple “uses”, not on simple “users” (as Aaron Seigo pointed out in the list). Multiple tabs in a web browser is a convenience for a simple use, but not for a file manager. The use case of a web browser is still different from the use case of a file manager, specially a simple one. The harder I think about it, I can’t justify tabs in a simple use of a file manager. So while I myself would love to have tabs in Dolphin, I would have to agree that it is not what Dolphin is intended to be.

    Adding support for tabs isn’t simply a matter of adding one checkbox to enable/disable tabs. You have to provide a configuration to open in the background or foreground, an option to show the tab bar even with a single tab only, etc.

    Besides, keeping tabs away from Dolphin ensures that Konqueror will still have a niche to fill. When users start to realized how much they miss these features, they’ll be coming back to Konqi, and then perhaps nudge a few people to start improving it. For a big Konqi fan like me, that’s a big reason not to advocate for tabs in Dolphin. 😛

  15. I think, tabs are a really important feature, wheather in Firefox, file-management, editor or terminal. It really makes the desktop much more ÜBERSICHTLICH, and for me THAT is easy. I also often miss tabs in OpenOffice or in the pdf-viewer: when I write long texts for university I have lots of documents open for reading (pdf), one OOo for making notes and another one for the actual homework.

    Firefox for example doesn’t provide many options to configure the behaviour of tabs, so I installed Tab Mix Plus and I really couldn’t live without it. I have about 30 add-ons installed and they are really important for me, because they make life much easier!
    Even for file management I often miss tabs, because I want different folders to !stay! open: When I do some work for university (not only there) I need DIFFERENT folders at the same time, so I have to go for and back and that costs time.

    Why not make sth. like a plug-in infrastructure, like the xpi-files in Firefox? I’m quite sure there would soon be an active developer-base.
    So: PLUGINS ARE WONDERFUL! There could be decent defaults and all power features could be added as plugins.

    The KDE people should not tell me HOW to make my work, personally I’m no fan of splitting but of tabs. Others may think differnent. It was always an advantage of KDE, to configure everything as you like. Why stop that?

  16. sorry for the german word ÜBERSICHTLICH, I ment “clear” and couldn’t remember any appropriate english word…

  17. Yuck. I do NOT like tabs in a file manager, and a GUI option to enable them would be clutter. Perhaps leave it for a text file or elektra to configure.

  18. Stupid KDE4-Development!
    Tabs has become an important feature of every GUI in the last years. Yet, there is’nt a global configuration in kde for this. That’s really stupid IMHO. I could be so easy to deliver an tabbar-object which is used by every application, while the application itself must only provide a simple checkbox for (de)activating the usage of tabs.

    But whats the state yet? Every application has there own implementation of higher functions. Every application has there own need for configurations. And the user is Confused with incompatible behaviour 😦

    Dolphin should make a beginning, and use a global tabs-object with a separate configuration somewhere else.

  19. I don’t understand, why people are requesting Tabs in Dolphin while they can use Konqui instead.
    People, have the normal mum, dad and aunt in mind, that call you and ask for how to save their photos from Digi-Cam to Harddrive. These People – as far as I understand right – are the intended users for Dolphin. All the rest can stick to Konqueror and enjoy all the new and nice features adopted from Dolphin!

    Global Tabbing like in fluxbox (never used in) is an interesting feature but i would say not part of the Dolphin-Tab-Discussion – request or implement it for KDE 4.1.

    By the way: I would like to see Dolphin without tabs – it just blows up the application.

    Someone said about polls – I guess the individuals, that are the “simple users” are mostly not surfing around and reading things like this because they simply USE their apps instead of questioning and discussing how to improve or change things they got used to. So a poll would surely not picture the real weight of votes for or against tabs.

    Greets, SubNet

  20. I often use tabs in Konqueror when I’m working on a group of folders that have files that I’m tweaking that all relate to each other. The main example I have for that is working on websites – there are different folders for images, css, html etc that I need to be able to jump around between quickly. Splitting the window means that I have less space available for this kind of work.

    That being said, I think that tabs in general are only required because the taskbar doesn’t do a good enough job organising our windows. It’s high time we moved away from the Win95 style of desktop organisation. If we improve this enough, no application should need tabs, eliminating a lot of development work.

    One such way would be to split the taskbar into two sections, one with single applications, then another with all the “tabs” of that application.

  21. Al: I fully agree that the old concept of the task bar just does not work out as it should. Some kind of integration or similar should be the path for the future.
    Having said that, in your case the best solution might be to simply use Konqueror as the file manager – because it will use the Dolphin core for this.

  22. A “simple” plugin structure to transform dolphin in a extendible power-user file manager where tabs can be managed as tab mix plus for firefox and a tree can be showed on a third column like in mac osx finder or keep the simplest: customization is one of the roots of open source software . Personally I think that nautilus really sucks and i wanna see something better for kde4 not a Knautilus.

  23. I don’t the people saying its going to clutter up the options.. umm the options are dead simple. One checkbox onto isn’t going to blow your fucking brain up or something.

    Plus if you want things so simple, so configurable, so little options and hardly anything to look at GO PAY FOR FUCKING MICROSOFT WINDOWS. The point of linux is to be more flexible. If your saying one checkbox is going to wreak it all please go back to your Start button.

  24. So, if I get the just of this…developers think tabs are a bad idea, because they want to keep Dolphin simple, and not become a lighter version konqueror? They want to keep it for strictly file-browsing? I understand, kind of..however…

    Except, tabs ARE simple, and would add nothing but simplicity to the program. As far as I’m concerned, tabs are a must have. Too many little windows is both annoying and un-organized.

    Sure, you can use Konqueror if you want tabs, but dolphin IS going to be the default file-browser…and new users may not know about konqueror. And also..chances are most people are going to be looking for tabs because it’s just one of those obvious things. It simply SHOULD have tabs.

    The developers need to stop completely relying on technical concepts and principles, and actually listen to the vast majority. I’m not saying add every feature under the sun and ruin the purpose of dolphin. Not at all. But I think it’s pretty apparent that most people want tabs; and IMO tabs are not a power-user function, but a standard feature that should be added. not with the purpose of making things more complex or bloated, but to add simplicity — which I thought, was the point of dolphin.

    Just put an option to turn them on and off. Honestly, how the hell can anyone bitch about a simple check box?

  25. Joe: About the last point with the checkbox: this argument is senseless since it would work for every option. And if you include everything, you end up with Konqueror, which has a checkbox for almost every feature available. The problem is not one little checkbox, but that you have to draw the line somewhere.

    So for now they drew the line before the tabs. Let’s see how things turn after the release of KDE 4.0.

  26. I agree that you have to draw the line..but I don’t see how tabs are a power-user function. Tabs should only add to the simplicity of file-browsing…and like I said, I thought dolphin was about simple file-browsing? Personally, I think most things should be tabbed. It just helps relieve clutter.

  27. Adding tabs doesn’t add clutter or complexity, rather it enables simplicity of use if not of form. Why else would every major web browser add tab functionality? The ability to keep your workspace tidy and multiple similar objects grouped is the goal of tabs and they succeed brilliantly. My favorite file manager is PCManFM for this very reason. Light, fast, and well organized due to tabs
    I kind of liked what Chaoswind had to say about making tabs a global bit of KDE code which can be enabled or disabled in each application. Seem like a neat yet powerful idea.
    Additionally several people mentioned the WM level tabs of Fluxbox and I am a big fan of that feature.

  28. please !!!! give me back my tabs !!!!
    I’m ok withth idea of a plugin or an option, but it’s (was?) really a great feature….

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