Chromatabs for Firefox

There is a really interesting extension called Chromatabs at Mozilla Labs today. Mozilla Labs is Mozilla’s ongoing project to develop some innovative and new techniques of presenting information to users and to investigate new technologies.


Chromatabs is an extension developed by Justin Dolske which aims to make tabs a lot easier to locate by colourizing tabs to provide a strong visual indication. To demonstrate the concept, there is an example on Mozilla Labs which asks you to locate all letter Ks and all red letters. Locating red letters is a lot easier.

The blog entry also discusses existing solutions and problems. At the moment, tabs in Firefox all essentially look the same, so finding that page when you have 20 tabs open requires a deep visual inspection of all your tabs. Favicons can help, but not all sites have them.

Mozilla Labs also points to Colourful Tabs which attempts to implement a similar concept:

Its solution is to simply assign each new tab a color from a fixed list, in sequence. First example, the first tab will be blue, the second is yellow and the third green. The tab remains that color until it is closed. Each time you browse the web, you’ll have to remember what a particular color means at the moment.

Chromatabs is different. Rather than giving each site a different colour each time, it’ll take a hash of the sites domain. This means every time you visit a site, it’s tab will be the same time. The idea is that as we visit these sites again and again over time, we’ll develop a strong connection between the colour and the site.

At the moment, it’s still a proof of concept extension. One of the concepts discussed in the further work section:

It might be more intuitive if Chromatabs analyzed each page to determine the most prominent color on the page, and then used that color for the tab. You would then see Slashdot tabs in their distinctive green, Fark tabs in purple, and tabs in, uhhh… oooooo….

I do see several problems from Chromatab’s current implementation. Probably about half the sites I visit I’ve never actually been on before, or don’t visit very frequently. I won’t have any mental relationship between that site and the colour of the tab. Various sites can also end up with the same colours e.g. my blog and Mozilla.

If you want to try it out, download the extension from Firefox Add-Ons. This extension is definitely one to watch.

If you’re interested in finding out about how the extension was developed, check out this blog entry

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