Since we’ve had browsers with tabs, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in terms of how the tabs are presented to the user. Google Chrome introduced the idea of each tab being a separate task, but on the UI side, the biggest change was that the tabs were on top. Aside from that, Opera offers thumbnails of tabs open, but for the most part tabs are the same across all browsers. We have all the tabs in a window open in one bar, and if we want to separate them we open new windows. Not so with Tab Candy, the new feature that could be coming to Firefox soon.
Tab Candy offers a better way of organizing tabs, by dropping users out into an Exposé-esque screen. Users are able to sort through tabs by breaking them into groups of varying size. Groups can be named for easier management, resized, and placed anywhere within the window. Opening a group will show only the tabs within that group in the tab bar. To switch groups, in the current alpha prototype build, click on the Tab Candy button and zoom back out to the group view. The idea is that you can focus on tasks more easily by putting them into groups rather than having to sort through all the tabs to find the one you want, or being distracted by other tabs when trying to work.
Tab Candy may be built into into a future version of Firefox, but for now can be downloaded in alpha prototype form. The download is actually a Minefield browser, which is a prerelease version of the Firefox 4 beta 3 with Tab Candy enabled. So you can choose to try out Tab Candy, but it may not be the most stable browser you’ve ever used. Future features mentioned include Tab Candy search, sharing groups with friends, and a section to place pages that you want to read later. Especially with being able to mark tabs for later reading, Tab Candy may just cause me to switch back to Firefox after spending so much time with Safari and now Chrome. Or maybe Google can bake something similar into one of the next Chrome releases.