Upcoming NetBeans Feature: Multi-Row Editor Tabs!

Several NetBeans users have been asking, for a long time already, for multi-row tabs in the NetBeans editor.

Read the list of use cases and requests around this area in the issue:


Today, Stan Aubrecht, the NetBeans Platform window system engineer, closed the above issue. Why? Because he fixed it. And it is part of NetBeans IDE 7.2. In the Options window, you'll see several new options in the Appearance tab:

Above, the "Tabs placement" and "Multi-row tabs" options did not exist before today. As you can see, not only will you be able to set multi-row tabs, but you'll also be able to set where the tabs should appear, whether they're multi-tab or not.

Here you see multi-row tabs, with "top" tab placement:

Multi-row tabs, with "bottom" tab placement:

Multi-row tabs, with "right" tab placement:

Of course, anyone creating their applications on the NetBeans Platform will automatically inherit this behavior too, if they're creating document-centric NetBeans Platform applications.

With this new level of flexibility, you're able to get even more comfortable in your development environment than before.

Thanks, Stan!


IMNSHO, if the number of open tabs exceeds the screen space and you think that is a problem, you need a different MDI metaphor!
Multi-row tabs is one of the worst "innovations" Windows 95 brought onto the world.

I cordially recommend Havoc Pennington's essay on Free Software UIs (2002), especially the section about why adding more preferences has a cost.

Posted by guest on January 25, 2012 at 06:26 AM PST #

If you don't want multi-row tabs, that's fine. In fact, that's the default situation. Only if you want them (whether or not it's a good idea to want them is something that people should be able to decide for themselves) would you set the option.

And if you want less preferences in NetBeans IDE, feel free to file a bug in NetBeans Issuezilla. I predict there will be 0 users (i.e., zero users) who will vote for your issue.

Posted by Geertjan on January 25, 2012 at 07:24 AM PST #

I agree you should manage your tabs, but just take a look at the Options dialog, and compare it to today's horrible, horrible UI interaction required to see the off-screen tabs.

Further, ProductAndProductGroupWithPromotionsServiceImpl.java is insane, but well, if you're in a world where that's a justified as a good filename....

Posted by guest on January 25, 2012 at 07:50 AM PST #

Awesome. Perhaps an idea for the future is to introduce grouping of tabs in the way that it's clear which tabs belong to each other. Imagine editing 2 Java source files ProviderA.java and ProviderB.java from Module A and module B respectively, from which you open (navigate to) a class WebserviceImplementation.java, which has the same name in both modules but is functionally different. Currently there's no way to tell the difference. It would be great if you could see which tab, spawned from which other tab. A way to visualize this in a bottom or top-tabbed view is by a thick border, or a semi-transparant color, and on the left and right you can visualize it by a small indentation.
I ask too much? :)

Posted by Joris Snellenburg on January 25, 2012 at 08:23 AM PST #

Sorry if not commenting on topic, but can someone tell me what's the window decoration or look and feel for the above screenshots? The buttons and check boxes look nice. Thank you

Posted by Irfin on January 25, 2012 at 10:09 AM PST #

I think this will be a really nice feature, it will be easier to close the ones you don't use, and you will be able to see what tabs that are opened.

I often follow code from file to file, opening a new window each time. Now I can close the ones not interesting with one click on these windows.

Posted by guest on January 25, 2012 at 02:55 PM PST #

To be clear, I'm not advocating _less_ preferences per se, but just not adding any that do nothing but increase UI complexity.

But anyway, if multi-row tabs are possible then I think not having any tabs at all should be allowed as well. Ctrl+TAB ftw! :)

Posted by ReinoutS on January 25, 2012 at 04:51 PM PST #

make split screen horizontally or vertically thats the feature i mostly need. not a multiline tab bar. that has no use for me. i always need more space on my screen. make the toolbar configurable and customizable. these features are expected not just some junk features.

Posted by guest on January 30, 2012 at 03:12 PM PST #

Split screen is already supported... and the toolbar is already configurable and customizable... both of these have been in NetBeans IDE since at least 5 years or so, probably more, probably since the IDE was created, in fact. So, thanks for your polite message and your intelligent observations.

Posted by Geertjan on January 30, 2012 at 10:57 PM PST #

"Havoc Pennington's essay on Free Software UIs (2002), especially the section about why adding more preferences has a cost"

---of course at the cost of development, but your user will gain more freedom and your software is more flexible and adapter-able, which means it can survive longer or create greater value in a changing world.

The problem today for most people is blindly trusting and following what ever printed on paper. Go live your own life.

Posted by guest on January 31, 2012 at 11:53 AM PST #

finally! As a heavy tab user I've been hoping for this feature a while.

Posted by guest on March 05, 2012 at 02:35 AM PST #

Please DO provide this options for the output view as well !

Posted by guest on April 24, 2012 at 01:55 AM PDT #

Please turn on this feature. I'm tired of looking for a tab i need.
Not yet in 7.1.1 band 7.1.2. Is it in 7.2?

Posted by some_other_guest on June 20, 2012 at 10:14 PM PDT #

Yes, it is in 7.2. That's what this blog entry is about.

Posted by Geertjan on June 20, 2012 at 10:27 PM PDT #

Thanks for working on this!!!
It is very helpful when working on a lot of files at a time.
Otherwise it feels like you're an ant scrolling back and forth through the tabs at the top & somewhat annoying clicking on the drop-down.

Posted by guest on September 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM PDT #

I stumbled upon this looking for something completely different but tried it out immediately: It doesn't work completely for me with Netbeans 7.2 under MacOSX.
If I choose left or right placement, I get no textual description on the tabs (I mean no filename is displayed, even not on hovering the tab). Instead I get a single closing button per tab selector which is centered.
The other settings (top and bottom placement and multirow) are working as expected.

Posted by Andreas Piening on December 13, 2012 at 09:28 AM PST #

Hello Geertjan, i have a question is it possible to change the view of modified file in tab (now when the file is changed it only changes the font to bold) but i would like to put any char like * or # or ^ ...
Thank you

Posted by Zola on November 11, 2013 at 01:01 AM PST #

No. No idea why anyone would want to do that, but please just file an issue in NetBeans issuezilla explaining your usecase.

Posted by Geertjan on November 11, 2013 at 04:58 AM PST #

Why would i do that ?
My eye sight isnt how it used to be.
Soo bold is a bit ambigues to me :D

Posted by Zola on November 11, 2013 at 08:05 AM PST #

OK, fair enough. :-)

Posted by Geertjan on November 11, 2013 at 08:41 AM PST #

Thanks for this post!! And for the screenshot as the first thing.

I have really bad 'spatial and goal hierarchy working memory' (i.e. I don't remember where I am or what I'm doing very well). So, regardless of any usability concerns around multi-row tabs, I really need to have them as an *option*.

Posted by Ed on January 22, 2014 at 08:17 AM PST #

Thankyou very much for your sharing a solution,
I got solution from your given idea and resolved my problem.
In my case netbean appearance is besides with miscellaneous tab.

Posted by Abid Ali on May 01, 2016 at 10:49 PM PDT #

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Geertjan Wielenga (@geertjanw) is a Principal Product Manager in the Oracle Developer Tools group living & working in Amsterdam. He is a Java technology enthusiast, evangelist, trainer, speaker, and writer. He blogs here daily.

The focus of this blog is mostly on NetBeans (a development tool primarily for Java programmers), with an occasional reference to NetBeans, and sometimes diverging to topics relating to NetBeans. And then there are days when NetBeans is mentioned, just for a change.


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