Geertjan's Blog

  • January 25, 2012

Upcoming NetBeans Feature: Multi-Row Editor Tabs!

Geertjan Wielenga
Product Manager

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!

Join the discussion

Comments ( 22 )
  • guest Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    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.


  • Geertjan Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    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.

  • guest Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    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....

  • Joris Snellenburg Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    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? :)

  • Irfin Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    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

  • guest Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    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.

  • ReinoutS Thursday, January 26, 2012

    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! :)

  • guest Monday, January 30, 2012

    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.

  • Geertjan Tuesday, January 31, 2012

    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.

  • guest Tuesday, January 31, 2012

    "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.

  • guest Monday, March 5, 2012

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

  • guest Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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

  • some_other_guest Thursday, June 21, 2012

    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?

  • Geertjan Thursday, June 21, 2012

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

  • guest Thursday, September 27, 2012

    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.

  • Andreas Piening Thursday, December 13, 2012

    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.

  • Zola Monday, November 11, 2013

    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

  • Geertjan Monday, November 11, 2013

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

  • Zola Monday, November 11, 2013

    Why would i do that ?

    My eye sight isnt how it used to be.

    Soo bold is a bit ambigues to me :D

  • Geertjan Monday, November 11, 2013

    OK, fair enough. :-)

  • Ed Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    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*.

  • Abid Ali Monday, May 2, 2016

    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.

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