Tab (GUI)

In graphical user interfaces, a tab is a navigational widget for switching between sets of controls or documents. It is traditionally designed as a text label within a rectangular box with its top borders rounded. Activating a tab (usually by a mouse click) makes its associated content visible and the tab itself usually becomes highlighted to distinguish it from other inactive tabs. Only one tab can be active at a time. Use of tabs to display non-static content gives rise to Tabbed document interface, e.g. used in Mozilla browser and many text editors such as SciTE.

GUI tabs are modeled after traditional card tabs inserted in paper files or card indexes and thus they are often employed to give the user interface a more "natural" look.


Tabs in modern GUIs were introduced by IBM Common User Access. They became widely used to make option-laden dialog boxes easier to understand and navigate. They were designed to group similar or related options into one tab pane.Later, some applications based their main document switching mechanism on tabs, using a tabbed document interface.


In the last few years, tabbed document interfaces have also become popular in web browsers, where they are used to switch between different webpages without having to switch top-level windows. Opera 4 introduced tabs as part of its multiple document interface, and tabs are now supported by all major browsers.

Numerous special functions in association with browser tabs have emerged since then, for example the ability to re-order tabs (e.g. in Internet Explorer 8, Google Chrome, Safari 3, Opera, Konqueror, and Firefox), and to bookmark all of the webpages opened in tab panes in a given window in a group or bookmark folder (as well as the ability to reopen all of them at the same time). Links can most often be opened in several modes, using different user interface options and commands:
* in a new main window
* in the same main window and tab panel
* in the same main window and a new tab panel, which is instantly activated
* in the same main window and a new tab panel, which remains in the background until the user switches to it

Patent dispute

Adobe Systems holds patents in the United States and Europe on certain uses of GUI tabs [US patent|5546528 for a "Method of displaying multiple sets of information in the same area of a computer screen"] , which are widely held to be trivial patents. Some argue that there was clear prior art, in both GUI and text-mode user interfaces.

Adobe used these patents to sue Macromedia Inc. for employing tabs in its Macromedia Flash product. Adobe won the case and $2.8 million in damages. However, Macromedia initiated a countersuit which ended in a $4.9 million ruling against Adobe. The suits were settled on undisclosed terms. [cite web|url=|accessdate=2007-05-09|title=Adobe Wins Patent Trial Against Macromedia|date=May 9, 2002|publisher=DMX Zone] In 2005, Adobe ended further dispute between the two companies when it bought Macromedia for roughly $3.4 billion.

On April 18, 2007 the intellectual property agency IP Innovation LLC and its parent Technology Licensing Corporation filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc. regarding its infringement upon a US Patent originally filed by Xerox researchers in 1987. [US patent|5072412 for a "User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects"] [cite news|url=|title=Apple's interface held to the fire in dubious suit|publisher=Apple Insider|date=April 21, 2007|accessdate=2007-04-24]


See also

*Tabbed Document Interface

External links

* [ Navigation] and [ Module] tabs at the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library.
* [ Yahoo! UI Library] TabView
* [ ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit]
* [ Scriptaculous AJAX tabs]

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