Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

1,000+ not out, and counting (tabs in Firefox)

An unintended experiment in Firefox (well, really Aurora since I like to play with the newest version when possible), and something of a surprise, given that I couldn’t have done this a few months ago.

Ever since tab groups were introduced to Firefox, I’ve used them extensively, but sad to say, not with the native Firefox interface, but a number of tab-oriented addons that give vastly improved control and management of tabs and groups. I’m afraid the native option found under the ‘Panorama’ toolbar button is so bad I used think tab groups were a useless option – but not so, provided you load up the right addons.

With the earlier versions of Firefox (I have no idea of the number, but let’s estimate somewhere back around 15 or so), I used tab groups to control various active project I was researching and writing about. However, as I started to embrace this offering, I found that when the number of tabs I had in use reached a variable number between 300 and 400… well, Firefox just keeled over.

While it didn’t generally fail in use, the usual problem was restarting – something that has become a habit, just to flush out lost memory and clean up any dross.

Trouble was, if I did a restart (I later found that doing a manual shutdown and then a cold start tended to avoid this problem), then once I had reached that three or four hundred tab count, then the restart would just stall and never complete. When this happened,  I had to fiddle with versions to achieve a successful start.

But, so long as I watched that my total tab count stayed below the troublesome total, the Firefox handled things quite happily.


Recently, other commitments led me to start numerous little project that needed research and web pages started, but fail to see them through to completion. Being unwilling to lose the work I had started, I just kept shuffling them into tab groups – all the time expecting Firefox to keel over under the strain.

What can I say?

It didn’t – it has just kept on going, and not only reached 1,000 tabs, but carried on well past that with no real complaints.


1,055 tabs happily existing together in Firefox

In fact, the only symptom is an irritating delay as new tabs are opened, and I can only guess this is down to some internal database being written/read, and the size resulting in extended times for this task to complete.

Although I’ve started to work through the outstanding item filed away in these groups, the number is only coming down slowly, as I add others.

Much as I’d like to deal with them sooner rather than later, to sit down and deal with what amounts to 1,000+ web pages worth of info all at once would just take too long.

Much like a diet, what has been added over a period of weeks can only be effectively removed over a similar period, if it is to be effective.


I don’t think it would be a good idea to try this out for yourself, at least not if you don’t have a raft of other addons that allow Firefox to manage tabs and the memory allocated to them. For example, in my setup, idle tabs are automatically unloaded to release memory, as are any tasks that are not needed when the tab is not selected, so releasing resources.

Granted, I know some will say just use bookmarks, but I find them tiresome and difficult to keep organised quickly, and unlike a row or three of tabs, they cannot be eyeballed and selected quickly.


An odd thing happened just over a week after I made the above observation.

Following one of the full updates from Mozilla (a full update is the whole browser at about 25 MB, while a minor update is generally less than 4 MB), even though I had not quite managed to get the number of tabs below 1,000 I noticed that the delay I mentioned above seemed to have suddenly and very noticeably reduced.

Previously, opening a new web page had started to take a noticeable time, and mostly stalled the browser until it had completed.

After the relevant update, it was immediately evident that this operation had become much more efficient, and the browser was not spending the same time showing “Not responding” as it had been prior to the update.

I may be wrong, but it looks as if the developers actually do look at performance issues and deal with them – or it was just a coincidence.

Whatever, it seems this browser is now much happier when it has to support a load of tabs.

Someone else will have to try this in IE and Chrome, and see how they cope with 1000+ tabs, as I never have more than two or three tabs open in these lesser browsers, which I use as spares, usually when I come across a badly written web page that won’t display in Firefox.


June 16, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: