A Roundup of Vertical Tab Support in Mac Web Browsers

Originally published at: A Roundup of Vertical Tab Support in Mac Web Browsers - TidBITS

After becoming a convert to vertical tabs thanks to Arc, Adam Engst is now seeing and hearing about vertical tabs support all over the place. Though none are luring him away from Arc, he runs down the options in Brave, Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Orion, Safari, SigmaOS, and Vivaldi. So many browsers!

Happily, you can turn off the top-mounted tab bar by choosing View > Always Show Tab Bar

On my Safari, that just hides it if I don’t have any tabs open. If I have tabs, even vertical ones, the horizontal bar appears and the “Always Show Tab Bar” is greyed out. I suspect I’m doing something wrong, but I can’t figure out what?

Huh! Now I’m seeing that too, and I don’t know what changed, nor can I hide those top tabs again. Clearly it worked before since I was able to get a screenshot and it’s still working in another one of my tab groups. Bug?

You can get rid of the tab bar by moving the tabs up to the toolbar by selecting the compact view in Safari>Settings>Tabs.

This is not a great solution if you have a lot of open tabs.

It seems like you can only disable/hide the tab bar if there’s one tab open. When you open even a second tab, it gets grayed out.

The tabs still exist in the tool bar so that’s not really a solution.

FireFox has several extensions that support vertical tabs. I used the “Tree Style Tab” until I switched to Safari’s tab groups. The “Tree Style Tab” allows you to organize the tabs hierarchically in the sidebar, thus simulating the grouping capabilities other browsers.


Ah, I understand now. The command becomes unavailable if you have more than one normal tab in the tab group. You can have all the pinned tabs you want and still hide the tab bar. That’s really odd—what difference does it make?

Hmm…supposedly this did exist on iPad Safari: iPadOS 16.4 Safari - No option to hide tab bar? | MacRumors Forums

Maybe you could do this on Mac Safari before and Apple changed/broke it? I can see why they might want to do that, since I could see people accidentally selecting it then get confused because “all of their tabs disappeared”…

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Judging from the screen shots in the article, you lose more screen space with these vertical tabs than you do with a standard tab bar at the top.

Yes, that is my experience in Safari 13.1.2 with High Sierra (my iMac is maxed at that OS version).

Yes, as measured by raw pixels, but not in reality because most screens are much wider than they are tall. A sidebar of tabs is unlikely to take any space away from an average Web page, whereas the top-mounted tab bar sucks space from every Web page that requires scrolling.

Plus, screen real estate is worth spending to increase productivity, and being able to see a tab’s name is far more helpful than a tiny icon.

I, too, am quite happy with “Tree Style Tab” in Firefox.

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I agree with both of those points. Screens are quite wide; I just use a wider browser window with vertical tabs. Also, I use vertical tabs only in the browser I primarily use for research and work, where I might have 10 or 20 sites open and horizontal tabs become useless. Adam mentioned that Firefox add-ons don’t replace the horizontal tabs, but I just noticed that they aren’t there with Tree Style Tabs.

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Exactly, which is why it’s so frustrating that the top-mounted tab bar insists on staying open even with the vertical tabs active. I could set Safari to compact view so that it sprinkled the top tabs in the address bar but that looks so cluttered.

It seems that I can’t try it on Safari 13.1.2 since that is the last version that will run on my iMac. I usually don’t have that many open anyway so I always see title of each tab in the bar.

In Mac Safari, there doesn’t seem to be a way to have the sidebar tabs lists always expanded?

I mean, I can expand the list, and then it stays expanded, but then on quit/restart, they all collapse again.

That’s what I was getting at when I wrote:

You may have to do a little clicking around to get your tabs groups to look how you want, but the capabilities are solid once you do.

I tried using Safari with vertical tabs for secondary research tabs while writing in Arc yesterday, and while it worked, it drove me somewhat batty. Much easier to have a second Arc window so I can see both things at once.

After reading this roundup article, I kept on thinking that Firefox had this capability as well, but I couldn’t find it. Well after quite a bit of web searching, I found what I was thinking of.

Firefox 4 (March 2011) introduced a feature called “Panorama” (aka “TabCandy”). This feature lets you group tabs into application-spaces which can be quickly opened and closed and switched between.

The feature was removed from Firerfox in version 45 (March 2016), apparently due to lack of interest. It’s a bit ironic that this is a feature that people might want to use today. At least there are third-party add-ons that provide similar capabilities.

See also:

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You forgot about the progenitor of vertical tabs, OmniWeb (OW). If it wasn’t the first, it was one of the earliest.

You would have to ask Ken Case when he implemented the feature. I’m thinking around 10 or more years ago as I’m pretty certain I was using it on my G4 PowerBook.

If you want to check it out, it’s here: Omni Labs — OmniDiskSweeper, OmniWeb, and OmniPresence - The Omni Group