Hidden macOS Sierra feature: Open everything as a tab

10 September 2016, 06:22

Feature head image

That Sierra massively boosts the tabs feature of macOS/OS X is not news, having been flagged heavily during the macOS Sierra keynote back in June. Put simply, many more apps now have tab bars just like Safari and Finder – everything from Notes, to Calendar, to Pages. Even third-party apps are supposed to be tab-compatible, even if they haven’t been updated.

What’s less obvious is a useful toggle within the Dock component of System Preferences. This lets you choose to default to opening tabs in apps, rather than opening a fresh window (see screenshot below). This is a particular help in Finder, where any request by an app or the operating system to spawn a new Finder window – if you’ve just mounted a DMG to install an app, for example – will result in a new Finder tab instead.

It’s not really clear at the moment how the new tab feature works within many apps. For example, there’s an option on the View menu within Calendar to show the tab bar, but I can’t see any way of creating a new tab. It’d be useful to have month view on one tab, for example, and week view on another.

It’s a similar story in the Mail app. Creating a new message creates a new window, even if the System Preferences option above is set to Always and the tab bar is set to be visible. Apparently clicking the Window > Merge All Windows option is supposed to combine all open windows into a tabbed interface, but some apps don’t have this option – and on those that do it just doesn’t work.

To be blunt, this feature feels a little unfinished.

Main feature illustration




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I love the new option in macOS 10.12 (10.12.0) to “Prefer tabs when opening documents”. But why on Earth does the option reside in the Dock pref pane? Surely it should be in the General Preferences, don’t you think?

It just doesn’t make sense to me that something that affects the general appearance of windows and documents should be in “Dock”. It seems to me that the option would belong alongside “Ask to keep changes when closing documents” and “Close windows when quitting an app”.

Perhaps if space in the General Prefs is a problem, then maybe it’s time to move that one out-of-place and lonely setting for the “Default web browser” to the Dock pref pane where it most likely belongs (along with a new “Default Mail Client” and “Default Chat Client” perhaps!)

Let’s hope the UI folks at Apple rethink that a bit. Does it seem odd to anyone else, or am I “out in left field all by myself”?

— Kaliko Trapp · Oct 5, 06:12 AM · #