Why Tabbed Interfaces are so Popular

I’ve written about tabbed interfaces in the past, and thankfully BBEdit, Path Finder and Transmit have all implemented tabs since then. Applications like Camino (and Firefox and Safari) and Adium already had tabs, so almost all apps I use now have tabbed interfaces. There is still one big hole in my tabbed arsenal, and I’ve got an idea for a potential solution. More on this in a later post.

I’ve been thinking about why tabbed interfaces have become so popular, and why I’ve grown to prefer them to the single-window model alternatives. I think it boils down to 2 main points:

  1. Operating systems do a bad job managing windows across applications. Each application knows how to manage its windows within that application in a more productive than the OS does.
  2. Computers can do more at once then they used to, so you can run more apps at once now (generating more open windows to manage).

Tim added a comment to one of my previous posts pointing at WinTabber, which looks like it could be useful. Of course, there are only screenshots up at the moment (what, no blog?), so who knows if it will actually work. ;)

What are your favorite tabbed applications? Why do you think tabbed interfaces have become so popular lately?