How to restore Tabs On Bottom in Firefox

Most browser developers believe that tabs on top of the browser window is the logical position. They may state that this is  consistent in regards to the user interface, or that all "other" browsers are doing it as well.

The debate whether tabs should be on bottom or top in Firefox has waved for years. Mozilla started to push out tabs on top in Firefox 4 as the default display mode but kept an option in Firefox to display them at the bottom if wanted.

There are arguments for tabs on bottom as well as for tabs on top. If that is of interest to you, check out the bug over at Mozilla that tracks the removal of the tabs on bottom mode.

Side note: There is also a third group of users, those who like their tabs displayed on the side of the browser.

Recently, the organization has removed that option from the UI of Firefox, but kept it as a about:config switch that experienced users could still use to display tabs on bottom. That switch, browser.tabs.onTop, will be removed when Firefox Australis is released.

Before we look at  ways to restore tabs on bottom, we need to define bottom and top.

Tabs on top are displayed above the address bar and the bookmarks bar in Firefox. In Australis, only the titlebar is displayed on top of the tabbar.

tabs-on-top

Tabs on bottom on the other hand means that tabs are displayed below the browser's main toolbar and the bookmarks bar. It should not be confused with Tab Mix Plus' bottom display option which moves the tabs below the website to the bottom of the browser window.

tabs-on-bottom

I have been using tabs on bottom in Firefox ever since I started using the browser. While I do not have any issues using tabs on top in Chrome, as the browser lacks customization to place tabs elsewhere, I was disappointed when Mozilla announced the removal of tabs on bottom in Firefox 29.

If you want to restore the functionality, you will have to install extensions to do so. I'm going to review two extensions -- briefly -- that you can use for that.

Straightforward is the Tabs On Bottom extension. It has only one purpose and that is to restore the tabs on bottom functionality in Firefox. All you have to do is install the extension to regain the missing functionality. Note that it will leave other Australis-related changes such as curved tabs as they are.

Classic Theme Restorer on the other hand restores tabs on bottom as well as about a dozen other features or interface elements that were modified or removed in Firefox Australis. I have reviewed the extension in detail here.

tabs-not-on-top

You are probably wondering when this change is going to happen. If you are running Firefox Nightly, it already happened. Firefox Aurora users will notice the change February 4, 2014, Beta users on March 18, 2014, and the bulk of users when the stable version of Firefox is updated to version 29 on April 29, 2014.

While we are at it: what is your preference in regards to tabs? Top? Bottom? Side? No tabs? Lets discuss in the comments.

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Responses to How to restore Tabs On Bottom in Firefox

  1. Jaroslav Matura January 21, 2014 at 12:43 am #

    I prefer having tabs on top, as they take up less space on my small laptop screen that way. However, from time to time, I get tired of the look, so I change it for a while.
    Removing Tabs on top won't hurt my everyday browsing needs, but I am against it as I believe there are thousands of users who prefer it the classic way.

    When I go over to Bugzilla to read (or very rarely participate to) devs' discussions over whether or not remove what feature (it usually ends up with axing the feature), I fairly often cannot believe my own eyes, because what some of the devs use as arguments, quite literally sickens me. To be honest, and I'm speaking from the bottom of my heart, it's all shit. The more I read, the deeper I dig, the stronger the impression of them getting paid by Google to dumb Firefox down gets.

    I can only hope now that after Australis' release Firefox's market share will go down so the devs actually rerealize what they've been doing wrong all along. I just can see no other way.

  2. Karl Gephart January 21, 2014 at 2:17 am #

    Always prefer top. Gives the browser window more of a 3D pop, especially with a little styling.

  3. fulltext January 21, 2014 at 3:57 am #

    I'm a tabs on side guy. Might as well use the extra screen width and have more space for scrolling

  4. beemeup2 January 21, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    I prefer tabs on the bottom because working with multiple rows of tabs is much easier. If they're on top, they'll push down the address bar and bookmarks bar the more rows there are. If they're on the bottom, the address bar and bookmarks bar remain exactly where they are regardless of how many rows of tabs are present, which is exactly how I like it.

    Palemoon will never remove the option to have tabs on bottom because Palemoon users recognize the need for more control over your browser, not less. If I wanted less, I'd use Chromium.

    • Carpatula January 26, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      Sorry to tell you, the changes of Australis are too big. A one men project wants to maintain the old UI alone... Very unlikely that that works.

      There are 2 possibilities.. that guy will use aris addon like he used another addon which he did put in the browser core (status 4evar) or he will quit his custom build, because on longer terms there is no addon compatibility and theme compatibility with the old UI anymore.

      If you want to refuse the Chrome look and functions, switch over to Qupzilla or the new Otter-Browser Alpha - both projects are way more promising in terms of future customizability!

      But Firefox is done with it, both official and both inofficial builds!

  5. Firefoxlover January 21, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    For many years I am having the tabs on top and like it that way since having the tabs on bottom takes up more screen space.

  6. jfjb January 21, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    about:config ... browser.tabs.onTop defaults to TRUE
    double click to change Bolean, reload FF
    et voilà... easy as pie
    (almost) on the fly
    no extension on either SSD-HD or RAM

    • Martin Brinkmann January 21, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

      As I said, this works in pre-Firefox 29 versions. If you are using Firefox 29 or newer, you will notice that it won't work anymore.

  7. jfjb January 22, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    Sorry, I missed that line... Need to change medication...
    So, there won't be any possible possibility to just add the browser:tabs.OnTop Boolean in about:config? S**eiße !!
    (grin)

  8. John Cookson January 23, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    I must say that I do not understand the current trend driving removal of interface functionality from browsers. This is not progress but instead represents significant regression and is sheer lunacy. It is one thing to have a simplistic default interface configuration but why on earth remove customisation options for more sophisticated users.

    My preferred browser had always been Opera, where a philosophy of interface customisation and functionality reigned supreme. Unfortunately the current development team at Opera appears to have recently abandoned this approach in favour of using the Chrome browser engine in their newer versions. It remains to be seen how much interface functionality and options for customisation are restored to their new browser as the future unfolds but things do not look good at the moment and I have been doggedly hanging on to their currently obsolete classic 12.x version.

    In regard to this article, I prefer tabs positioned at the bottom of my browser window just above the Windows taskbar. Each of us have our opinions on this and Opera 12.x lets me exercise my own preferences. I very much appreciate such flexibility. When I am working on a powerful desktop computer, I want a feature rich sophisticated browser experience which allows me to maximize productivity.

    Don't ask me about Bookmarks and combination URL/Search boxes otherwise I may go off on another rant....

    I should also mention that in addition to Internet Explorer, I have the following browsers installed on most of my desktop/laptop and tablet computers :-

    Opera 12, Opera 15, Opera Next, Firefox, Pale Moon and Chrome. More often than not I have three or more of these browsers running at the same time (and no, this is not as daft as it sounds).

    • Eric February 16, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

      I also was a fan of Opera; unfortunately, I had to switch a few months ago to Firefox as my default browser because there were too many sites I frequented where Opera 12.16 was no longer working properly.

      I agree that tabs belong at the bottom of the page. I use a modified Ubuntu without any panel at the bottom, so my tabs in Opera and now Firefox are at the bottom of the screen. For me, tabs at top push page content too far town, and I like the tabs out of the way.

      I appreciated your comments about the lunacy of removing options. It's a step in the wrong direction.

      By the way, on those rare occasions I use Windows I often have two or three browsers open. In Linux, I have the option of creating web apps using Epiphany/Web, which is a convenient way of putting pages I want constantly left open into a separate window I'm not likely to close by accident.

  9. Ty Myrick January 23, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

    I prefer tabs on bottom. I am not happy about having to install an extension to maintain functionality. I do not have a problem with making changes that add features or improve the software, but I cannot see the point in changing or removing features simply because someone likes it that way rather than another.

    I have both Firefox and Chrome open right now. Firefox has tabs on the bottom, Chrome on the top. The UI chrome on Firefox only takes up a few more pixels of vertical space than Chrome, and switching to tabs on top doesn't make it any smaller. So what is the actual point of removing tabs on bottom?

    • Martin Brinkmann January 23, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

      Less maintenance.

      • Carpatula January 26, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

        And it is no secret that Mozilla switched from Opera fanboy'ism over to Chrome fanboy'ism ;) They adopted now Google's Design concept and abandoned the customizability concept they took much years earlier from Opera. Mozilla follows more trends instead of creating own ones. Too bad i only discovered that recently, but fine for me, Qupzilla or Otter-Browser Project here i come.

        If i would be interested in more clueless browser developement i could also use Chrome or Opera.

        Anyway, i am very disappointed!

  10. Jessica Foyle February 7, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    Oh it seems to be getting so close to when abandon Firefox! It has been an interminable process of reversing features they've removed. It is mindless!

    I like tabs below to separate the web page and the browser controls. Each time I have to use an extension (eg status-4-evar) to get back ways of working that to me are intuitive I feel a little bit more that by using Firefox these days I am supporting an idiot. Like Microsoft and Windows 8.x, forcing changes that even if they were improvements are not anything like as important as not removing your long-term user's choice.

  11. JB February 18, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    I prefer tabs on bottom. Tabs on top seems to appeal to people who rarely change tabs (social media, shopping), whereas people who need multiple resources (researchers, programmers, newshounds) don't like the longer reach into the middle of unrelated functions. As a previous poster mentioned, the other bars move if you use multiple tab rows. Marketing to content creators over users is great for Chrome/Google because that's their core business, but suicide for Firefox, whose market has always been geared toward people who don't want advertisers or anyone else telling them how to use their browsers.

    Btw, the current nightly, 30.0a1 (2014-02-17), doesn't work with the Tabs On Bottom extension, although I'll leave my tinfoil in the cupboard for now, because toolbar customization is currently broken, albeit in an unrelated way. Move something off the navigation bar over the tab bar for a moment, and the browser opens that tab, forcing you to have a very steady hand if you want to move things around with a small desktop/laptop screen (I'm using a 32" monitor.)

    Removing the tab placement option isn't interminable, but it definitely makes Firefox less appealing, and the number of remaining advantages over Chrome is already so low that most users remain simply out of habit or distrust of Google. Not a good place to be in for the folks at Mozilla, much less for them to be racing even deeper into their own mess.

    Give me options. Hide them in about:whatever if you want to appeal to content creators, advertisers, and users who can barely find the On switch, but at least throw the rest of us an option. Complaining about the maintenance issues of the vertical position of a toolbar is a bit specious. If it is a major problem, then perhaps take a developer off the "round all the tab edges" team and let them focus on the code for moving a toolbar downward 20 pixels.

    Just sayin'.

    • Sandi March 22, 2014 at 1:17 am #

      I prefer tabs-on-bottom because when I see a link I'd like to explore, I drag it to the tab bar, then let it load while I continue reading the current page. BTW, for that same reason, I HATE 'switch to new tab immediately'.

      I am disappointed that Firefox is chasing Chrome's annoying UI while abandoning useful features.

  12. JB February 18, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    Nevermind, Tabs On Bottom installed on the third try. Odd.

  13. Christian March 21, 2014 at 5:31 am #

    I prefer on the bottom. Takes up less space, makes more sense and it's more convenient when you have multiple tabs open and are often changing between them.

  14. Goo March 22, 2014 at 1:09 am #

    I prefer tabs on bottom because I switch more often between many open tabs and I prefer the shorter mouse movements. I think this should always be an option. Why not allow the user to choose?

    Many of us switched to OPEN programs, because of Micro$ofts assaults. As soon as open source programs gain popularity, they stupidly start doing the same assaulting things. I can meanwhile give many examples e.g. Thunderbird not searching to Google, Gimp no longer saving straight to JPG.
    What is going on with the developers? Why are they so big headed and feel they must suppress their users?
    Why not leave the choice to the user, especially if it doesn't cost any extra code?
    Why must some programmers tell me, what is "better" for me?

  15. Marco March 25, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    I prefer tabs on bottom because I want the bookmarks toolbar above them, as bookmarks do not belong to the page I am viewing. I am very disappointed that the feature has been completely removed in Firefox 29. I also used Panorama a lot, and it has been removed too, along with the addon bar. They should stop copying Chrome because its UI is horrible, the only feature they should copy is its speed and being able to isolate a single tab by process, as often I have one script blocking all the browser.

  16. Jerry March 30, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    I prefer them on the bottom. I like to see the tab name (and to me, hence the location of the document) right above the document. Also, other tabs that I am referencing are probably adjacent.
    To move my view to the top over perhaps several other toolbars then loses focus.

    Look at it this way. The tab above the document points right into the document. But with the tabs at the top, it now goes through other bars that are totally unrelated to the document. One for instance, is the favorites bar.

    Much of what others might find making sense, like a bar with the printer icon, is less important to me. I use keystrokes for as much as is practical since it is faster and eye and mouse are not required.

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