Tab To New Window Annoyance In Firefox

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 29, 2009
Updated • Mar 15, 2012

Firefox 3.5 comes with an annoying problem that I'm not able to solve. The developers - for unknown reasons - have decided to make it possible to drag tabs, which in itself is an interesting feature. Tabs can be dragged into another position in the browser's tabbar, or to spawn a new browser window instead. This closes the original tab in the old Firefox instance, before it gets opened in a new instance.

The big problem is that this happens from time to time without intention on my part. One way to activate tabs is to left-click on them. If that button is pressed too long and the mouse moved downwards just a bit it will move the website in the tab to the new window.

There is apparently no way of disabling the drag and drop tabs into new window feature in Firefox at this point. It happens about once a day that a tab gets accidentally dragged too much around so that it spawns in a new window. The only solution then is to copy the url, close the new web browser window, open a new tab and load the url again in the main browser window. It is not even possible to undo closing the tab in the main browser window as its history will be completely moved to the new browser window as well.

Please leave a comment if you know of a way to disable the spawning of new Firefox windows when dragging and dropping tabs.

Update: As some readers have pointed out, it is also possible to drag and drop the tab back into the original browser window. I'm not experiencing the issue that often anymore. Not sure though if this is because I changed the way I work with tabs in the browser, or if Mozilla has changed the way the dragging and dropping of tabs works in the browser.


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  1. Lem said on August 14, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Ive been using PaleMoon for some time now, but have only just recently been experiencing this annoying problem.
    Its good to be able to simply tear off a tab to another window, especially, as I have 4 monitors on this machine.
    This is a very good feature to have… BUT the designers have stuffed up in one respect.
    I continually have the problem, mainly because Im a bit of a “sloppy mouser” I accidentally move the mouse slightly downward when clicking a tab. This opens the tab in a new window on any one of the 4 screens. Its so annoying!

    And its so silly to design it to function this way. If the tab is dragged downward to the same Mozilla window as it is already in , it should stay where it is. Then if a tab is dragged out of its current window, only then should it move the tab to a new window. Its very obvious that the designers have not thought this through properly.
    I think that this would keep all users happy.

  2. Brian Goodwin said on April 12, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    This has been an occasional nuisance but in the past few days I’ve had it happen when I was definitely NOT dragging the tab, as it was another tab which was detached from the primary window.

    It is hardly a quick, easy task to put the tab back where it belongs. It requires exit from full screen then both windows resized and positioned so that the tab can be returned .. and in my case needed the tab list scrolling to where the tab came from.

    This is a problem on slow machines and especially if the monitor resolution is only 1024×600, where full-screen working is the only practical option, as is the case with many netbooks. On mine the remedial action can take ages plus it hastens the inevitable freezing and subsequent process kill or crash (seemingly due to memory leaks etc.).

    I agree with the above comments which suggest that disabling this “feature” should be an option. I wonder what this is like with touch-screens?

  3. stine1 said on August 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I am using the Nightly version and guess what? This happens, too! So annoying!!!

  4. Average user said on November 24, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I hate this problems, drives me nuts. I don’t know of a way to solve it, but rather than copy and pasting the URL and closing the window, you can simply make the window normal size then click on the tab and drag it back to the original window underneath it and drop it back in place.

  5. Mike said on October 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Just for the Mozilla guys:
    This (IMHO) really is 100% annoying, 0% useful.
    Undo this feature, please.


  6. Scott Hermanson said on October 17, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I have not looked into disabling tab tearing, but it is possible to drag the tab back to the primary window (provided ‘always show tabs’ is enabled).

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

      Scott that’s true. But I would prefer it to not happen in first place.

  7. Nigel said on September 13, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Can’t thank you enough! This has been driving me completely crazy for weeks now.


  8. Anonymous said on July 27, 2011 at 12:18 am

    yeah, it sucks, but guess what – all you have to do is open another tab on the newly ‘spawned’ window. then you can easily grab the tab you want to move back and move it back. close the blank window and its over. i’ve gotten pretty fast with this and reduced the annoyance to <5 seconds.

  9. TheAnalyst said on June 12, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Is it really that hard to understand that different people have different usability needs? “Just drag it right back” apparently causes a refresh of the page, so it’s not too effective in certain use cases (e.g., any use case that causes a data change on the server side with each POST or GET).

    Just because you don’t have the problem and don’t understand the problem doesn’t mean it’s not a problem — it just means you don’t understand. You “don’t get this post at all” — and I don’t get your comment at all. Did you really think you were being helpful, or were you just stroking your ego (or something else)?

    Appreciate those who actually offered solutions. Do not appreciate the superiority-complex peanut gallery, nor the inclusion of a usability-impacting feature that can’t be disabled. If an add-on is needed to disable it, then an add-on should be needed to enable it; likewise, if it’s enabled in core, disabling it should be in core.

  10. Really? said on May 23, 2011 at 7:12 am

    Is it really that hard not to drag your tabs all over the screen? How recently did you learn to use a mouse that you can’t do a simple click without dragging. This is like complaining that when you try to select a desktop icon, you drag it somewhere else on your desktop.
    And as many people have pointed out already (and you have apparently ignored them) you can just drag it right back where it was.
    I really don’t get this post at all.

  11. usually love firefox said on April 13, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I wish Firefox would let me disable this without an add-on.

  12. EndlessGrowthDoom said on April 3, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Annoying as hell…. I just started having the same problem as this article describes, today (tabs **unintentionally** open/move to new window when I only click on them to view them)… but I’ve never had this happen in the past on this pc setup (or any); even with the super sensitive touchpad on my Dinovo Edge wireless keyboard (using Setpoint software mouse speed/acceleration). It seems that firefox is now detecting tiny movements up/down/whatever with the mouse click and opening the tab in a new window.
    Luckily the left click and the touch pad are operated via separate hands on this Dinovo keyboard; it doesn’t appear to do it if I remove my right thumb from the touch pad before clicking with my left thumb… for now…

    It is strange though; I only downloaded firefox 3.6 (but did not install), and I also installed the video driver update 197.13 for my Nvidia GF 210 (in hp5260f slimline) last night… but I did not notice having this problem after that. Today I installed the current updates listed on the hp update page for the s5260f, except for the keyboard drivers, which curiously, would not install; and I also installed a java update… then it started doing this tab/window thing.

    I was thinking it had something to do with the video update, since also; whenever I open tabs/windows the pages are zoomed in/larger… and I don’t have a vertical scroll bar on the side of my browser pages anymore (and I have no themes other than Default)… aaaannd, whenever I try to move tabs left/right, they do not follow my cursor as they use to, and instead indicate(arrow) to place them a few tabs over from my cursor, or show no move/placement-arrow at all?! whaaat? BTW, I did not really “notice” the tab problem until after the java update to 6-19.

  13. Patrick said on December 16, 2009 at 8:28 am

    To everyone responding about how un-annoying this is or how slow we are with our mouses: STFU. You are of no use at all. Google, on the other-hand, is apparently the most useful tool ever. I typed in “clicking firefox tab creates new window” and this post was the first search result. Simpy stunning. Thanks to anyone who provided, or at least attempted to provide, an actual solution.

    I sure hope more IE, Safari, Chrome, Opera, Netscape and AOL users can come share with us FF users how they don’t experience this problem with their browsers and that we should make the switch!

  14. JJ said on October 29, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    hate it hate it hate it so annoying FF needs to fix it

  15. Andrew said on October 21, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    The only solution I have so far is to drag it back to the previous window. This is what I do:

    1. In the newly opened window drag the tab and hold the mouse.
    2. Alt tab to the previous window and drag it up to the tabs.
    3. You should see an arrow pointing where it goes.

    Thats the best I can say so far.

    1. Gruel said on December 24, 2009 at 4:53 pm

      Instead of Alt + Tab to get to the previous window you can also drag the tab to the location on the taskbar of the other window and it will bring it into focus, then drag it into position in the tabbar.

    2. Tom said on October 23, 2009 at 6:08 pm

      @Andrew and Sarah:


      No more complaining – just use it.

  16. Sarah said on October 21, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I am having this same problem and I really think Mozilla needs to fix it. It makes me so mad when I am at work and it starts doing that!

  17. jimmeh said on October 19, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    i hate this feature. i loved being able to drag a tab into a messenger window and it copypasta’ing the url there for me :(

    also i notice dragging and dropping a picture to my desktop is retarded and doesnt always save the picture correctly. this used to be awesome in the last iteration :/

  18. Rae said on October 7, 2009 at 3:13 am

    I understand the positives of this feature, and why it is there, but wow, it is SO sensitive!! Glad I found this add-on; hoping it works as well as people are saying (just downloaded but can’t restart FF quite yet).

    I actually just wish the “trigger” was just a little LESS sensitive, because I would like to be able to use this feature occasionally….by choice! But if the option is a flat ON vs OFF, then off it goes. :(


  19. Cole said on October 6, 2009 at 6:16 am

    SO glad I found this. I’ve been doing this multiple times a day since it was released but, like you, wasn’t using the right search terms to turn it off. I could not think of a more useless “feature” and it’s been aggravating me for some time now. It’s funny that so many people haven’t had an issue but I am wondering if mouse sensitivity doesn’t play into this. Not only does it happen when I am NOT clicking but I’ve NEVER seen an outline to warn me it’s happening. It just does.

    Anyway, I’m just so fucking happy to find your post. There’s no other way to put it!

  20. Tom said on September 16, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    People! This works:

    No more complaining – just use it.

  21. CHiNOAYA! said on September 12, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    WTF! Firefox 3.5.3 (latest patch) is still got this f*cking problem!
    I’m very bored with this new feature.

  22. Trip said on August 21, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you so much for this article and the resulting helpful comments. I hadn’t found that add-on yet, and this sudden new window crap has been bothering me for some time now. I like having only one Firefox window with a billion tabs in it. Using a laptop touchpad, I find that sometimes it drags by mistake when clicking. The add-on works perfectly. =)

  23. Ms Constantine said on August 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you to the people that suggested the add on. It seems to work.

    I’ve been getting so frustrated at the new windows popping up a few times a day. I work with about 10-15 tabs open at a time and I had no idea why some of them were randomly opening in new windows, I actually thought it might have been some sort of virus. Good to know it’s just a stupid feature that can’t be disabled without an add on.

  24. Lance said on July 23, 2009 at 1:25 am

    I am having the same annoying problem, but I work w/ multiple tabs at work and must move around very quickly in a support environment. So I am constantly popping tabs out.

    I found this site searching for a solution and will try the plugin RG linked to.

  25. Ryan said on July 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    This happens to me *all the time*. Mainly happens on the meebo tab since i’m frequently switching to and from this tab at work. When the tab to window process is spawned it makes all my IM’s scroll to the top and they all get strangely resized.

    I guess the only solution is to downgrade back to 3.0 but I’m not particularly sure if it’s worth the hassle of uninstalling and reinstalling (not really a hassle just dont wan’t to do it).

  26. Magiciandude said on July 15, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    The solution of dragging the tabs back into the original window doesn’t work for me. that refreshes the page, and I’m listening to Pandora, so whenever this happens it completely restarts the application. It’s quite annoying when I’m listening to a song I like, try to go to that tab to “thumbs up” it, and then the page comes out in a new window, refreshes, and I don’t get to hear that song again for a while.

  27. David T. said on July 15, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Dragging the tab back to the original window is not a solution if you don’t run your apps windowed. Firefox is getting as bad as Google with annoying new features you can’t turn off.

  28. Dee said on July 13, 2009 at 5:12 am

    Wow. Why did you make this without even trying it? All you have to do is drag it back in there. by clicking the tab and dragging it onto the other window, and it will close that new window and put the tab back. There should be an easier way to ctrl + ___ + z it though.

  29. Rob said on July 6, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Extremely annoying feature, and will be trying add-on listed above. Can’t believe that was intentional. If it was, they would have included an option to turn it off.

  30. Barry said on July 5, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    This also seems to have the effect of outright removing the feature of dragging a tab to another Firefox instance to open the same page in the other instance. I do this to log onto sites with different credentials at the same time if needed and it seems you can no longer just drag a page from one instance to another like you used to be able to in 3.0.

    It seems you CAN still drag the icon from the URL though.

  31. Rick said on July 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm


    I hate to be this stereotype (I try not to evangelize), but….the solution is to use Opera. In Opera there is a sidebar (usually hidden) that lists all your open windows and their tabs. You can select the whole list and drag them into one window.

  32. k242 said on July 4, 2009 at 6:17 am

    Looks like Duplicate Tab is an add-on that addressed merging of windows back into tabs, but it hasn’t been updated since June 4, 2008, so it may not be compatible with FF 3.5…

    If anyone knows of another solution for merging all open Firefox windows into a single window as tabs, please post a solution here.

  33. k242 said on July 4, 2009 at 6:10 am

    The Safari feature I would really like Firefox to implement, is actually “merge all windows”, which can merge all open windows into a single tabbed window.

    That one command is missing, and is very helpful…

  34. k242 said on July 4, 2009 at 6:08 am

    This feature has been around since Safari was released… it’s actually quite handy, Firefox’s implementation is much clumsier than Safari, but it works…

    If you accidentally move a tab out of a window, spawning a new window, it is easy enough to drag your new window back into your tabs of the previous window in Firefox 3.5.

    Just drag it between tabs in your previous window to merge it again, and if there was only one other tab, drag it between the first tab and + symbol tab.

    Also, when dragging over this area inbetween tabs, you will see a large blue divider icon which indicates you can merge this new window as a tab in the previous window.

  35. Kirk said on July 3, 2009 at 5:36 pm


    If you haven’t noticed this–I just found it by accidentally reading the right post…then interpreting what the poster meant–you can STILL drag to desktop WITHOUT patches, waiting for the “bugfix” or waiting for TabMix+ to be compatible with FF 3.5:

    The site icon to the left of the address–left click and drag this instead of the tab header. Yeah, it adds extra work because now you have to switch tabs instead of just grabbing each one, but it gets it done…for now.

    I’ve made a comment in the Mozilla blogs to maybe give those of us who can’t force our users to read the changelogs with a fine-toothed comb some kind of visual heads-up for features that are (essentially) silently changed.

  36. tiki god said on July 3, 2009 at 4:29 am

    I’ve been drag and dropping tabs as a mean to bookmark sites and add shortcuts on my desktop for the entire time that I’ve been using the internet. This new ‘tab tearing’ feature breaks a fundamental method of my browsing habits and would love to have the ability to throw it in the trash where it belongs.

    How do I disable this filth?

  37. Gzzzt said on July 2, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    “Seems to me you have poor relexes or response time. Try playing a fast-paced shooter to improve your mouse finger and quit blaming the developer. No one else has this problem”

    Apparently your idiotic self-centered brain hasn’t yet realised that there are different kind of people in the world.

    It seems, that Firefox hasn’t made proper usability tests, which is not surprising, because it is open source project.

  38. awldae33 said on July 1, 2009 at 4:50 am

    Use the Tab Mix Plus add-on and select the “Single Instance” checkbox and “Open New Windows In New Tab” option. Problem solved.

  39. Rick said on June 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    This feature was in Opera before Chrome existed.

    Clean up your mousing, unless you’re over the age of 60.

  40. adorno said on June 30, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Why are you left-clicking and holding for so long that you neglect to release the button before moving the mouse?

    Seems to me you have poor relexes or response time. Try playing a fast-paced shooter to improve your mouse finger and quit blaming the developer. No one else has this problem

    1. Martin said on June 30, 2009 at 8:37 am

      First of all it is less than a second before this happens. Second I would probably whoop your ass in every shooter on this planet.

  41. Joe said on June 30, 2009 at 3:07 am

    I 2nd Tab Mix Plus. I’ve been using it for year and have never even heard of this problem.

  42. Jonathan said on June 30, 2009 at 12:21 am

    I using 3.5 also, and can not duplicate the issue that the article address (and not from a lack of trying!)

  43. The How-To Geek said on June 29, 2009 at 9:57 pm


    I agree with you… it’s especially frustrating when you’re using the Tree Style Tab extension, where you can drag and drop tabs around to re-arrange them, cause it constantly pops them into a new window.

    That little extension works great for me!

  44. -=Ben=- said on June 29, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Easy Fix:
    Install Tab Mix Plus… I have not had Tab Tearing since!

    1. Martin said on June 29, 2009 at 9:15 pm

      Ben is this working when forcing compatibility with firefox 3.5?

  45. JW Waldschmidt said on June 29, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    It happens to me at times, but the solution is easy. Simply grab hold of the tab in the new window, and drag it back onto the tab bar of the window in which it came from. You can easily drag & drop tabs between windows, with no loss of information (try it with an open Gmail session). It’s really handy for dealing with multiple monitors – easy to compare two things side by side. I, for one, love the new capability mirroring that of Google Chrome.

    1. Georg said on January 17, 2012 at 10:28 am


  46. David Dashifen Kees said on June 29, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I find it interesting how some people like/dislike certain features. Ever since I learned about tab-tearing in one of the early articles about 3.5 I’ve been chomping at the bit for it. I installed the RC for 3.5 when it was made available and I use tab-tearing probably once or twice an hour. It’s invaluable for my practice.

    1. Martin said on June 29, 2009 at 8:52 pm

      David yes opinions differ on this matter. I for one have no use for it at all and would love an option to disable it. Can’t be to difficulty to add an option for that. I think it would please many Firefox users. I can see its usefulness for users with multiple monitors though.

  47. roopesh said on June 29, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    have the option “always show the tab bar” enabled, and drag the tab in the new window back into the window where u want it, it works. I tried it on FF 3.5 RC3

  48. HNicolai said on June 29, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    In Chrome it works really good, its nice, its fast, and you can easy arrange your tabs. But in FF its terrible(!) Its looks ugly and really slow :(

    Why don’t they make it the same way as chrome? Or just leave it as it was in v.3.0?

  49. Bluegravity said on June 29, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    i think it’ll soon be fixed. I searched for this problem and i am catching alot of articles on it. I think it’ll be fixed before the official release…

  50. Oz said on June 29, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Huh. I’ve been using 3.5 for a while now and I haven’t had that happen to me even once. Perhaps one of your addons is causing a problem?

    Anyway, I ran a quick google search for “disable firefox 3.5 tab” and this came up as the first result:

    Along with what looked like at least a few other similar articles. Took all of about five seconds. I have to ask…why didn’t you do that? A quick google search should be the first response to any computer problem that has no immediately obvious solution.

    1. Martin said on June 29, 2009 at 7:41 pm

      Well I did my research but I may have been using the wrong search terms. It happens from time to time but my search results did not display any viable solution. I researched that problem before and found the add-on that Aidanael mentioned but this time I could not find even that in the results.

  51. Aidanael said on June 29, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    AFAIK, this extension is the only way you can get rid of that feature

    And John C’s right, it is indeed possible to drag a tab back to its original window.

    1. Martin said on June 29, 2009 at 7:24 pm

      Aidanael. I actually have tried this add-on in the past and it somehow did not work then. I tried it again after I saw your comment and it is now working fine after checking the disable detach box. Thanks everyone for leaving comments, it’s really great to receive that many quick and helpful responses :)

  52. MilesAhead said on June 29, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I agree with John C. Once you see the image of the page superimposed, just move it up so it’s level with the tab bar and let go of the mouse. I’ve been rearranging tabs on the tab bar with drag & drop but I didn’t know this feature existed to open a new window. I’ve been using Minefield for months now. I don’t know why they don’t just go to release 3.6. Minefield seems fine to me. Then again I don’t use 200 AddOns or run 64 tabs simultaneously as some may. :)

  53. John C said on June 29, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    So far as I understand this “feature” is a copy of a similar function in Google’s Chrome – drag a tab off the main window and it is reparented in a new window. In chrome this is really annoying on a slow machine – many times I accidentally click/drag because the machine is so slow… and then it gets even slower while opening a new window to house the dragged tab :-)

    However Chrome, at least, allows the tab to be dragged _back_ to the _original_ window. Did you try that with FF3.5? I can’t try it here because I haven’t (yet) plucked up the courage to download the latest RC, especially as my existing FF (3.0.x) is _much_ slower than Chrome :-)

    Just a thought…

  54. RG said on June 29, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Probably the best you can do right now, I haven’t tried it by the way

  55. hej said on June 29, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    i havent tried this myself as im not using 3.0 but i hope it works

    1. Joe said on December 14, 2010 at 2:15 am

      I’m using 3.6.13 and the fix that hej said worked great.

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