These days, everyone agrees that tabs belong in webbrowsers. For example, as I’m writing this article, I have nine tabs open, one to write this and eight with the articles I’ll link. Without the tabs, I’d have to alt-tab between nine browser windows, like in the days I used Internet Explorer 6. I think tabs are one of the best things the new generation of web browsers have. But do they belong in file managers?
It seems like the people actually creating the file managers don’t know either. If you ask the KDE devs, tabs are for power users. That’s why Konqueror has them, and Dolphin hasn’t. At first glance, that seems to be correct. The current branch of Nautilus doesn’t have tabs for the same reason. Neither has Thunar, and (never?) will.
But the tide seems to be turning. When PCMan found all the available file managers lacking and created his own, he made sure that PCManFM had tabs. It has been one of its selling points: “lightweight like Thunar, but with tabs”.
But the real thunderclap has been the news that the next version of Nautilus will have tabs too. This was announced on the 12th on July, and already the SVN version has this feature. If you’re not big on compiling software, just have a look at the latest Ubuntu alpha release.
It seems like the question whether tabs belong in a file manager or not is a moot one. Apparently, users want this feature, so it’s up to the devs to implement it.
As for my own, personal take: a file manager should either have tabs, or a twin pane view. Otherwise, copying and moving many files in a complicated directory tree becomes a chore.