Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ctrl+Tab and IE 7

While I was on hold with Microsoft support recently, I decided to download and try the new public beta release of Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 on my test machine.

Overall, it feels a lot like a Firefox clone -- which isn't a bad thing. Firefox 1.5 has recently become my primary browser of choice for all pages and applications except for those which only play nice with IE. Prior to switching, I had used IE 6 for everything. (I had briefly tried Opera 8, but I ended up dropping it because it locks up my work machine for about 10-15 seconds while it is first starting up, and it doesn't support some keyboard shortcuts supported by IE that I tend to use automatically such as Ctrl+Enter to prepend "www." and append ".com" in the address bar -- Alt+d, "google", Ctrl+Enter takes me to the http://www.google.com site.)

One thing that I don't like about Firefox 1.5, however, is the behavior of Ctrl+Tab. When there are 3 or more tabs open, then repeated presses of Ctrl+Tab activate through each tab in order. Unfortunately, the IE 7 team has dutifully cloned this behavior in the current beta version of IE 7.

The behavior I would want to see is having Ctrl+Tab work like Alt+Tab does in Windows -- a press of Alt+Tab activates the most-recently-used window, not just the "next" window. This makes it very convenient to rapidly switch back and forth between 2 windows that I'm using at any given time.

There is a good Firefox extension available to fix the Ctrl+Tab behavior, LastTab. I'm willing to install LastTab on each of my machines since (1) FireFox makes it so painless to install extensions, and (2) I'm aware that any machines other than my own are not likely to have Firefox installed so I'll just be using IE on those machines anyway.

However, as soon as IE 7 is released, it is likely to become the new corporate standard at most businesses. For this reason, I would like to see the IE 7 team get the Ctrl+Tab behavior "right" by default, so that when I'm using someone else's machine I can Ctrl+Tab between tabs without being annoyed by the behavior, regardless of whether it might be easy to fix the behavior on my own machine by using an extension.