Little things you may not have noticed in IE8: Part 5 – Tab duplication

Clone your current place


One of the nice things about the “New Window” (Ctrl-N) feature dating back to early releases of IE, is that it always duplicates the current open window, as well as all of its state – in particular, the window’s history.

When the “New Tab” feature was created back in IE7, I remember discussing with Aaron how IE could recreate the New Window behavior for Tabs. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut for 7, but I’m thrilled to see it make it into 8 (along with a ton of other tab-related new features).

The valuable thing about Duplicate tab (Ctrl-K) is that it allows IE8 to support both of the two most common search-and-discovery patterns on the web. The two patterns are as follows:

Breadth-first Let’s say you’re searching for information on IE8. You head up to your address bar and type in “ie8” (which, we’ve learned, will take you to your search engine). Looking at the results, you see a four or five likely sites, so, using Ctrl-click (or middle-click), you open several of them in background tabs. Then, once you have several candidates open, you switch over to them one-by-one to explore them.

This model of search-and-discovery is fully supported by the tab features in IE7 (and other browsers) today. But, there’s another model.

Interestingly, prior to tabbed browsing, this was the predominant model for finding information (using New page). Let’s say that you are searching for dinner menus at cuban restaurants. So you do a quick search for “cuban restaurant menus”. You then click on the first likely result, and navigate through the site until you find the menu. Now you’ve found it, you want to go back to the hub and find another, without losing the page you’re on.

This model is supported by the new Duplicate tab feature. With this feature, you hit Ctrl-K to duplicate your current tab, then hit back to get back to your search result page, and click on the next link to explore. The page you were on is left alone on its own tab until you are done with it. 

The depth-first model is used when you are looking for specific pages deep within a site that may not be easily categorized at the top level. Prior to IE8, it wasn’t possible to do search-and-discovery using tabs.


This small feature reflects a theme of IE8 that should become clear over time: There are a lot of great major features which you’ll read about blogs and the news, but deep down, you’ll find that what the team did during planning and development was to research and hone in on common patterns of using the web and build in features – large and small – to make those patterns easier or more refined.