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What are tabs

If you've ever talked before about a particular page on a website, chances are you may have committed a major faux pas by referring to it as a "tab." Here's the thing: Most websites have a navigation of some kind linking to the pages contained therein.  Somehow these page links have become known to some as "tabs." The whole idea is just strange to me. How did navigational page links get that title?  Just as a refresher, lets look at the true definition of the word tab


The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines tab as...

a short projecting device: as (1) : a small flap or loop by which something may be grasped or pulled (2) : a projection from a card used as an aid in filing

As the definition goes, a tab is a projection from a file folder that can be grasped or pulled. We are all familiar with the classic manila file folders of yesteryear, and we all agree that its projection is called a tab, but how can this correctly apply to websites? 


It's not a bad idea to give more tangible terms to intangible objects.  It helps make the intangible more familiar and keeps us from having to relearn grammar all over again.  A web page is a perfect example of that.  Rather than referring to the "compiled hypertext markup language, cascading style sheets and the (personal) hypertext processing code's uniform resource locator" we can simply refer to a web page.

But does that mean a link to the page is a tab?

Lets apply the true definition of a tab to a website (starting with the web page) and see where that takes us.  The oft-referred tabs in the navigation take us to individual pages.  Is that the way real world tangible tabs work?  No, thinking back to our manila file folder example, we see that the tabs mark entire folders – folders which contain multiple pages and sometimes multiple sections of pages.

So what is a tab!?

Again, let's go back to our true definition.  What is something that projects, can be pulled, contains multiple pages and would help one distinguish one file from another?  Anyone?  Anyone?  ...  Buller?

That's right.  Look up at the top of your browser.  Do you see those things projecting from your address bar with the titles embedded in them?  Go ahead and drag those around a bit.  If you click on one or another, you will tab from one website to another much like you would thumb from one folder to another.  In fact, to create a new one you can probably just hit Ctrl+T to Open a New ... (wait for it) ... Tab.

Get it right

So, next time you want to refer to the Services page of your website, just call it the Services page.  If you mention the tabs across the top, you'd better be talking about your browser.  Together, we can take a stand against the stolen identities of website features everywhere.