Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Jun 2016 21:53 UTC

Speaking of software sucks, take a look at this screenshot of Chrome for Android. Do you notice something out of the ordinary? While you look, let me give you a little history.

Way back when Android Lollipop was released, Google introduced a feature called "merge tabs and apps" and enabled it by default for all Lollipop users. Basically, what it did was turn individual Chrome tabs into application windows in Android's application switcher. If you have an understanding of how Android works, this makes perfect sense; this turns tabs into full citizens of the Android application and intents workflow.

Starting with - I think? - Android Marshmallow, Google turned the feature off, but kept it as an option in Google Chrome, so that those of us that liked it could turn it back on. Obviously, this was the first thing I always turned on when setting up any new Android device; it just makes sense from an Android perspective. It smooths out the workflow, and makes sure that tab management becomes a thing of the past; they are discarded just like other Android applications.

Sadly, starting with Chrome 51, released a few weeks ago, the Android or Chrome or whatever team decided to remove the option altogether. The release notes stated:

When Android Lollipop was released last year, we moved Chrome tabs to live alongside apps in Android’s Overview app switcher. Our goal was to make it easier for you to switch between your open apps and websites. However, we heard from many of you that you could not find the tabs you created. This was especially difficult on phones that do not have a dedicated Overview button. While considering how to make Chrome work better for everyone, we brought the tab switcher back into Chrome so you can find your Chrome tabs in a single place. Look for a new way to manage your open tabs in coming releases.

This single change has thoroughly ruined the way I use my phone. I now have upwards of 60 - and growing - "open" tabs, because the Chrome team wants me to manually keep track of and close every individual tab that gets opened while using Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other applications. I now have to keep track of not only running applications in the switcher, but also open tabs in the tab switcher, the latter of which can only be opened with a button in Chrome all the way at the top of my ginormous Nexus 6P display. The tab switcher itself, meanwhile, is a finicky clusterfuck of imprecise swipes and physics nonsense, making it all incredibly frustrating to use.

Update: this paragraph was added later as clarification. In addition, if you tapped on a link in, say, Fenix (Twitter) and read the website in the tab and then pressed back, said tab was automatically closed. This automatic closing of tabs with the back button does not happen with the inferior new method, hence the asinine clutter build-up.

Trying to switch to a specific tab I may have opened earlier in the day is an exercise in frustration now, since instead of just opening the application switcher and finding it a few swipes up (I don't use many applications), I now have to first find Chrome or launch it from my homescreen, find the tab switcher button all the way at the top, count to ten as I try to use the asinine tab switcher, and then hope I can find it somewhere among the more than 60 - and growing - "open" tabs and UI input lag caused by having to render all these tabs in that weird 3D space.

As someone who keeps track of world news, things like UEFA Euro 2016, technology news, and so on, all throughout the day, I end up with countless interesting tabs that get opened on Twitter, other social media, instant messenger, and so on. The Chrome team has actively decided to break my workflow, and there's no way for me to get it back - probably just because instead of looking at the how or why, they just looked at their precious, precious user data, and called it a day.

Looking to the future, with (freeform) windowing coming to Android, the change makes even less sense. Having tabs as part of the regular application switcher surely makes sense from a multitasking and multiwindow perspective, automatically giving Android users the ability to have multiple tabs side-by-side, in a way that is consistent with using other applications side-by-side. How are they going to implement this now? Will Android users have to deal with multiple Chrome windows, each with their own tab switcher? Where do tabs of closed windows go? What madness is this?

I find solace in that I'm not alone. Countless friends have expressed their hatred for the removal of merge tabs and apps (I've seen some of my programmer friends with well north of 100 "open" tabs), and the Chrome for Android reviews in the Play Store are riddled with angry one-star reviews. Google's forums, too, are filled with angry users. I'm hoping the angry comments and one-star reviews will make the Chrome team reconsider and bring back the option to merge tabs and apps, the Only True Android Way™ to manage tabs.

I'm sure tons of people here will consider this whining, but imagine if you're a programmer, and someone randomly took away your ability to insert tabs, forcing you to use spaces instead (or vice versa). That twitch you feel? That's us right now, every time we use Android.

For the first time in my life, I actually rated an application on an application store. Guess how many "stars" (why is it always stars?) I gave to Chrome for Android.

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RE[3]: Buses vs cars
by Thom_Holwerda on Wed 29th Jun 2016 15:12 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Buses vs cars"
Member since:

So, please elaborate: what happens if too many tabs are listed in the task switcher? Are the automatically dismissed and removed from the list? Because this hasn't been explained explicitly before.

The application switcher is a timeline. This means that the higher up you go, the less likely you are to ever need it. You can go back eons in that list, especially because in Marshmallow, it persists across reboots.

I rarely scroll up more than 5-6 entries in the recents timeline, so I don't actually see any of those tabs, other than the very most recent ones (1-2). In addition, if you tap on a link in, say, Fenix (Twitter) and read the website in the tab and then press back, said tab was automatically closed. This automatic closing of tabs with the back button does not happen with the inferior new method, hence the asinine clutter build-up.

Merge tabs and apps is just better in every possible way for the way I use my phone, and it bothered nobody to have it as an option, or hell, a f--king Chrome flag (there are flags for the most obscure pointless shit that nobody ever uses!).

Edited 2016-06-29 15:14 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[4]: Buses vs cars
by rft183 on Wed 29th Jun 2016 15:42 in reply to "RE[3]: Buses vs cars"
rft183 Member since:

I know it isn't automatic, but there is an option in the Chrome tab switcher to close all tabs. That way you don't have to do it manually, one at a time.

It seems to me that this is primarily just a difference in the way people use their phones. I can't stand for my Android app switcher to go on and on, and so I do close them. Therefore, the feature made no sense for me. It's a shame that they didn't leave it as an option, though.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[4]: Buses vs cars
by phoenix on Wed 29th Jun 2016 18:10 in reply to "RE[3]: Buses vs cars"
phoenix Member since:

In addition, if you tap on a link in, say, Fenix (Twitter) and read the website in the tab and then press back, said tab was automatically closed. This automatic closing of tabs with the back button does not happen with the inferior new method, hence the asinine clutter build-up.

Something is broken in your Android setup, then, because that is exactly how it works on my phone. Click link in App1, new tab opens in Chrome, hit back button, tab is closed, and App1 is shown onscreen again. No tab clutter to worry about. This is the exact workflow I use everyday, and it works beautifully (RSS reader --> Chrome --> RSS Reader; Facebook --> Chrome --> Facebook; GMail --> Chrome --> GMail, etc).

Merge tabs is the first "feature" I disable when Chrome is installed.

Samsung Galaxy S7 running Android 6.0.1.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[5]: Buses vs cars
by darknexus on Wed 29th Jun 2016 19:18 in reply to "RE[4]: Buses vs cars"
darknexus Member since:

This is the problem with Android. Behavior has no standardization. What works one way, say, pressing back closing a tab may not work that way on another manufacturer's version of the operating system. I know Samsung and LG both modify the behavior of their back button in some odd ways. Samsung, in particular, does some seriously wonky things with it.

Reply Parent Score: 2