Too many tabs open? No problem!

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When you have lots of tabs open in Visual Studio, your horizontal screen resolution determines how many will fit the Tab Well. The remaining document tabs won’t be shown unless you enable multi-row tabs. But what if you don’t want to lose the coding space multi-row tabs take up, and still need an easier way to get an overview of all your open documents? Here’s how we might fix it and we need your help!

Image Scroll Tabs v3

You might already be familiar with the experience of hovering over tabs and using the mouse wheel to scroll through them in some browsers and other applications. The Custom Document Well extension brought this feature in Visual Studio in older versions, but the extension was discontinued years ago due to changes in the architecture of Visual Studio itself. Mouse wheel scrolling wasn’t built in after this change due to several reasons, and the feature had to be reimagined to properly function under this new architecture.

For many years, Visual Studio has used a different method to show all open document tabs. Click the chevron on the right of the Tab Well to see the full list.

Image Scroll Tabs file list v1
Figure: Animation showing how to open the open document list

And more recently in Visual Studio 2022, the concept of multi-row tabs was introduced. It allows you to spread all your open document tabs onto multiple rows, so each tab is always visible.

Image Scroll Tabs multi row toggle v2
Figure: Animation showing how to toggle multi-row tabs on and off

However, we’ve noticed that a feature request for using the mouse scroll wheel has been gaining steam recently. Please vote and comment if you agree.

In conversations with the users that have requested this feature, we’ve heard the following:

  1. It’s too cumbersome to get an overview of all open tabs
  2. I don’t want to enable multi-row tabs while coding because it takes up vertical space
  3. I got muscle memory using the scroll wheel on tabs from other apps

So, with increased interest and a better understanding of the root problems, what would the right solution look like for Visual Studio users? One that would complement the existing features in Visual Studio.

Let’s do an experiment and find out!

The experiment

We’re starting out with an extension to kick off the experiment. We call it Scroll Tabs and the first iteration enables a solution to all three problems.

When your mouse hovers over the document tabs and you scroll the mouse wheel, the multi-line tabs feature is toggled on and off as shown in the video above. When you then click a tab to show the document, the multi-row tabs are disabled again to free up the vertical space.

Next steps

If this feature is interesting to you, please install the Scroll Tabs extension and take it for a ride. Make sure to share any ideas and bugs on the GitHub issue tracker, and feel free to send pull requests too. The feature request ticket is a suitable place to share your comments and thoughts, so make sure to vote and comment there as well.

Do you like the idea of community experiments like this one? Let us know in the comments below.

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