Tabs and floating windows in Photoshop CS6

Photoshop CS6 allows us to display documents on the screen in two ways as you work with them. We can open them in tabs or in floating windows.

In this lesson, we will look at the differences between tabs and floating windows, learn how to easily switch between these ways of displaying documents and how to set up the program so that in the future documents will automatically open in the form we need.


By default, Photoshop CS6 opens our images as tabs. In order to show you what I mean, I will use the Adobe Bridge program to open a folder with three images. I want to open all images in Photoshop at once, so I’ll click on the thumbnail of the image on the left to select it. Then, while holding down the Shift key, I will click on the thumbnail of the image on the right. This action will result in three images being selected at once (including the image in the middle):

Select three images in the program Adobe Bridge

After selecting all the images, I double-click on one of the thumbnails to quickly open all the images in Photoshop. At first glance it may seem that something is wrong. I opened three images, but only one is visible on the screen (image of a blue butterfly-sailing ship from the Shutterstock photobank):

Only one of the three images appears open on screen.

Where are the two other images that I opened? In fact, they are also open. Just at the moment we can not see them, because the program presented us with open images in the form of several tabs. If we look above the open image on the screen, we will see several tabs. Each tab represents one of the open images and contains its name along with other information. The tab that is currently highlighted is active, which means displaying its snapshot on the screen. Other tabs are hidden behind the active and at the moment we do not see:

A row of tabs at the top of the screen. Each image has its own tab. The highlighted tab is currently active.

In order to switch between open images, all we need is to click on their tabs. At the moment, I have a third image open (tab on the right). I’ll click on the tab in the middle to select it:

Click on the tab in the middle

And now we see another open image on the screen. By default, only one tab at a time can be active and visible, so the image that was visible on the screen before has now receded into the background (the image of a bright butterfly from the Shutterstock photobank):

The second of the three open images is now visible on the screen after selecting its tab.

I’ll click on the tab on the left to select it and make it active:

Click on the first tab in the row

And now the third of the three open images became visible, while the other two images were hidden behind it (image of a white butterfly from the photobank Shutterstock):

The third image is now visible on the screen after selecting its tab.

Switch between tabs from the keyboard

We can also switch between tabs using keyboard shortcuts. On a computer running Windows PC, press Ctrl + Tab to switch from one tab to another. For Mac, you must click Command + ~.

Reorder tabs

We can change the order of tabs, simply by clicking on one of them, and holding down the mouse button, drag the tab to the left or right. Release the mouse button to put the tab in a new place:

Move the tab to the right to change the image order

Floating windows

Another way to view open images in Photoshop CS6 is to display them in floating windows. If you have several pictures opened in tabs, as in my case, and you want to display one of them in a floating window, simply click on the image tab title and hold down the mouse button and move the tab down and away from the other tabs:

Click on a tab and move it away from other tabs.

Release the mouse button and the image will appear in front of the other snapshots in a separate floating window. You can move a floating document window across the entire screen. To do this, click on the image header at the top of the window, and hold the mouse button down and move the mouse:

One image appeared in a floating window.

If you want to convert all tabs into floating windows, you need to go to the “Window” section in the menu bar at the top of the screen, then select “Arrange” and “Free to move all windows” (Float All in Windows) :

Go to “Window”> “Arrange”> “Freely move all windows” (Window> Arrange> Float All in Windows)

And now all three images are open in floating windows, one of which is active and placed in front of the others. Again, we can move the windows around the screen, rearranging them as we wish. To do this, click on the window title and drag it to the right place. To make another window active and place it in front of the other windows, simply click on it:

All three images are now open in floating windows.

View a list of open images

One of the main advantages of displaying our images in floating windows is that we can simultaneously view more than one image. But it also causes some inconvenience. If we have too many floating windows open at once, they can heavily clutter the screen, and some windows can completely hide others from view. Fortunately, there is an easy way to select the desired image from the floating windows open on the screen.

If you go to the “Window” section of the menu bar at the top of the screen and look at the bottom of the list that appears, you will see a list of images currently open in the program, each of which is located under its own name. Next to the image that is currently active, there is a tick. To make the desired image active and place it in front of the other images, simply click on the image in the list to select it:

The list of all images currently open in the program is located at the very bottom of the “Window” menu section.

Convert floating windows to tabs

To convert floating windows to tabs, go to the “Window” section in the menu bar at the top of the screen, then select “Arrange” and “Consolidate All to Tabs”:

Go to “Window”> “Arrange”> “Merge All On Tabs” (Window> Arrange> Consolidate All to Tabs)

Now my images are open again in tabs with one visible image on the screen:

All floating windows are converted back to tabs.

Photoshop settings

Once you decide in which format you prefer to open documents (in tabs or in floating windows), you can configure the program using the parameter in the “Settings” section so that in future all documents will open in the required form. To do this, on a computer with the Windows PC operating system, go to the “Edit” section at the top of the screen, then select “Preferences” (at the very bottom of the list) and “Interface”. For Mac, go to Photoshop, select the Preferences section and the Interface section:

We open parameters of the section “Interface” (Interface)

This action will open the Interface dialog box. Closer to the center is the “Open Documents as Tabs” option. By default, this option is checked, which means opening all images in tabs. If you want to open images in floating windows, uncheck this option:

The option “Open documents in tabs” (Open Documents as Tabs)

The second parameter, which is located directly below the “Open documents in tabs” parameter, is also important. It may be too difficult to speak out quickly, but, nevertheless, the option Enable Floating Document Window Docking is responsible for the possibility of blending one floating window onto another, merging the windows together to create tabs inside the floating window:

The option “Enable posting of loose document windows” (Enable Floating Document Window Docking)

To clearly show you what I mean, I will open two images in the floating windows and place them side by side. I’ll click on the title of the left floating window and start moving it to the right, overlaying the second window. As soon as the left window begins to fall on the area of ​​the right window, a blue frame will appear along the contour of the right window. This frame tells me that if I release the mouse button at the moment, the program will merge both images together in one floating window:

Moving an image from one floating window to another

I will go on and release the mouse button, as a result of which both images will merge as tabs in a single floating window, which can be useful when grouping related images on the screen. As with normal tabs, I can easily switch between merged images by clicking on their headers. To split the images and place them back into separate floating windows, you just need to click on one of the headers and move the image outside the floating window, then release the mouse button:

The two images are now merged together inside a floating window as tabs.

By default, the option “Enable posting of loose document windows” is available to us (ticked), but if you decide that you do not need it, you can easily turn it off by unchecking the box in the “Settings” section.

Closing tabs and floating windows

And, finally, to close a separate image opened in a tab, click on the small “x” icon on the edge of its header:

Close separate tab

To close an image opened in a floating window, click on the small “x” icon located in the upper right corner of the window (for Mac, click the red “x” in the upper left corner):

Close the separate floating window.

In order to close all open images, no matter placed in a tab or a floating window, go to the File menu at the top of the screen and select the Close All option:

Select the section “File”> “Close all” (File> Close All)

And here we are done! We briefly reviewed the differences between opening documents in tabs and in floating windows in Photoshop CS6! Visit our Photoshop Essentials section to learn more about the program’s interface, work with layers, selections, and other necessary tools! Or skip to follow-up lessons that may interest you!

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