There are many problems with the usability of pending pane items. Perhaps the biggest is the fact that they are nearly indistinguishable from normal tabs. Most of the time I’m not looking at the actual tab at all because it’s not relevant to my work at hand. In fact I rarely ever look at the tab bar because I use Ctrl-Tab to move back and forth between open files, and I like to keep a lot of tabs open so I don’t find it particularly useful.
But the thing I’m confused about is what is the real benefit of a pending pane item? Why does this feature even exist? Reducing memory usage? Keeping the tab bar clean? I guess if that’s the case then I suspect this argument is really divided into two camps: those who delete or mark every email in their inbox as read and those that let their unread messages accumulate. I’m definitely of the latter camp. To me there are simply the files that I have been working on recently. I don’t think of them as being open or closed, or permanent or pending. So to me, pending pane items are just tabs that will unexpectedly close themselves at inconvenient times and break my mental locus of attention, not to mention the temporal locality of what I was just doing.
Now it honestly wouldn’t be so bad if those pending tabs still appeared in my Ctrl-Tab list so I can tab back to them if I want to, even if they just reopened as “pending” tabs again and closed when I tabbed away. The problem is they are just gone and I have to do all the work of locating and opening them up all over again.
When I click a file in the side bar to check something, Ctrl-Tab to another file to make some edits and Ctrl-Tab back only to find that tab has vanished, talk about jarring! So now I am forced to think about more things when working in Atom: do I want to actually open a file so I can come back to it again or do I want to “preview” it in a temporary state? Forcing me to think about and answer that question before I even open the file is usability friction.
Thankfully pending pane items can be disabled. So that’s good news. Now I get that some people prefer to double-click to open files. But what I don’t get is why we can’t still single-click to open a file without pending pane items enabled.
All that said, I only complain because I love Atom and the things it gets wrong seem so much worse because there are so few of them.