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I'm using XFCE on 18.04 but this seems to be applicable to all desktop environments. Most (bigger) applications (try for example with Thunderbird) behave like this:

If there is already an application window, this window is shown. No new windows are opened. This works if the window is on another workspace, too.

Firefox 66.0.3 opens a new window any time I click the starter icon in my XFCE panel. Chromium behaves like Firefox. This is a typical Linux issue. On Windows, I can't remember to have more than one browser window, except I explicitly told them to open a new window.

This is quite annoying because at the end of the day I have many lost Firefox Windows open on my workspaces.

Is there a way to tell the starter icon to open a new tab in an existing window instead? Or just showing the existing window?

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From what I know there must be something wrong going on because all applications by default in XFCE should actually be behaving like firefox. But anyhow you can change firefox's behaviour using dockbarx. Install it with the following:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xuzhen666/dockbarx
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dockbarx
sudo apt-get install xfce4-dockbarx-plugin

Now add the plugin to the panel and add firefox to it, it should now behave in the way you described.

Dockbarx is basically a way to turn the panel (or part of it) into a standard dock. There's also the standalone variant (which will also be installed via this procedure) but I recommend using the panel plugin to make it more seemless.

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  • Great, it's really Windows-like. You can even pin applications to the dock. – Corni Apr 25 '19 at 7:53
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Late reply, I think installing new software is not the best solution:

/path/to/firefox --new-tab www.google.com

Applies to XFCE panel launcher. The advantage of this, is that only a new tab opens, it will not spawn a new X11 window. I've got the feeling that it is faster (especially for older systems, I guess).

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