jQuery Tools is the new kid on the block when it comes to jQuery-based user interface libraries. What it offers is a solid foundation of widgets at an extremely small file size (5.8 KB minified).

I decided to ditch jQuery UI on a recent project when I couldn’t get tabs & accordions to play nice together (also, their site was down when I needed it so I took that as a sign). This was a great opportunity to try jQuery Tools and I have been very impressed thus far.

To use the minimal tabs interface you can simply follow the instructions on their site, but if you want to nest tabs inside one another you’ll need to change things slightly. I’ll demonstrate below:

the Mark Up

<ul class="tabs main">
  <li><a href="#1" class="main">Main Tab 1</a></li>
  <li><a href="#1" class="main">Main Tab 2</a></li>

<div class="panes main">
  <div>this is main tab 1 content. it includes another set of tabs

    <ul class="tabs nested">
      <li><a href="#2" class="nested">Nested Tab 1</a></li>
      <li><a href="#2" class="nested">Nested Tab 2</a></li>

    <div class="panes nested">
      <div>this is my nested tab 1 content</div>
      <div>this is my nested tab 2 content</div>

  <div>this is my main tab 2 content</div>

The key in this sequence is that the seemingly arbitrary href attribute on the tab anchors has different content for the main tabs (#1) than the nested tabs (#2). This is required or your nested tabs will keep returning to the main tabs when you click on a tab link.

the JavaScript

To configure the nested tabs, you can define the JavaScript as simply as this:

$(document).ready(function() {
  $("ul.main.tabs").tabs("div.main.panes > div", {tabs: 'a.main'});

  $("ul.nested.tabs").tabs("div.nested.panes > div", {tabs: 'a.nested'});

the tabs() function is called on a jQuery selector that matches the unordered list and it takes as its first argument a selector for where to find the tab’s content panes. It’s second argument is a single option that tells tabs() which elements to use as links for the tabs. The default is a, but to differentiate the main tabs from the nested tabs, it needs to be passed explicitly with the correct class for the anchor.

the Style

Of course, to make these look cool you’ll need some nice CSS applied to the elements at play. I’ll leave that to you, but you can get a decent start from the demo page for the library.