Fine if you use the Unhabited/enemy planet sorting option but personally I never really found any use to it, except maybe in early mid game as a lazy way to find uncolonized planets. But it seems we play the game much differently, interestingly. I am curious as to what is this extensive use of those options you do.
Sorting by planet quality to prioritize colonization. Sorting by habitability to prioritize colonization by sector (i.e. claim the Aquatic worlds in the Torian area, but leave the Toxic ones if they don't have that tech yet). Searching enemy planets by population - the AI determines the value of its own planets solely by population, so freshly colonized planets can be bought dirt cheap.
Searching for resource starbases; I send a fleet of constructors that way and pay people to attack anyone who has a resource I want. I get the resource without being in a war myself.
Something tells me you use this as a loophole to spy what the enemy is building without the use of espionage funding.
No, that's a totally separate exploit. And it does require at least some espionage spending.
There is definitely one useful thing you can do in the colonies tab that you cannot in the ship panel, it is setting your economy focus on each world. Which I definitely use.
Something I do very rarely from that screen. I tend to fine tune production, which involves more than just refocusing.
But more to the point, the Colonies tab is built using a mostly standard way of presenting data on computers. With columns that you can sort with ascending or descending order by a single click. The information is also much more concise and dense and color coded and I find it WAY more useful and easy to check my colonies status at a glance. At least compared to the convoluted sorting scheme the ship panel uses.
But it lacks the single most important type of information: location and context. Knowing Mars is building a transport is nice, but without being able to see the area around it that datum is pretty irrelevant. Since my preferred maps tend to have 400+ habitable planets, I can't memorize the surroundings of each one.
And then what's more is that whatever info might be in the Ship panel that is not in the colonies tab could have easily been integrated in the same template as the colonies tab. For a better overall experience IMHO.
See above. Not being able to see the map is a BIG handicap. But for things I don't need to see the map while doing, I do use the colony tab because the layout is better. It's just that the better layout isn't always worth the cost of not being able to see my map.