Should I concentrate on trying to learn songs (solos, chords, everything) by ear or get the help from tabs to expedite the process? I've heard that learning it by ear is better, but didn't know if that was true or not, or if it really matters. Thanks for any help.
Its pretty funny how i figure things out. I sit in front of my comp/tv and as commercials or intros come on...i learn to play them by ear. Tabs helped obviously to get my jump started. Many songs are easy to pick up.
i go by ear first and if i cant figure it out completely then i resort to tabs.
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I think it's better to try and figure out by ear, you train your hearing and after a while you won't have to rely on questionable tabs. Not to mention the feeling of accomplishment and all.

Of course if it's too hard then I check to see what part of the fretboard the tab is on and try to figure it out from there.
It's not easy but just start with simple basic riff and work your way up from there.
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if you learn to use your ear, it makes jamming with other people so much easier
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You can use a combo of both, you need to know the track in order to learn from the TAB unless you are a proficent sight reader of music (and there is actually music notation included!). For instance if you use UG tabs in ASCII you need to use your ear to work out exactly what you are looking at.

For instance look at this:


how do you know what the not lengths are? All you know is that you need to pick an open string 6 times, presumably 4 of them are quavers or semi-quavers but who knows? Anyway enough rambling... short answer - both.
How do you know what tuning a certain song is in?
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by ear or tabs show it at the top. well GP does at least.

As far as the 'by ear or by tab' argument, i usually am lazy, get the tab, and if it sounds wrong, try to fix the parts that arent right, and save it, so I have the right tab.
I say, go with tabs if you're starting out until you get a better feel for just playing and how everything sounds and until you're more used to well, just playing really. But once you've got those basics down, you should definitely try to do everything by ear.