Skip to comments.Customizing Firefox
Posted on 01/16/2005 12:45:24 AM PST by Eagle9
Scot Finnie is Editor, the Pipelines and TechWeb, as well as the author of Scot's Newsletter and previously an editor with Windows Magazine, ZDNet, and PC/Computing. He has been writing about Windows and other operating systems for two decades.
- Firefox Extension Recommendations
- Firefox Customization Recommendations
In the last issue of the newsletter, I offered an in-depth review of Mozilla's new Firefox browser. That story was picked up by several TechWeb Pipeline sites, was linked to by Network Computing, and was re-published by InformationWeek online with my permission. The story was also highlighted on Google's Sci/Tech page, and it's been commented on by several Mozilla.org members. One of the things you should know is that this review has become a living document. As I discovered new things about Firefox, or when in a few cases I was shown the error of my ways, I've made changes and corrections to the story on the website version (the last issue of the newsletter). The review you may have read a month ago in your inbox has changed pretty significantly.
If you are a Firefox user, I recommend checking the website version of the review. But even though there are many new details and insights about Firefox in the review, one thing that didn't change was my strongly positive conclusion about the new browser. In fact, I'm an even more confirmed Firefox user today than when I mailed the last issue of the newsletter.
In this issue I'm offering insights and links to a long list of installable extensions and user-configuration tweaks to Firefox that provide literally dozens of improvements to the program. With this story in hand, you can vastly improved your Firefox installation, quickly and easily, and you'll be doing so with changes I've personally vetted and tested in advance.
One last point before I get to the good stuff. I'm creating a "living" version of this Customizing Firefox content in a place other than the website version of the newsletter. It makes it easier for me to update it that way. This is the link for that page:
WHERE TO GET FIREFOX EXTENSIONS
xMirror by Kristof Polleunis should be the first Firefox extension you install. There are at least three other extension sites in addition to the official Mozilla.org Extension site that host extensions for Firefox and Mozilla. xMirror provides convenient access to the three other extension sites from within the Firefox Extension manager.
Why are the other extension sites so important? Mozilla.org doesn't list all the available extensions, including some of the best ones out there. In order to get the most out of Firefox, you need to peruse these other sites occasionally. Take a look for yourself:
MUST-HAVE TAB-BROWSING FIREFOX EXTENSIONS
I have a strong preference for running Firefox in a way that minimizes the number of full program windows that open on my desktop. I would like to be able to track the trail of sites I visit as separate pages. But I want those separate pages to appear as tabs. If you try working this way, I believe that you will find that it is very efficient. Of course, what matters is what works for you. But in my use of Firefox, these tab-browsing-oriented extensions have given the browser a huge boost in productivity.
SessionSaver by Pike, Rue
SessionSaver is a highly useful older extension that saves all open browser tabs in the event of a crash. It also lets you save and name sets of tabs, and recall them at will. I recommend the 0.2d2 nightly23 build of SessionSaver. Note: Mozilla.org doesn't list this extension, probably because it has not been updated in quite some time. Nevertheless, I have tested it with Firefox 1.0, and it works fine.
Tab Clicking Options by Twanno
Double-clicking any blank area of Firefox's tab bar opens a new tab browser. But by default, double-clicking any existing tab has no effect. Tab Clicking Options let's you configure functionality for keyboard and mouse-click combinations related to Firefox's tabs. For example, you can configure it to close any open tab by double-clicking the tab label. And Ctrl-double-click on any tab might duplicate the tab and its contents. The program is easy to install and configure, and well worth a couple of minutes to get it going.
miniT(drag+indicator) by Caio Chassot
Provides for drag-and-drop movement of Firefox browser tabs.
Undo Close Tab by Dorando
After you install Undo Close Tab, you'll be able to backtrack from problems like this one: You're in the middle of long forum post. You double-click the tab bar to open a new tab to check a Web page for some fact. But by accident, you click the Close Tab icon on the right side of the tab bar, which closes the tab window containing your unsaved forum post. With Undo Close Tab installed, just right-click the tab bar and choose "Undo Close Tab." Poof, your tab is back! (Also, consider removing the close button from the tab bar.)
Note: To truly fix all aspects of Firefox's tab-browsing functionality, I also recommend the four customizations under the Tab-Browsing Tweaks heading in Firefox Customization Recommendations section below.
MUST-HAVE UI-FIXING FIREFOX EXTENSIONS
Although full-fledged tab-browsing is the functionality that's most lacking in Firefox 1.0, there are other lesser areas that could also use more polish. These extensions fix user-interface (UI) glitches.
DeskCut by Evan Eveland
Lets you right-click anywhere on an open Web page and choose Create deskCut from the pop-up menu to place a Firefox bookmark on your desktop.
Resize Search Box by Nathar Leichoz, Awan Afuqya
Creates a drag-and-drop resizable version of the Google (or other search engine) search box on your Firefox toolbar.
IE View by Paul Roub
IE View adds a context-menu item that lets you open in Internet Explorer any Web page currently displayed in Firefox.
FirefoxView by Alex Sirota
This unique Firefox extension is sort of the reverse of IE View. It installs in Firefox, and from there, offers the ability install and uninstall a modification to Internet Explorer that lets you right-click any open Web page in IE and choose the option "View this Page in Firefox."
UserAgent Switcher by Chris Pederick
The Opera browser has a nice feature that allows it to identify itself to Web servers as a browser other than Opera. Some websites will only display properly to Internet Explorer. UserAgent Switcher adds the same functionality to Firefox.
Stop-or-Reload Button by Caio Chassot
Combines the Stop and Reload buttons into a single button/read-out that smartly shows the functionality that's available at any given time (like Apple's Surfari browser).
Ext2Abc by Eric Hamiter
Alphabetically sorts the list of extensions shown in the Extension manager window.
Word Count by Eric Hamiter
While it might only have strong interest for writers and editors, Word Count emulates Microsoft Word's Word Count feature for use with Web-based content and does its job well. It counts the number of words in a highlighted body of text displayed in Firefox.
ChromEdit by Chris Neale
Adds the "Edit User Files" menu item to Firefox's Tools menu. When you open the program, it provides access to the four files Firefox provides for user customizations - user.js, prefs.js, userChrome.css, and userContent.jss.
MUST-HAVE FIREFOX-EXTENSION APPLETS
Not every Firefox extension is aimed at fixing something or adding a simple functionality. Some add little programs that do things like play music, create blog posts, or provide FTP client features. Of these sorts of extensions, here are two that I find invaluable.
Sage RSS/Atom Reader by Peter Andrews
Very nice light-weight RSS Reader that I find myself using more and more.
ForecastFox (was WeatherFox) by Richard Klein, Jon Stritar
ForecastFox is a weather display program powered by Weather.com. It displays current and forecast temperatures at a glance in the Firefox status bar. It's highly configurable and gives you quick access to detailed weather information localized to your zip code.
TRIED 'EM, LIKE 'EM
Add Bookmark Here by Mark Lindkvist
SOME EXTENSIONS ON MY TO-TRY LIST
TinyURLCreator by Jeremy Gillick
The big argument going on in many Firefox circles is, which tab-browsing extension is better, Tab Browser Extension or Tabbrowser Preferences? A third answer is the right one: Neither. I like a lot of things about Tab Browser Extension (also known as TBE and Tabbrowser Extensions). It's a very rich program with gobs of interesting functionality, but it also has serious issues: It's buggy. The functionality is not well labeled or explained so it's very hard to control (or in other words, it's confusing). And it's so large and ambitious that, according to Mozilla.org, it takes liberties with your Firefox installation. Even TBE's author appears to agree with that last statement. I prefer the single-purpose UI-fixing tab-oriented extensions like SessionSaver, Tab Clicking Options, and miniT.
Tabbrowser Preferences has the opposite problem. It offers few useful features that can't be gained from publicly available Mozilla.org customizations. For older versions of Firefox, Tabbrowser Preferences may have offered more oomph, but for Firefox 1.0, there's not much there, there.
Firefox Customization Recommendations
Last Updated: January 3, 2005
Mozilla browsers offer a much higher degree of user customization than meets the eye in their configuration dialogs. Several of the easiest to implement tweaks for Firefox are found on Mozilla's Firefox Tips & Tricks page. Read the information on the Tips & Tricks page; it tells you how to make these changes. But you'll find that the ChromEdit extension (referenced in the section above), makes Firefox Customizations more convenient. These are the customizations I recommend from Mozilla's Firefox Tips & Tricks page. There may be others there that you'll find more useful than I do.
PERFORMANCE AND UI TWEAKS
The biggest bonanza of options is something called "about:config". To access it, type this into Firefox's URL bar and press Enter:
A word of warning. There's a lot going on in about:config, and it would be a mistake to make random changes to this page. Educate yourself first. Mozilla.org offers a help page that explains How To Modify Hidden Preferences Using about:config. Even more importantly, these additional documents explain individual about:config settings:
The second one is an older document that's really aimed at earlier Mozilla browsers, but it offers slightly more detailed information. There is not a perfect 100% overlap between previous Mozilla browsers and Firefox on the about:config page. But the majority of the options are the same. One way to handle this is to use the first link as your reference, and use the second link to check for any additional information about a specific setting.
There's only one about:config-based tweak that I'm currently recommending (although I expect to add others in the near future). This recommendation really only applies to people who have fast Internet connections or those who are Webmasters, news junkies, possibly online gaming, anything where it's mandatory that clicking the Refresh button always shows you the very latest information on that Web page. If that describes the way you need or want to work, you can configure Firefox to work the same way Internet Explorer's check for website updates on "Every visit to the page."
To make this change, find this entry in about:config:
The default setting is represented by the numeral 3, and corresponds to "when appropriate/automatically." To change it, simply double-click the browser.cache.check_doc_frequency entry. A small dialog box will open. Type the numeral 1 to change it to "Each Time" and press OK. Here's a description of the available options for this particular setting:
0 = Once per session
1 = Each time
2 = Never
3 = When appropriate/automatically
Some other about: screens that you might want to explore include:
There are others too, but several of them aren't very useful. About:config is the one to master.
Thanks, lotsa good info.
for a later read
The only extensions I really like so far are:
Disable Targets for Downloads
Adblock (AMAZING! filters out so much with wildcards)
Add Bookmark Here
Download Manager Tweak
Open Links In...
Thanks! I second the BugMeNot and WordCount extensions. Also like DictionarySearch a lot.
Thanks, lots to check out.
Have a look at:
A's Yahoo mail notifier (be aware of security implications)
He's wrong about Tabbrowser Preferences. In conjunction with MiniT+ (as opposed to the plain old MiniT he recommended), Single Window, and FLST, you add a wealth of tabbed browsing controls that rival the bloated, buggy Tabbrowser Extensions for sheer usefulness.
Now if only someone would code an extension that puts a status bar in each tab's label, ala TBE.
Thanks- crosslinked here:
Browser Wars, take two
various FR links | 12-22-04 | The Heavy Equipment Guy
Thank you for the ping, I've forwarded this url to Mr. Prairie who is a new Firefox user. I'm letting him figure it all out so he can teach me, :^P.
Thank you sir.
Since most of my browsing is either blogs and news, or work-oriented document research, I leave all graphics off for speed by default and only toggle them on when a particular site has a picture I want to see.
I switched from Opera to Firefox back in Novemeber and the only thing I still miss is Opera's great page zoom in-zoom out feature.
So far over my head!
Does anyone use the little square FR pager window? I keep getting a message that I need a plug-in, but I can't load the plug-in, so I am always getting the error message. Any help appreciated.
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