CyberNotes
Web Browser Wednesday




Firefox 2 Banner Firefox 2 has received millions and millions of downloads in the first week which is absolutely amazing. Even though the browser is really great the best part of using it is being able to tweak it until your heart is content.

It was back in July that I put together a nice tweak guide for Firefox 2 Beta 1 and most of the things still work fine in the released version. I have decided to update the guide, however, because there are a few things that I think could be added. I figured it is always nice to have one central place that you can turn to when you are configuring Firefox.

Table of Contents:

 


–How To Use About:Config–

Almost all of the tweaks use the about:config screen in order to change the options. By now I’m sure most of you are familiar with using it but in case you aren’t I’ll give you a quick run through.

  1. Start Firefox.
  2. Type about:config into the address bar and press Enter. You should be presented with a screen similar to this:
    Firefox about:config
  3. If I tell you that the key already exists then you can type the name of the preference in the Filter box. Once you find the preference you just need to double-click on it to change the value.
  4. If I tell you that the key does not exist then you you will need to create a new value. The value may be a string, boolean, or an integer and can easily be created by right-clicking anywhere in the screen:
    Firefox about:config Menu
  5. You may need to restart your browser for some of the options to take effect. All preferences can be reset to their default value by simply right-clicking on the option in about:config and selecting Reset.

    Alright…it’s tweak time!

 


–Configuring The Scrolling Tabs–

Scrolling Tab Bar Firefox 2 is now designed to create a scrolling tab bar when there are an abundance of tabs open. It is hard to define “abundance” because some people prefer to have really small and nearly unreadable tabs instead of having them scroll.

  • Name: browser.tabs.tabMinWidth
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: 100 (pixels)
  • Possible values:
    • Value greater than 100 will initiate scrolling sooner.
    • Value less than 100 will initiate scrolling later.
    • Value of 0 disables scrolling.

 


–Configuring The Red X (Close Button)–

Firefox Close Buttons The placement of the Close Button has been a very controversial subject for many people. I have run into several individuals who hate that there is now a button on every tab while others say “it’s about time.” I like the feature but if you’re one of the people that don’t then you can easily change it:

  • Name: browser.tabs.closeButtons
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: 1
  • Possible values:
    • 0 – display a close button on the active tab only
    • 1 – display close buttons on all tabs
    • 2 – don’t display any close buttons
    • 3 – display a single close button at the end of the tab strip (Firefox 1.x behavior)

If you decide that you want to leave the Close Button on all of the tabs then there is another configuration option that you may be interested in. This option is considered the clipping width and refers to how small a tab can be and still display a close button. It only applies to the tabs other than the one that is currently selected.

  • Name:browser.tabs.tabClipWidth
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: 140 (pixels)
  • Possible values:
    • Value greater than 140 will hide the Close Button sooner.
    • Value less than 140 will hide the Close Button later.
    • Value of 0 disables the hiding of the Close Button.


–Change Address Bar Search To “I’m Feeling Lucky”–

Google I'm Feeling Lucky Boxers Firefox no longer uses the “I’m Feeling Lucky” search by Google. Now it uses the “Browse By Name” which is very similar. In fact, you may not even notice a difference but there definitely is.

I put together a search box that will demonstrate the difference between the two types of searches. Just type a word in the box and press the respective button for the search type that you would like to perform:



Basically the “Browse By Name” will only take you directly to a site if Google is sure that the first result is what you’re looking for. Otherwise it will take you to the Google Search Results page. If you type “Microsoft” into the box both searches will give you the same result but if you type “Stanford” into the box they will be different.

If you want to keep the “Browse By Name” then you don’t have to do anything, but those of you that want to switch back to “I’m Feeling Lucky” can use this information:

  • Name: keyword.URL
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: Browse By Name (right-click and copy the URL)
  • Possible values:
    • I’m Feeling Lucky (right-click and copy the URL)
    • You can also change it to any other search strings

 


–Adding Other Default Feed Readers–

Firefox Feed Selector In my last article on tweaking Firefox I walked through the 11-step process to adding another feed reader to the existing list that Firefox has. There is a much easier way that Mozilla Links pointed out and it is as simple as clicking on a few things. Just click on any of the feed reader links below to add them to the list in Firefox (you’ll be prompted to confirm the addition):

 


 –Unresponsive Scripts–

Firefox Unresponsive Scripts Sick of getting the unresponsive script error messages? In Firefox 2 a script will be given 20 seconds to execute, and anything beyond that it will display the script warning. If you are constantly getting these warnings (common on some slower computers) then you should consider increasing the duration.

  • Name: dom.max_script_run_time
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: 20 (seconds)
  • Possible values:
    • Value greater than 20 will delay the unresponsive script longer.
    • Value less than 20 will delay the unresponsive script sooner.

 


 –Microsummary Update Interval–

Firefox Microsummaries Microsummaries have the potential to become extremely useful but they need a little push. For CyberNet I came up with three different ways that I could use Microsummaries to keep users more informed of new posts and comments. If you haven’t been using the Microsummaries because they don’t update frequently enough then you can always adjust it:

  • Name: browser.bookmarks.microsummary.updateInterval
  • The preference name does not exist and needs to be created. Use an Integer type when creating the preference.
  • Default Value: N/A
  • Possible values:
    • The number of minutes between updates expressed as an integer.

 


–Changing The User Agent–

Firefox User Agent If you run into a site that says it is not compatible with your browser there may be a good chance that it’s because you are running Firefox 2. If you know it worked fine in Firefox 1.5 then you should try to change your user agent. By doing this Firefox can identify itself as a previous version, such as Firefox 1.5, which may solve the compatibility issue.

  • Name: general.useragent.extra.firefox
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: Firefox/2.0
  • Possible values:
    • Firefox 1.5
    • Firefox 1.5.0.7
    • etc…whatever identification string you would like, but the I listed should work fine.


–Hide The Go Button– 

Firefox Go Button If you haven’t noticed that new Go button can’t be removed from the Address Bar. Well, at least not in the typical fashion of removing buttons from toolbars. There is a configuration option that can be used to remove the button though.

  • Name: browser.urlbar.hideGoButton
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: false
  • Possible values:
    • false – display the Go button
    • true – hide the Go button

 


–Eliminate JavaScript Popups–

Firefox is setup to let you customize how you want it to handle popup windows. In the Options they can be set to open like normal in a new window or they can be set to open in a tab. However, JavaScript popup windows are a slight exception but can be changed so that they are treated the same way as any other popup.

  • Name: browser.link.open_newwindow.restriction
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: 2
  • Possible values:
    • 0 – Open JavaScript windows the same way as you have Firefox handle new windows. This is my recommendation because if you have Firefox set to open new windows in a new tab then it will treat JavaScript windows the same way.
    • 1 – Allow all JavaScript windows to popup if requested.
    • 2 – Open all JavaScript windows the same way as you have Firefox handle new windows unless the JavaScript call specifies how to display the window.  

 


 –Enable Spell Checking In All Text Fields–

Firefox Spell Checker The inline spell checking is probably my favorite feature in Firefox 2 but it doesn’t check the single-line text boxes for spelling mistakes. You can right-click on the field and have it check the spelling or you can permanently turn spell check on by changing a configuration option.

  • Name: layout.spellcheckDefault
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: 1
  • Possible values:
    • 0 – Disable the spell checker
    • 1 – Enable the spell checker for multi-line text boxes
    • 2 – Enable the spell checker for all text boxes

 


–Increase Maximum Number Of Connections– 

Vista Connections When you go to download multiple files you may notice that Firefox will only let you download two files at a time. If you want to download more you will have to increase the number of connections Firefox can make.

  • Name: network.http.max-persistent-connections-per-server
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: 2
  • Possible values:
    • Increase the value to something larger than 2 if you want to have the ability to download more files simultaneously.

 


 –Open Search Box Results In New Tab–

Firefox Search The search box in the upper-right corner of Firefox makes it really easy to search your favorite sites. You can get each of those search queries to open in a new tab with this simple tweak:

  • Name: browser.search.openintab
  • The preference name already exists and does not need to be created.
  • Default Value: false
  • Possible values:
    • false – open search box results in current tab
    • true – open search box results in new tab

 


–Disable Session Restore–

The built-in session restore feature is really nice but I use Tab Mix Plus and its session restore is a little nicer (it remembers things like tabs that I have protected). It has some nice features but if you don’t disable the one that Firefox has then you may end up receiving duplicates of all your tabs.

  • Name: browser.sessionstore.enabled
  • The preference name does not exist and needs to be created. Use an Boolean type when creating the preference.
  • Default Value: true
  • Possible values:
    • false – disables the built-in session restore
    • true – enables the built-in session restore

 


–Make The Tabs Take On Your Operating System Theme–

This feature was just added to the list because of the great response it had when I posted it. In Firefox 2 the tabs look the same in almost every operating system but in reality they should take on the properties of the operating system. By that I mean when you hover over a tab it should look the same as when you hover over a button in a normal application. For details on doing this please go here but this is a screenshot of what my new tabs look like in Windows Vista:

Firefox 2 System Tabs

 


 –Lower The Physical Memory Used When Minimized–

Windows Control Panel This last one is a classic for our site. This article was posted back in March of 2006 and has received over 4,300 Diggs. Since that time it has brought in nearly 200,000 unique visitors and many find that it does exactly what they want.

This tweak will send Firefox to your virtual memory when you minimize the browser, therefore freeing your physical memory for other programs to use. Firefox will reduce its physical memory usage, when minimized, to approximately 10MB (give or take some) and when you maximize Firefox it will take back the memory that it needs. Some people argue that this is not a good thing to do but other browsers, like Opera, have are setup to do this by default.

  • Name: config.trim_on_minimize
  • The preference name does not exist and needs to be created. Use an Boolean type when creating the preference.
  • Default Value: N/A
  • Possible values:
    • true – this enables Firefox to be written to the virtual memory when minimized.

 


–Overview–

Firefox 2 is an amazing browser and I hope you’ll find some of the tweaks in this guide to be beneficial. Many of these settings I have presented at one point or another in case you are looking for more details.