How To Tweak Firefox 2.0 Beta 1

Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 is scheduled for release on Tuesday but there are some things that I want to show you before you start using it. Things like removing the red “X” from each tab or maybe only placing a red “X” on the current tab. I will also show you how to prevent the scrolling tab-bar which is a feature that I am not too fond of. I have broken the page up into sections so if a section doesn’t interest you just skip to the next one.

 
 
–Spell Checker–
 
Firefox Spell Check

This first one isn’t really a tweak but the spell checking feature has been in place since the Alpha 2 milestone and it has been loved ever since. As soon as you start to type into a textbox it will start spell checking. If it finds that you have made a mistake it will notify you by placing a red-squiggly line underneath the word. For those people that are constantly commenting on forums or are writing posts you will find this to be a priceless feature! It should be standard with all Web browsers.

 
 
–Session Restore–
Firefox Spell Check

The Session Restore feature in Firefox 2 has also been around since the Alpha 2 build. Now it can not only restore your session after your system crashes but it will also restore your session if you have to restart after installing extensions or after upgrading Firefox (maybe those Windows Updates wouldn’t be such a pain if Microsoft restored your session after restarting Windows :) ). However, I like to have it always restore my session and this is how you make it restore your session everytime you restart Firefox:

Update:
In Firefox 2 Beta 2 all you have to do is go the the Options and in the Startup drop-down menu select “Show my windows and tabs from last time.”
  1. Start Firefox.
  2. In the Address Bar type “about:config” and press Enter.
  3. Right-Click and select New->Boolean.
  4. A box requesting the Preference Name will popup and you should enter “browser.sessionstore.resume_session” (without the quotes). Press OK to continue.
  5. Select “True” from the box and press OK again.

 
 
Undo Close Tab And Scrolling Tab-bar–Undo Close Tab and Scrolling Tabs–
The Undo Close Tab feature is very handy and I have already used it several times. It doesn’t just remember your last closed tab either like most people think that it does. You can keep selecting the Undo Close Tab option from the right-click menu and it will keep reopening previously closed windows. This option can be found in several different extensions but it is always nice to have the features built-in.

The scrolling tabs are very irritating because Mozilla thought it would be a good idea to prevent the tabs from getting microscopic in size and instead make them scroll. Unfortunately their design is a little flawed, in my opinion, because on my 1280×800 widescreen laptop I can only fit about 10 tabs before it will start scrolling. Boy is that frustrating! Don’t worry though because there is a way that you can adjust the minimum width of a tab before it starts to scroll. Please note that there are two different options below that you can adjust. The tabMinWidth option is the minimum width of the tab before the tabs start to scroll. The tabClipWidth is the minimum size a tab must be in order to display the Red "X" that is used to close the tab.

  1. Start Firefox.
  2. In the Address Bar type “about:config” and press Enter.
  3. Right-Click and select New->Integer.
  4. A box requesting the Preference Name will popup and you should enter “browser.tabs.tabMinWidth” (without the quotes). Press OK to continue.
  5. Select a the minimum value that you want for the width of the tabs (I set mine to 0 and the default value is 125). Then press OK again.
  6. Right-Click and select New->Integer.
  7. A box requesting the Preference Name will popup and you should enter “browser.tabs.tabClipWidth” (without the quotes). Press OK to continue.
  8. I also set this value to 0 but you may choose whatever minimum you would like. The default value is 115. Then press OK again.

 
 
–Red X (Close Button)–
Some people were frustrated that Mozilla added a close button to every tab which resulted in an extension that removed those close buttons. Well, you no longer need to get an extension to remove those pesky X’s, in fact there are multiple options that you can do now: display a close button on the active tab only, display close buttons on all tabs, don’t display any close buttons, and display a single close button at the end of the tab strip (Firefox 1.x behavior). Here is how you can customize the placement:

  1. Start Firefox.
  2. In the Address Bar type “about:config” and press Enter.
  3. Right-Click and select New->Integer.
  4. A box requesting the Preference Name will popup and you should enter “browser.tabs.closeButtons” (without the quotes). Press OK to continue.
  5. Now you need to select the type of close button you want: 0 – display a close button on the active tab only, 1 – display close buttons on all tabs, 2 – don’t display any close buttons, and 3 – display a single close button at the end of the tab strip (Firefox 1.x behavior). After entering the value corresponding to your preference press OK again.

 
 
–Adding More Feed Readers–
 
Firefox Feeds

The built-in feed reader can be quite useful but the current list of default sites are limited to Bloglines, Google Reader, and My Yahoo. However, if you use another service there might just be hope for you! I will give an example for adding NetVibes to the current list of default sites but this can be done for other sites as well, but you will have to figure out the correct string that is needed for Step 11. Also, if you want to add more than just one more feed reader you will have to increment the value of 3 to 4 and so on (located in Steps 4, 7, and 10). The values 0, 1, and 2 are already taken by the three default readers.

  1. Start Firefox.
  2. In the Address Bar type “about:config” and press Enter.
  3. Right-Click and select New->String.
  4. A box requesting the Preference Name will popup and you should enter “browser.contentHandlers.types.3.title” (without the quotes). Press OK to continue.
  5. Enter in the name of the feed reader. In this example enter in NetVibes. Press OK again.
  6. Right-Click and select New->String.
  7. A box requesting the Preference Name will popup and you should enter “browser.contentHandlers.types.3.type” (without the quotes). Press OK to continue.
  8. Enter in “application/vnd.mozilla.maybe.feed” (without the quotes). This value will always be the same no matter which service you are adding. Press OK again.
  9. Right-Click and select New->String.
  10. A box requesting the Preference Name will popup and you should enter “browser.contentHandlers.types.3.uri” (without the quotes). Press OK to continue.
  11. Enter in “http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?url=%s” (without the quotes). This value is dependent on the feed reader you are adding. Notice that the %s is used to present the URL of the feed that you want to add to the feed reader. Press OK again.

Well, I hope that I have helped you out so that you will have the best experience that you can with the new Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 that is scheduled for release on Tuesday. There is currently the Firefox 2 Beta 1 Release Candidate available to download for those impatient people. If you are worried about messing up your current profile then maybe you should download the Portable version that I have put together. When the Official Firefox 2 Beta 1 gets released I might write-up a review and provide some screenshots.

A lot of credit for this information goes to the smart people in the Firefox Builds Forum that are constantly figuring out ways to customize the latest versions of Firefox. The things that I have mentioned here are located in various places throughout the forums and I normally just jot down quick notes as I find these cool settings.

Note: The new Preferences screen that was expected for Beta 1 has been delayed to Beta 2.

There Are 70 Comments

  1. Thanks a lot. Those scrolling tabs annoyed the heck out of me too.

  2. I am glad to see that I wasn’t the only one not fond of them. I also like placing the close button on just the active tab instead of on each one.

    -Ryan

  3. Nice guide. I really like the spell checking feature. Actually I was typing away a comment yesterday, and all of a sudden I saw some of my words underlined in red!!

    Cool stuff, verry appreciated.

    I also really love the improved RSS reader.

    Nice blog, keep up the good work!

    –[jzencovich.blogspot.com]

  4. Great stuff! Keep it coming!

    Any chance the tabs have a preview (a la Opera 9.0?)

    I also like the idea of the close box only on the active tab.

  5. Kyle,

    You mean like what [addons.mozilla.org] does?

    -Ryan

  6. Kyle, i find that I prefer [ted.mielczarek.org] to that, so you might consider checking that out too.

  7. great stuff. I did not know they had a V2 coming out……thanks for the update !

  8. Hmm, but I already have most of those features via extension. I hope 2.0 doesn’t conflict with them. What really what makes the extensions concept so genius is that Firefox starts out as a bare bones design and you add to it. Maybe they should release official Mozilla approved extensions instead of making them standard.

  9. TME,

    Actually I do agree with you that Mozilla should make their own extensions to perform some of the most requested features. That way people know they are getting stable extensions but at the same time people can keep their Firefox installation plain and simple.

    -Ryan

  10. Wow, thanks for the extension suggestion, I will check it out.

    The people that make the extensions put alot of hard work into them, so I think its nice to let them continue improving them instead of integrating them into Firefox.

    With that said, there are a few reasons to integrate them. I’ve found sometimes my computer seems bogged down with the 20-30 extensions I run. If the really common ones were built in in some form, that could certainly help with performance. The other reason is that many people aren’t aware of extensions and themes. I know several people, who despite my encouragment, refuse to improve their Firefox with extensions, but would love these features if they were built in.

    Great discussion!

  11. It would be nice if all of the extension developers had time to keep their extensions up-to-date but I guess the reality is that they have busy lives, too. I give credit to everyone who has ever made an extension for Firefox.

    I think that having some of these features built-in though will help draw people over from *gasp* IE.

    -Ryan

  12. thanks for the great tips – very useful and practical.

  13. Does this thing work with current Themes/Extensions (or can it be made to do so?)

  14. Tab Mix Plus will control many of these setting itself. If you are using Tab Mix Plus then many of these tweaks won’t matter to you.

    -Ryan

  15. A question about the official Undo Close Tab.

    Do I have to right-click and select it from the context-menu, or will it also work by middle-clicking in the tab-bar?

    The way I use Dorando’s undoclosetab extension, I middle-click on a tab to close it and middle-click on the tab-bar to undo.

  16. If you middle-click on a tab it will close the tab that you are middle-clicking on. If you middle-click on the tab-bar it does nothing.

    -Ryan

  17. Pity. Thanks Ryan.

  18. Found one bug/annoyance.
    I have “Hide tab bar when only one web site is open” chedcked. Which was also checked by default. When closing the 2nd to last tab, I dont have anything to right click on to use the undo last tab function.

    Also, not sure if it is because I am using the portable version, but it is signifacantly slower than the 1.5.04 version that I normally use. And this is with zero extensions installed compared to the 16 have installed in my regular version. I know its beta still, but the added options are not enough to pursway me to switch. I have all those options already with my extensions. Just my 2 cents.

  19. Josh,

    There is a recently closed tabs list in the History Menu since you don’t have anything to click on.

    -Ryan

  20. A change like removing the red X close button from each tab does *not* allow selective choice of closing a tab. This is *compulsion* and not appropriate for Firefox. An extention existed already available for those who wanted them removed. This compulsion induced by the latest change; now requires those who prefer freedom of choice to labor at getting them back. While those who wanted to be rid of them lazily got their way.Compusions that remove choices is what microsoft is about.

  21. I’m finding it really weird that Firefox hasn’t gone all the way with regards to RSS reading. Although live bookmarks is good, it’s not that brilliant for the feed reading tastes of some (Many?).

    I mean, pretty much every aspect of a solid bloglines-esque feed reader is there with the exception of something that brings it all together. Visit any RSS feed right now and you can see that it presents it in a nice format and everything.

    I’d absolutely love to see that exact same interface taken a little further, with some rudimentary archiving and a way to flick between feeds. Am I alone on this?

  22. I believe that Firefox does need to have an integrated feed reader, except there are already extensions that do that. There are still many people that do not use RSS feeds to gather information which may not make them happy to receive more “bloated” software.

    I currently use Google Reader because it is nice being able to access my feeds no matter where I am. If there was an integrated feed reader I think it would have to give me some way to access my feed database from anywhere.

    -Ryan

  23. Well, really, the feed readers that exist are a bit shit. Sage has the look but it doesn’t automatically update or notify (ouch), and the rest have clunky/sluggish/ugly interfaces that are 100% not a pleasure to use.

    Firefox is seriously lacking a slick, powerful and intuitive feed reading mechanism, and that is a major barrier to the wide adoption of feed reading in general. Flock is a great example of how RSS can work beautifully in a browser, and I think Safari boasts similar functionality.

    In fact, I think Firefox would do very well to take a look at Flock’s feed capabilities. As far as I’m aware it’s just Sage on steroids (could be wrong), but it’s very easy to use and looks smooth to boot.

  24. I definitely agree with you that the Firefox developers should take a look at Flock because it really does have a lot of nice features. Another feature, besides the feed reader, that is very useful is the built-in blogging software.

    You definitely have many good points there. Thanks for your input.

    -Ryan

  25. Using Nightly Tester Tools 1.1, I have the following extensions working fine with beta1

    Aardvark 1.1
    Adblock Plus 0.7.1
    Add Bookmark Here 0.5.5
    Allow Right-Click 0.3
    Auto Copy 0.6.2
    Blogger Bar 1.3
    Bookmarks Scrollbar 1.0.5
    BookmarksHome 1.5.2
    Chrome Cleaner 0.3
    CoLT 2.1
    Compact Library Extension Organizer (CLEO) 1.0 RC1
    Confuscator! 0.5
    CookieCuller 1.3.0
    Copy Plain Text 0.3.2
    CustomizeGoogle 0.49
    del.icio.us Complete 1.1
    Delete Icons 0.1.2
    Diggler 0.9
    DOM Inspector 1.8.1b1
    Duplicate Tab 0.8.1
    Extended Statusbar 1.2.4
    Firefox Extension Backup Extension (FEBE) 3.0 RC1
    Flashblock 1.5.1
    FlashGot 0.5.9.995
    IE Tab 1.0.9.5
    Image Zoom 0.2.6
    Leet Key 1.3.1
    Locate in Bookmark Folders 0.2.4
    MR Tech Local Install 5.2
    Nightly Tester Tools 1.1
    NoScript 1.1.4.1
    Open link in… 1.4
    Password Exporter 1.0.3
    Paste and Go 0.4.3
    Popup Blocker Settings 0.2.1
    Show Image 0.4.1
    Sort Bookmarks 0.7.0
    Talkback 2.0b1
    Web Developer 1.0.2
    Who Is This Person? 0.9.3
    Word Count 0.3

  26. Wow, I LOVE Fx 2.0b1, the features are awesome. Before, i liked the tab X on the side, but now when i finally got it that way, i realized the fading X’s are way too cool to leave. Spell checker is nice, but needs to be added to the options page. I think i figured it out, it automatically checks spelling in infinite text boxes, but not in low limit ones.

    Nightly tester tools made all my ext’s work, BUT Y! toolbar (which crashed Fx). Way to go Yahoo, i worship you and this is how you thank me. Anh well, i think I’m better off without it, seriously. I’ve got the “add to myweb” bookmark, Y! search built in, and My Y! RSS. What more do i need?

    THANKS for the great tips, Fx always leaves these goodies hidden under about:config wraps, until a helpful blogger like you reveals them to the masses ;)

  27. What I find interesting is that “Firefox” isn’t already in the browser spell check dictionary.

  28. Groovy, very helpful. Thanks for the tips for the close tab button (I have mine set to current tab only, no more closing the wrong tab) as well as the session restore, one more extension I can get rid of now!

  29. In regards to the Undo Closed Tab, I discovered tonight in the History Menu, an option,’Recently Closed Tabs’ which will list all the recently closed tabs. You can either select one closed tab at a time or all. No more having to keep selecting Undo Closed tab to find the right closed tab.

  30. Good call, I have always used Tiny Menu to hide the history menu, so I never look in it. I may have to unhide that now.

  31. Hey I love FF2, but one thing the whole window every once in a while shrinks in size right out of the blue.What the hell is that ? Can it be tweeked out,I can live with it but hey since I’m here by Stumbleupon.

  32. :x u should have put a step by step instruction on how to integrate google bookmarks in firefox 2.0

  33. That is not a tweak, that requires the use of an extension such as GMarks or the Google Toolbar.

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