Tweaking Firefox

Firefox has grown a lot over the last few years. It’s US market share is currently greater than 21%. With so many of us on line every day, that means a huge chunk of people are using Firefox. By no means is Firefox the best browser in every aspect but because is does a damn fine job at the majority of things. It is constantly becoming better using thanks to the active community of developers and users. The best thing though, is it modular architecture. The Gecko engine that they use allows people write many useful plug-ins while also allowing users to easily tweak many settings to improve performance. Taking a look at my favorites, you will hopefully see why Firefox remains my preferred browser.

Basic Settings –

First there are some basic settings I personally like changing. To start open up Firefox’s preferences/options dialogue. On any *nix system (Ubuntu, SUSE, Fedora, Arch, etc..) go to Edit-> Preferences. On Windows, go to Tools -> Options. On OS X Firefox -> Preferences. Here you are presented with the main preferences/options window.

Under the “Main -> Startup” there is an option to change Firefox’s behavior when Firefox starts (technically this doesn’t do any thing until after you have closed it once already). Here I like to set to “Show my windows and tabs from last time.” This way each time I close firefox, it opens back up exactly how I closed it. Firefox prompts you to do this after it detects it just had a crash. This just makes sure it restore it every time.

Then next thing I do is disable the “Show the Downloads window when downloading a file.” This is because since Firefox 3, it will show you in the status bar already. This is especially great if you are using a net-book with a small screen since it will save your system from not only screen real estate but also will consume less power since it does not have to launch a new window.

If you are like me and prefer to not have a cluttered Desktop, you will want to change the default download location as well.

Add-ons  -

Firefox has had this awesome ability to be extensible from back in the pre 1.0 days. This makes Firefox unique because there is a huge selection of free add-ons that can be installed easily. Since Firefox 2.0′s addition of the add-on manager, things have only gotten easier to install things like new themes, new features and new settings options.

One of my favorite add-ons is Adblock Plus. This clever little add-on blocks embedded advertisements in web pages. This is great for those really annoying ads that make noise and launch pop-ups. I will admit though, it does decrease advertisement revenue for a lot of free sites. This is why on sites like hulu, I disable it.  There is a companion add-on called Adblock Filterset.G Updater. As its name implies, it updates the filters for Adblock Plus to keep up to date with the ever changing landscape of the internet.

Another one of my favorites is StumbleUpon. This is a social bookmarking add-on that lets you “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” a web site based on whether or not you like it. Also it will recommend other sites to you based on what you tell StumbleUpon your interested. This is a great time killer when your bored and either sitting there at work, in a meeting, or in a lecture.

The default download feature of Firefox is fine, however the add-on DownThemAll! certainly helps speed things up. This add-on is especially useful if you have to download large files (like linux ISOs). An absolute time saver.

Fore those Windows users who love Firefox but deal with websites that don’t there is IE Tab. This add-on will embed IE into tabs in Firefox. This will allow you to even run Active X and Windows update.

Foxmarks is an add-on that can synchronize your bookmarks and (optionally) your passwords across computers. I have 2 laptops and when I was doing my internship last semester, I had this on all three systems. This way if I was at work, and I bookmarked a page for later, I could retrieve it from my home computer without having to email it to my self or anything like that. Also really great for backups or when your not at you computer. You can access your bookmarks from any where by going to Foxmarks main site.

Some sites run a bit of java script to check what kind of OS and browser your running. If they don’t like it sometimes they will block your access. Using User Agent Switcher you can change the user agent string (a bit of info that identifies what browser and OS you are using) to just about anything (provided you fill in the right information or import other user agent strings).

About:Config –

Firefox, in keeping with the open access theme, doesn’t use some archaic registry entry to store all the settings for a particular user. It is all done in plain text. Even better though,  entering

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about:config

into the address bar, accepting the warning, and then editing some setting will produce significant performance gains. Here are a few of my favorites with values and explanations.

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network.dns.disableIPv6;    true

-    This will disable IPv6 so that way DNS on Linux, Windows (Vista and above), and OS X (10.4 and above) is a bit faster. This one wont be needed in the future when IPv6 actually is being used.

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network.http.max-connections;    96

-  This changes the maximum number of network connections.

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network.http.max-connections-per-server;   32

- This changes how many of the maximum connections can be allocated per server.

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network.http.pipelining;    true

-    This allows multiple connection streams per server. It does to web pages what DownThemAll! does to file downloading.

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network.http.pipelining.maxrequests;    8

-   How many pipelining requests per server can be made.

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network.http.pipelining.ssl;    true

-    Enable pipelinning for SSL connections.

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network.http.proxy.pipelining;    true

-    When using proxies enable pipelining.

The Benefit? –

Using these tweaks, settings, and add-ons, hopefully you will be able to increase the functionality, performance, or both of Firefox. Using this (or a similar) setup every day, I feel like these are the most important options and changes to me. Of course every one sees things differently, so if you think I got it wrong or you have something to share leave it blow.

Share and enjoy!

There are 2 Comments to "Tweaking Firefox"

  • Bob Dole says:

    firefox is gehay! :-P

  • David Reilly says:

    Firebug, Stephen! For that reason alone, FF is the ONLY browser for web development. IMO it’s the killer app for Firefox. I may not use it as my primary browser anymore, but once its JS engine catches up to Chrome/Opera, I’ll be back. No one else has anything that even comes close to FF. <3 David

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