Improving Firefox

By RSnake

FireFox is a full-featured rich and fast alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer. It is also highly customizable and can greatly improve your browsing experience to indulge in a few modifications. The following tweaks are described to the best of my ability, taken from a number of documents, my and my own hacking of the browser to come up with an aggregated list of enhancements.

Speed up FireFox:
    There are a number of docs out there on how to speed up firefox using pipelining and other kinds of minor tweaks that can be time consuming and error prone. Fortunately for you I found a much quicker way to do this (here's an example of the hard way for the masochists):
    • Step 1: go download Fasterfox
    • Step 2: install it, shut down your browser, and re-open it.
    • Step 3 (optional): uninstall it by going to Tools -> Extensions -> Fasterfox and highlight it and delete it.
    • Step 4 (optional): shut down your browser and re-open it.
    "Why would I want to delete Fasterfox? Why did I download it in the first place?" you are now asking. Well let me explain first why you downloaded it. You wanted to turn on all the cool features that you would have had to otherwise do by hand by typing "about:config" into the URI field and then switching them one by one. Fasterfox has one major flaw though, which is why I personally uninstall it after it makes these changes. It has a prefetch feature similar to Opera's built into it, to speed up the next page you are about to go to by caching it. That unfortunately means it actually performs functions that otherwise should not be performed. I don't use Opera for a reason, so I uninstal Fasterfox for the same reason. Asa Dotzler has a good write-up on the downsides to these speed enhancements.

Reduce what JavaScript can do in Firefox:
    Lots of sites attempt to take control over your browser by spawning new windows or resizing them or other annoying things that you probably don't want. It also eats up CPU time to have a page repaint itself, which can slow your browsing experience. Here's how to stop that:
    • Go to Tools -> Options -> Web Features
    • Click "Advanced"
    • Uncheck "Move or resize existing windows"
    • Uncheck "Raise or lower windows"
    • Uncheck "Disable or replace context menus"
    • Uncheck "Hide the status bar"
    • Uncheck "Change status bar text"
    You probably want to keep the last option checked "Change images" because this allows for onmouseover rollover effects, and other things that make sites more esthetically pleasing.

Get rid of unwanted search engines:
    Firefox does an extremely good job of helping you add search engines into the upper right hand corner of your screen, but it doesn't do a particularly good job of helping you delete them. They have a tendancy to clutter and if you don't use one or more search engines they just sit there and annoys you. I'll show you how to get rid of them:
    • Step 1: browse to your Firefox searchplugins directory. Mine was located in C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins
    • Step 2: find the search engine you want to remove and remove both of the files associated with it. IE: google.gif and google.src
    • Step 3: shut down your browser and restart it and they will be gone.

Pornzilla bookmarklets:
    Pornzilla is a site that has a series of tools to help your porn surfing. As a happen stance these same bookmarklets can actually help your day to day needs as well. Here are the bookmarkets that are useful for every day use. To install these, click and drag the boxes up to your toolbar window and release them:
    • Step 1: zoom images in, zoom images out These allow you to increase and decrease the size of images, which is often useful when you are having a hard time seeing something.
    • Step 2: linked images this is highly useful when you know you want to look at every picture that is linked from a page (where you have to click to view it) but don't want to manually click on each link. This spawns a new window.
    • Step 4: increment and decrement these allow you to navigate up and down html files or images that have a number in them without going back and clicking on each one by hand. This is a big time saver.
    • Step 5: numbered list This creates a list of all pages that have a number in them in a directory. After creating the new page you can use the linked images bookmarklet to further speed up the time it takes to review the images.
    • Step 6: Yahoo site search this can be useful when you want to find more things on a site but there are no obvious links to it. Let the search engines do the work for you.

    Adblock removes pestering advertizements from showing up. You can block specific images, iframes, flash files, etc... There are some interesting bugs with it, so please read this before installing it:
    • Step 1: Go to Adblock
    • Step 2: Install it and shut down your browser and restart it
    • Step 3: Go to Tools -> Extensions -> highlight Adblock and click Options -> Adblock Options. Then unselect Obj-Tabs. This is important or it will cause certain macromedia files to die.
    Now go about your business surfing. When you find something you don't like right click on it and Adblock it and your life will be a lot better.

Windows hosts file:
    This is only relevant to Microsoft and effects both IE and Firefox. Windows hosts file control which domains go to which pages. This can also perform adblocking if you remove domains that you don't want:
    • Step 1: browse to your hosts file. Mine was located in: C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
    • Step 2: open the file using notepad Step 3: go to my hosts file and copy the contents and paste them over what you have in there currently. If you have already modified your current hosts file before make sure not to overwrite any changes you made.
    • Step 3: edit the document to change whatever host you want to point to localhost which will make it fail to render. Save and quit.
    This may cause Microsoft Anti-Spyware to alert you that your hosts file has changed. Click through the warning and you should be good to go. Instead of seeing ads you will now see an error message and your surfing should be significantly improved. Feel free to modify the hosts file in the future to add more domains. This is nowhere near a complete list, so feel free to update it.

Stop Animated Gifs:
    Ever wanted to stop those animated gifs from animating? They're like the modern day version of the <BLINK> tag. They also eat up CPU time as your computer has to paint and re-paint them. Why not shut them off?
    • In the URL bar, type in "about:config"
    • In the filter bar type "anim"
    • Double click on image.animation_mode and in the window that pops up change the setting from "normal" to either "none" or "once".

Stop blink:
    Speaking of blink, if you want to turn off the <BLINK> tag in Firefox it's as easy as this:
    • In the URL bar, type in "about:config"
    • In the filter bar type "blink"
    • Double click on browser.blink_allowed so it is set to "false".

Modify your default search:
    I've wanted to change my default search engine in Firefox before but it's not very well documented on how to do that. Here's how:
    • In the URL bar, type in "about:config"
    • In the filter bar type "defaulturl"
    • Change the value there to take whatever search engine with whichever parameters you want.

Auto Copy:
    Auto copy allows you to copy things just by selecting them with your mouse (which is more like Linux/Unix, Trillian, MIRC, and PuTTY). This speeds things up considerably if you do a lot of work on the net:
    • Step 1: Go to Auto Copy
    • Step 2: Install it and shut down your browser and restart it
    • Step 3: Click on the checkbox on the lower right hand corner and make sure that "Enable in text boxes" is unselected. This can have undesirable results when you are trying to highlight something to paste over it where it will copy the information you just highlighted and paste them back over itself having no net effect.

IE View:
    IE View allows you to get around compatibility problems with FireFox by allowing you to open a page in IE or to always open a page in IE if you know you'll want to do so in the future. It's highly useful for bridging the gap while Firefox works out it's bugs and websites learn to code for both browsers. I know some Firefox zealots will scoff at this, but it really does make life easier which is what this page is all about:
    • Step 1: Go to IE View
    • Step 2: Install it and shut down your browser and restart it
    • Step 3: When you get to a site that doesn't work in Firefox, right click and open in IE.

    Iframes are the root of many an evil banner advertizement that you don't want. Using Adblock you can get rid of them but only if you've seen them before. Using the hosts file also helps. But what really helps do a great job of removing a ton of them is to remove them at their source; the raw HTML itself. By actually removing one of the main ways "rich" banner ads using flash get onto the page - iframes - you can kill a huge percentage of annoying ads. Install this plugin with the remove iframe user script and see your speed increase:
    • Step 1: Go to Greasemonkey
    • Step 2: Install it and shut down your browser and restart it
    • Step 3: Go to Hide iframes
    • Step 4: Go to Tools -> Install this user script
    This will install the iframe blocking function. This gets rid of most ads. Beware though, this does it totally blindly, and although it will speed up your user experience slightly and it will remove unsightly movies and things you don't want, it will also remove a certain amount of good things. So to add those domains you want to be ignored from this, go to Tools -> manage user scripts and add in those domains. For instance. As soon as you do this, the images at the top and bottom of the page may stop working. You'll have to whitelist* to see those images again.

Customize Google:
    If you are a Google user this plugin is nice because it removes a lot of the supurfluous data on each page. Google's ads have begun to completely overwhelm most of it's pages and this can help reduce the clutter:
    • Step 1: Go to CustomizeGoogle
    • Step 2: Install it and shut down your browser and restart it
    • Step 3: Go to Tools -> Extensions -> highlight CustomeGoogle and click on Options
    • Step 4: Go through each tab and click on Remove ads.
    One other handy thing this does is it re-write the images on so you can click directly on them and see the image, rather than digging around a page to find what you are looking for.

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