Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Firefox Tweaks

This post will list various Firefox Browser Tweaks I have run across to make your Firefox experience much more enjoyable. I welcome feedback from anyone to would like additions to this post:

Increasing the Number of Tabs on Screen
You’ve probably noticed when you open ten or so tabs that FF shrinks them to a certain width but they still don’t all fit, requiring you to scroll the tab bar or use the list arrow at the far right to list all the open tabs. One solution to this little problem is to decrease the width of the tabs still more while still allowing them to be wide enough to actually read. You should have the hang of about:config by now, so I’ll shorten my explanations from here on. Double click on the “browser.tabs.tabMinWidth” entry, replace the default value 100 by typing another value, such as 75, click “OK,” and then restart. This should allow 12 tabs before scrolling is need. Obviously, you can lower the value more, but eventually you won’t be able to read the tabs. (BTW, if you care, entering a 0 disables scrolling.)

Preventing Accidental Tab Closure
Speaking of tabs, have you ever clicked on one but accidentally clicked on the X and closed it? Rats! You can prevent this from ever happening again with a little tweak that removes the X from all tabs except the active page. Double click on the “browser.tabs.closeButtons” entry, replace the default value 1 with one of the following: 0 (displays a close button on the active tab only); 1 (default, displays close buttons on all tabs); 2 (displays no close buttons); 3 (displays a single close button at the end of the tab bar; FF 1.x behavior). You’ll probably want to type 0. Now just click OK and restart.

Turning on “Pipeline” to Speed Up Page Loading
This tweak turns on “Pipeline,” which make items on a page load simultaneously instead of one at a time. First, double-click on the “network.http.pipelining” entry and set it to true; second, set “network.http.proxy.pipelining” to true; third, set “network.http.pipelining.maxrequests” to something like 30, which means that FF will make 30 requests at once (see next paragraph for explanation); and fourth, right-click anywhere, select “New > Integer,” enter the name nglayout. initialpaint.delay, and set its value to 0. This value is the amount of time the browser waits before it acts on information it receives. After a restart, you should see a marked increase in speed. FYI, you might not want to exceed 30 for step 3 at the risk of getting banned from various servers by being mistaken for a “DoS (Denial of Service) attack” (not to be confused with my beloved old DOS). This is a type of attack on a network that is designed to bring the network to a crawl by flooding it with useless traffic. Many DoS attacks, such as Ping of Death and Teardrop attacks, exploit limitations in the TCP/IP protocols. For all known DoS attacks, there are software fixes that system administrators can install to limit the damage caused by the attacks. But, like viruses, new DoS attacks are constantly being dreamed up by low-life (excuse me) hackers.

Tweaking Download Manager
FF’s Download Manager (Tools > Downloads, or Ctrl+J) has its pros and cons. A marked con is its annoying habit of popping up with its messages. Here are a few tweaks that you can use according to your preference. Each requires a restart.

  1. If all you want is a short message telling you a download is complete, set to something like 500 (milliseconds, i.e., a half second) instead of 2000 (2 seconds).
  2. By default, DM pops up immediately when you download, which is annoying with small downloads. Set to something like 30,000 (30 seconds) which means that DM will appear only when a download exceeds 30 seconds.
  3. Normally you have to close DM manually, another nuisance. To have it close automatically, double-click to set it to true.