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Monthly Archives: January 2010

Netbook users already know that their screens are tiny. Mozilla Firefox, while an outstanding web browser, has buttons, toolbars, and all kinds of other widgets out the wazoo. These use up more screen space than they need to, which may be irrelevant on your huge 22″ LCD on your desktop machine, but could be much better configured for your tiny 10″ netbook screen. Here are some tweaks I’ve implemented on my Dell Mini 10v that give as much space as possible to browse, without losing my taskbar to Firefox’s fullscreen mode.

Stock Firefox Install on Ubuntu 9.10

BEFORE

Firefox after all modifications, Ubuntu 9.10

AFTER

  • Switch to small navigation icons

You can make your nav icons (Home, Back/Forward, Stop, etc.) smaller. To switch, simply right-click the Home button, and click “Customize” in the context menu that comes up. This will open the Customize Toolbar window. Check the box next to “Use small icons”, and you’re all set.

  • Ditch the Bookmarks Toolbar

I don’t use the Bookmarks Toolbar. I use my personal start page (http://www.willamette.edu/~jgates) and the Address bar (where all the http:// stuff is) instead. If you have the Bookmarks Toolbar and you want to get rid of it, right-click the Home button and click “Bookmarks Toolbar” in the context menu that comes up.

SIDENOTE: Did you know that if you start typing into the Address bar, it progressively searches all your bookmarks and history for matching websites? For example, if you have NPR.org in your history or bookmarks, instead of typing “http://www.npr.org” or finding your bookmark, you can simply start typing “npr” in the address bar, and it’ll come right up. Try it sometime.

  • Turn off “Always show tab bar”

In Firefox 3.5, the tab bar is always showing by default, even if you have just one tab open. Wasted space. To make the tab bar disappear if you have only one tab open, go to Preferences (For Windows: Tools –> Preferences) (For Mac/Linux: Edit –> Preferences), click the button and little picture at the top labeled “Tabs”, and uncheck the box next to “Always show the tab bar”. Don’t worry, your tab bar will reappear as soon as more than one tab is open. (BTW, use Ctrl+Tab to open a new tab, Cmd+Tab on Macs)

  • Ditch the status bar and install URL Tooltip (Add-on)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/12015
If you’re like me, you use the status bar (at the bottom of the Firefox window) for only one thing: seeing the URL of a link on a webpage. You do not need a bar permanently glued to the bottom of your window to do that. This add-on displays a tooltip (little bubble) with a link’s location when you put your pointer over a link. Go to the link above and follow the instructions to install. Once you’ve installed this add-on, go to the View menu and click “Status bar” to hide the status bar.

  • Consolidate your menus toolbar with Personal Menu (Add-on)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3895
This add-on allows you to hide your Menus Toolbar (File, Edit, View, etc.) and change it into a single button drop-down menu on your Navigation Toolbar. Go to the link above and follow the instructions to install. Once you’ve installed this add-on, right-click the Home button and click “Menus Toolbar” in the context menu that comes up. You can customize what shows up in your drop-down menu by going to Tools –> Add-ons, and selecting Preferences next to the Personal Menu entry.

  • Block space- [and mind-]gobbling adverts with Adblock Plus (Add-on)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1865
There are many good reasons to block adverts. They are annoying, can carry malware infections, and (you guessed it) often take up space that could instead be filled with whatever content you are browsing the web for. To install, click the link above and follow the instructions. Once you’ve installed Adblock Plus, you will get a screen prompting you to choose a content filter. If you’re in the United States, EasyList is a good bet. If you surf a lot of international websites, there are other region-specific options, choose the one that works best for your browsing habits.

SIDENOTE: Many perfectly good and legitimate websites utilize advertisements to get revenue. Lifehacker, one of my absolute favorite websites, is one example. Blocking ads on every single page may guarantee you a less distracting browsing experience. However, blocking everything won’t help the people working on these awesome websites put food on the table. So, to help support sites you love, I recommend unblocking ads on certain websites that you frequent. I do this because I like Lifehacker and 4ca.st more than I hate ads.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This article was inspired by a much more advanced (messing with CSS code and how Firefox is rendered) article on Lifehacker.

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