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One of the reasons Firefox is my favorite web browser is because it is highly customizable. Not only are there a lot of useful add-ons that you can download, but the browser can be customized with simple commands inside the about:config page. If you don’t like something about Firefox, you can usually find a command in the about:config page to change things up to your liking. This tutorial is created for Firefox 13, so it may or may not work in other versions of Firefox.
Todays’ post will list 10 useful Firefox 13 customizations. Most of these customizations are implemented by opening Firefox and typing “about:config” into the web address bar. You will get a warning that tells you to be careful. Click on the “I’ll be careful, I promise” button and follow the steps below to implement each change.
1. Change the default starting tab
One of the big change in Firefox 13 was the styling of new tabs. When you open a new tab in
Firefox 13, the default start page now displays a grid of bookmarked websites and popular websites from your history bar. The new tab layout in Firefox 13 resembles the Chrome start page.
Some people (including myself) are not big fans of the new start page. If you would prefer new tabs to start on a blank page or a custom URL, access the about:config page and look for the search bar at the top. Type “browser.startup.homepage” into the search bar.
Double click the one result that comes up and type in the URL of any website. For example, I use http://www.google.com/ and now Google is my default starting page. You can also use about:blank to start all new tabs on a blank page.
2. Disable Google Autocomplete
Google autocomplete drives me nuts. It flickers around showing me all kinds of search results and tries to suggest new searches for me while I’m busy typing my search term. I type way too quickly for this to be anything but annoying.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to disable autocomplete. Use the following URL as your homepage or new tab page:
Congratulations, you have finally defeated the dreaded autocomplete “feature.”
3. Disable the Delay for Add-On Installations
This is a quick little tweak that eliminates the mandatory countdown timer that is associated with installing new plugins. The delay is designed to protect you from malicious software installation, but you can easily disable the delay if you feel comfortable around computers.
Visit the about:config menu, search for “security.dialog_enable_delay” and double click on the first result that appears. Change the value to zero and hit “OK.” You can now install plugins without waiting.
4. Close Tabs with Your Mouse Wheel
This isn’t really an about:config customization, but it’s still useful. If you work with a lot of tabs in Firefox, it can get old to repeatedly click on the tiny “X” to close tabs. One simple trick is to just place your cursor on the tab and click down on your mouse’s scroll wheel.
5. Disable Auto Refresh
Some websites like to automatically refresh the page after a certain amount of time. For example, I browse DrudgeReport.com sometimes and that site randomly refreshes on me. These auto refreshes are annoying but they can be disabled inside your about:config page.
Visit the about:config page and search for the following term: accessibility.blockautorefresh
Two results will appear, choose the shorter one that matches your search term exactly. Double click on that result and change the value to false. Web pages will now stop auto refreshing.
6. Use the Mouse Wheel to Open Links in a New Tab
Here is another quick trick that doesn’t require the about:config page. Most people right click on links and choose “Open Link in New Tab.” You can save yourself a click by simply placing your cursor over the link and clicking down on the mouse wheel. This will open the link in a new tab.
7. Disable Blinking Text
Some websites use blinking text on their pages. This serves no purpose other than to be an annoying strain on the eyes. You can disable blinking text by visiting the about:config page and searching for “browser.blink_allowed”.
Double click on the search result and change the value to false. Blinking text will soon become a distant memory.
8. See More Tabs
Open enough tabs in Firefox and eventually you’ll stop seeing new tabs. All new tabs will be replaced with a little arrow on the side of the tab bar. If you would like to see more tabs in Firefox, you can adjust the width of each tab and fit more tabs into the tab bar before new tabs start disappearing.
Visit the about:config page and search for “browser.tabs.tabClipWidth”. The default value is 140. Change that value to something smaller and tabs will now take up less horizontal space.
9. Stop Selecting Spaces Next to Words
When you double click a word in Firefox, that word is automatically highlighted for easy copy/pasting. The one problem is that the space next to the word is highlighted by default. I prefer to select the exact word and leave the space out.
You can change this by visiting the about:config page and searching for “layout.word_select.eat_space_to_next_word”. Double click on the first result to change the value to false. Now, you can double click any word in Firefox and only that exact word will be highlighted. Those annoying additional spaces will no longer be included in your copies and pastes.
10. Undo about:config Customizations
Did you mess something up inside your about:config page? Want to undo a custom change but don’t remember the original value? You can reset any about:config customization by visiting the about:config page and right clicking on any setting inside that page. Choose the “reset” option and the setting for that line will go back to the factory default.