Firefox 57 — 3

I am using Firefox 52 ESR. Continuing my adventure with Firefox Quantum, I am not disrupting my daily use of Firefox and am testing Firefox Quantum in a virtual machine (VM).

For my next step I focused on interface challenges rather than add-ons. Hopefully I can obtain something close to my current 52 ESR configuration.

I tend to be zealous with respect to privacy and security. For me that is a cornerstone for configuring Firefox.

Mobile usage has long dictated interface design. The smaller screens on phones pushes the concept of maximizing real estate. This design approach fails with desktop usage where larger screens are normal.

For several years the Firefox developers seem to be on a mission to prevent users from configuring the interface. Hence, part of the reason for moving away from XUL. Sure, security is part of the reasoning, but part of me thinks this overhaul mission is mostly just a case of tight butt cheeks.

I don’t care for the Chrome layout design, which the Firefox developers adopted several years ago.

I always enable the menu bar and bookmarks toolbar. Call me old fashioned, I don’t care.

I notice through the past few years that many people do not use bookmarks. Instead they retain hundreds of open tabs. Some people prefer this unusual approach. Sounds insane to me. Each to their own, but I want straightforward bookmark management. I like the traditional bookmarks menu and I like the bookmarks toolbar for the sites I use daily.

I prefer the following top-down interface order: title bar, menu bar, navigation bar, bookmarks toolbar, and tab bar. I do not like tabs at the top or bottom. Blame more than 20 years of memory muscle, I don’t care.

On to the tweaking. Spacing gaps in the navigation bar. Considering the focus on not “wasting real estate,” I do not understand the spacing design. Easy to fix. Open the Customize option and remove (drag-and-drop) the flexible space widgets.

Next is disabling the “new tab” background. I am sure some users find the new design useful. I want a blank background. With no recommendations, no data mining and tracking, no clutter. Before proceeding I was curious how they function. Every time I selected the Back button Firefox displayed a banner at the bottom of the window. These “tip” banners appeared when opening a new tab too. Annoying. As. Hell. Who comes up with these ideas?

Configuring a blank background requires using the cog wheel icon in the top right of the page and disabling all options. Classic Theme Restorer (CTR) and hidden preferences was the method I used to display a truly blank page. Some web searching revealed these banner overlays are controlled by a built-in add-on and respective browser.onboarding* preferences. All of the associated features can be disabled with browser.onboarding.enabled set to false. Removing the extension is another option.

A separate search box is missing. I do not like a unified location/search bar. “Do One Thing and Do It Well.” The search bar is easily restored: Preferences -> Search -> Search Bar.

Default search engine? Google. No, thank you. I prefer Startpage or DuckDuckGo (DDG). There is no Startpage search engine option. I had to manually add the search engine. Comical how the Mozilla folks like to tout how much they value privacy and they choose Google over Startpage or DDG.

An irritating change is search engines plugins added by users no longer are stored in simple XML files. Instead they are stored in a compressed file named search.json.mozlz4. This has been the case since Firefox 45 I think.

A tickler with this compression scheme is the search engine plugins are designed to generate revenues for the Mozilla folks. Fair enough, although full disclosure would be nice. Being compressed there is no way to know what privacy invasive data mining and finger printing is occurring.

Fortunately I still use Firefox 52 ESR. I can sanitize the XML files, create a unique internal name to avoid conflicts with the default plugins, and have Firefox import into the json container. Then disable the default plugins. I will be able to use the new json container in Firefox Quantum. I have long stopped being amazed at how Firefox developers attempt to obfuscate simple things. All in the name of security of course. The old XML files were plain and simple to read.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Firefox

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