Firefox 57 — 4

I am continuing my efforts to customize the newer Firefox Quantum.

The Custom Theme Restorer (CTR) extension was a knee-jerk reaction to the Australis interface. The add-on was embraced by many users — probably to the chagrin of Firefox developers. According to the usage stats at the Mozilla add-on site, more than a quarter of a million users. That is called a popular add-on. Firefox developers should have taken notice and responded by merging as many features as possible.

I have been using CTR since inception. Australis is now history, but the new Photon interface introduces new interface quirks and irritants.

Through CTR I was able to retain the original layout of the search engine selection drop-down list. I now no longer have that option. The search engine box layout is irritating. With CTR I was able to retain the old design that used a text listing. The current layout uses icons. The Firefox developers believe I am supposed to memorize and easily distinguish these obtuse images. So much for choice. Hovering over each icon triggers a tooltip with the search engine name. I prefer the older design and I detest tooltips.

CTR is not dead despite the Quantum and Photon transition. The CTR developer is a wizard with understanding Firefox design and cascading style sheets (CSS). The developer has been porting CTR features to custom CSS files.

Some reading around the web indicates CSS is now the preferred way of customizing the Firefox interface. There is one caveat — new elements cannot be added in this manner. Only existing elements can be modified.

I discovered I am not alone in a desire for the old search box layout. A CSS file named oldsearch.css resolves the problem. There is no easy method for sorting the layout list, probably because the Firefox developers never use a text layout. Fortunately, sorting the list is easy through the Firefox preferences interface — just drag-and-drop.

I prefer the following top-down interface order: title bar, menu bar, navigation bar, bookmarks toolbar, and tab bar. With knowledge about these wonderful CSS files, I was able to change the position of the tab bar to below the bookmark toolbar using the tabs_below_navigation_toolbar.css file.

The number of CSS files in this collection is a tad overwhelming. Sifting my way through them all will require time and patience.

Next on my list was removing Pocket. That the Mozilla folks are so keen on merging Pocket into Firefox is curious. My cynical thought is follow the money trail. Pocket somehow contributes to Mozilla bottom lines, which means there is some kind of data mining and tracking going on.

For many users removal is not possible because Pocket is a built-in system add-on. Disturbing about these built-in add-ons is users do not know they are installed and do not have an easy way of disabling or removing. This smacks of being untrustworthy. There are online discussions about these add-ons and the intrusions to privacy. I have long lost faith in the Mozilla folks truly giving a hoot about user privacy when a buck can be made.

Disabling Pocket is the best that can be done for these users. One method of tackling the Pocket intrusion is through the new tab cog wheel and about:config.

A sledge hammer approach is deleting the extension from the Firefox installation directory. That latter option requires vigilance because each new Firefox update will install the extension. A cron job or a snippet in rc.local likely would suffice to control those add-ons.

Removing the extension does remove some of the clutter and noise

Removing built-in add-ons motivated me to look for descriptions. I found some. A list of the built-in add-ons is available using about:support. While many of these built-in add-ons can be controlled with hidden preferences, the idea of removing the bloat appeals to me. Especially when data mining and tracking are possible.

rm -f /usr/lib64/firefox-*/browser/features/*

As a quick experiment, I renamed my Firefox profile, deleted the built-in add-ons, and then launched Firefox. A clean, refreshing blank new tab page.

Without all the data mining and tracking distracting clutter.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Firefox

Next: Interesting Usage Observations

Previous: Firefox 57 — 3