Posts Tagged ‘firefox’

Firefox 4 beta 1: A very quick first look

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

There’s not much wrong with the first beta release of Firefox. It performs well, never crashed during several days of use, and, thanks to changes in the menu bar, is much better at using available screen real estate.  Unfortunately, it’s not an everyday-use browser. Yet.

It’s the lack of compatible extensions that keep this from being an everday-use browser.  It has become very apparent just how much I use extensions in my day-to-day use of Firefox.  Between Firebug, Greasemonkey, Read It Later and Xmarks, I can’t do more than just review how my sites look and perform in the new browser. The good news is that NoScript and AdBlock Plus *are* available now, so it’s not you’re browsing unprotected.

Most of the changes just take a bit of getting used to. Finding where the menu bar went and how to get there was a bit of a challenge, but, frankly, there aren’t many daily-use things in the menu bar that are not in the Firefox drop down menu.

During the time I used beta 1, I found only one rendering glitch, and that was with the pan control in the aerial view feature of Google Maps. There appeared to be a ‘ghost’ control behind the main control, and as a result, I couldn’t move to a westerly view. Closing the browser and starting over seemed to take care of the problem, though.

It appears as if there are new features still on the horizon; the extensions page says to ‘watch for something new’. And while eliminating dialog boxes was a focus of this release, several still remain, including the error console. An example of where a dialog box went away is the extensions page. Expect to see more of that in the upcoming beta releases.

Finding the error console in Firefox 4 beta…and more!

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

firefox logoThe Firefox 4 beta is out, and I’ve run it through the gamut of applications that I’ve written and somewhat responsible for (good news: everything works!), but I ran into a bit of a problem trying to find the JavaScript (or error) console. The reason for this is that Firefox 4 no longer has a menu bar by default, but instead has a single Firefox drop down menu in the upper left of the Firefox window.  I like this, because it gives more room for what you’re on the Internet for: content. Since the advent of tabs and toolbars, content has been continually having it’s real estate stolen, so it’s good to see content area reclamation taking place.

But without the menu bar, there’s no (visible) way of getting to the JavaScript console. However, it’s still possible to get the menu bar to appear temporarily by pressing the alt key; the tab area pushes down, and exposes a menu bar near the top of the screen. Once the menu bar appears, you can go to Tools -> Error Console to get your JavaScript debug on. While looking at the Tools menu, remember that the key combination Ctrl-Shift-J will bring up the console directly.

If you want the menu bar back permanently, go to the Firefox drop down menu, select Customize, then check Menu Bar, and the menu bar stays, leaving the JavaScript console at your beck and call.


The Error Console is old news. It’s soooo 2008. Now all the cool kids are using the Heads-Up Display, which, from what I’ve seen, is the Error Console on steroids.  There are more types of events to filter, including DOM mutation (which is great for AJAX debugging). Check it out.

Annoying tab behavior in Firefox 3.6 beta

Monday, December 21st, 2009

firefox logoI’ve finally started looking at the new Firefox beta releases, just to see if all the extensions I use still work (they do) and the sites I visit regularly still display correct (they do, too). While doing so, I found what I believe to be a new behavior in the way a new tab is opened when selecting ‘Open in New Tab’ from the context menu: It opens immediately to the right of the active tab. This is different than what I’m used to, that is, to have the new tab open all the way to the right. There are many use cases I have that flow much easier when tabs open as the very rightmost screen, and found this new (if it is new) behavior disruptive.  So disruptive, that I was about to uninstall the beta and go back to 3.5.  However, after doing a bit of investigation in the oh-so-useful about:config page, I found an easy workaround.

With the Firefox 3.6 browser running, type about:config into the location bar. If you’ve never visited this page before, you’ll see a dialog warning you that visiting the page will void your warranty (remember, this is free software, there is no warranty; this is a joke), go ahead and click the button in the dialog to get to the configuration editor. A list of configuration settings will appear.  To make it easier to find the value that needs to be changed, click in the ‘Filter’ field and enter ‘browser.tabs.insertRelatedAfterCurrent‘ (do not enter the quotes).  After doing so, only one item will appear in the list, and that’s the configuration item that needs changing:

Firefox's about:config screen with filtering

Firefox's about:config screen with filtering

Since this is a boolean (on/off) field, all you need to do is click on it to change it.  Once you click on the row, the value will change from true to false, and the text will be bold, signifying that the value has been changed by the user. Close the about:config window, and start opening new tabs, and you’ll notice that the tabs are always being opened all the way to the right, regardless which tab is active when the new tab is opened.

This appears to be a new configuration, as that preference name does not appear in the Firefox 3.5 about:config page. So it does appear this is new functionality.

You forgot to include

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Sometimes strange things catch my attention. As a web professional, sometimes web sites acting strangely catch my attention.  Over the last couple of days, two different sites did things that not only caught my attention, but completely blew my mind. And not in the good way.

One of the sites (which will remain nameless) is a tech blog I normally read via RSS, but I found myself actually reading from the site recently.  As I did, I noticed the status bar flickering, and the load progress bar not quite all the way to the end.  The page was obviously still loading, but it appeared that the page was complete.  As I scrolled down the page, I noticed that the blogroll used the favicon of each blog listed in a very long list.  Because I do not visit many of the sites on that blogroll (apparently), my browser had to go to each site and download the favicon for each blog. The good news about that is now that I’ve fully downloaded the page, I have all those favicons cached, and subsequent loads of that page should be snappy, but I have to wonder if there isn’t a better way to do that.

It could be possible to put all the favicons into a sprite image, and download the single image file and let the browser’s CSS do it’s magic.  However, there are (at least) two things wrong with doing that.  First, if the blog’s owner decides to change the favicon, the incorrect icon will appear in the blogroll until the sprite image is updated. Second, copying somebody else’s graphic handiwork onto your server is ethically shady. Ethically, the blog’s designer did the right thing and reference the favicon from each of the remote sites. Unfortunately, the ethical thing to do was not the speediest thing to do. In this case, the blog’s designer would have to ask the question “does including the favicon from each of these remote blogs add any value worth the hit in performance?”  In my mind, the answer would probably be no.too-many-includes

The first attention-grabbing site was a personal blog site.  The second, however, is a high-traffic tech news site (which will also remain unnamed). This site is big into embedding JavaScript or Flash from other sites on their page.  The reason I know this is because I use a Firefox extension called No Script that blocks all JavaScript and Flash content unless I have explicitly allow a given hostname.  The image to the right is the No Script status bar. Note the number of sites. That’s a lot. (An aside: The sites with the blue S icon are those that I have not allowed to load, and the sites with the red circle and slash through them are being allowed.) Many of the includes are for site tracking or commenting, but in my mind, there are way too many includes here.  All of these things take time to load.  This, too, would be another one of those situations where the site’s designer has to ask if the value added by all these includes is worth the extra time it takes to load the site.

This same site doesn’t come close to having well-formed HTML, either.  Below is the output of HTML Validator, showing not just a large number of errors, but several frames as well.  I had thought frames died in 1999. Apparently not.


Unable to use access keys in Firefox?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I recently encountered a problem with a personal web application that makes heavy use of access keys (alt + some key). During a recent cleanup that involved removing old extensions (and some that I just didn’t need anymore), the ability to invoke any action via an alt key stopped working.

The fix was to make a change to our old friend about:config. Go to about:config and filter for “ui.key”, and you’ll see something similar to the following:

The value that I needed to change was generalAccessKey, which had to be changed from the default -1, to 18, which is the character code for the alt key.

Once the value was changed, my alt key shortcuts started working again. If there is a clash between an alt key in the web application and a shortcut for a menu, the web application will win. In my case, there was a button that used alt+T to invoke an action that overrode the alt+T that normally drop down the “Tools” menu.