Optimizing Firefox for 1024×600

abipad firefoxoptim Optimizing Firefox for 1024×600

The iPad is out, and we’re doing our best to present the alternatives that are out there. While a lot of new and upcoming devices use either proprietary OSes or Android, a lot of them also use Windows – especially those that have been around for a few years. The problem is that a lot of the devices running Windows use 1024×600 screens, like the Viliv S5, S7 and X70, EEE T91 and T101, Kohjinsha SC3, Willcom D4 and a insane amount of other UMPCs, tablets and netbooks. That resolution doesn’t leave a lot of vertical space when you stuff in all the toolbars that Windows programs like so much. Luckily, there are ways to fix some of those issues – at least in FireFox. Read on to see how.

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There are a lot of ways of making FireFox more space efficient out there, and as a netbook geek I’ve tried them all. In fact, I wrote about one method of doing this a year ago on my own blog, and my method back then even made it to Tekzilla Daily. Unfortunately, that method doesn’t work well on a touchscreen because it’s hard to hover over something without pressing it, and it also doesn’t display everything. The guy who makes that add-on is also a rather peculiar guy who refuses to post the plugin on Mozilla’s website, doesn’t quite keep up with the FireFox version and basically don’t seem like he cares if anyone uses it. That’s why I set out to find another way of making everything work perfectly, and after a couple of hours of trying out extensions and hacks, I think I found a pretty good solution.

First off you need four Firefox extensions; Bookmarks menu, Hide Caption Titlebar Plus, Tiny Menu and Grab and Drag. The last one isn’t necessary for the minimalist look, it’s simply a utility to let you grab any non-linked part of a webpage to scroll, making it easier to use with touchscreens. Bookmarks menu is a add-on that adds a button to your toolbar that when clicked pops up a menu with everything that’s on the bookmarks toolbar. Hide Caption Titlebar Plus removes the titlebar and integrates a close/minimize/maximize button into the menu bar instead. Tiny Menu turns the entire menu bar into a drop down meny (containing “file”, “edit” and the other menus).

When all of these are installed, it’s time to rearrange a bit. Right click one of the toolbars and select “customize”. Now you can move around the various items and remove those you don’t want. Note that the “Menu” item left on the menu toolbar can’t be moved to another toolbar, so you have to move everything else to the menu bar instead. Move the dropdown bookmarks toolbar button there, the navigation buttons, the address bar and the search field (if you use it). I personally removed the search field because of another “hidden” feature in Firefox: keyword searches. If you go to Google, or and other search engine, internal search function or any search field anywhere you can right click it and select “Add a keyword for this search”. This will let you specifiy a keyword to go with the search, so when you type that keyword in the address bar you can search directly. For example, I have “g” for Google and “img” for Google Images. If I type “g anything but ipod” in the address bar, it will search for “anything but ipod” on Google. This is a very useful feature that will save you time and space since you don’t need the search field anymore. If you don’t use it, you can also deselect the status bar by going to “menu” -> “view” -> “status bar”. There are also ways of customizing the internal icons of the address bar and so on, though that is a bit more advanced and involves the userChrome.css file, so I won’t go into that now.

When everything is moved, you should have a browser that looks like the one in the pictures above. It has absolutely everything that the original toolbar setup had, but takes up literally less than half as much vertical space. On a 1024×600 screen, that is very noticeable.

21 Comments

Corinn on April 6, 2010 2:04 PM

The plugin Meerkat does everything with one simple plugin install, but Firefox 3.6 breaks the plugin.

Andreas Ødegård on April 6, 2010 2:12 PM

@Corinn: Meerkat only reduces it to 2 toolbars + tabs, this reduces it to 1 + tabs… plus, as you said, Meerkat doesn’t work. That’s the problem with developers who don’t bother staying up to date and don’t publish through Mozilla, same as with AutoHide.

Bart on April 6, 2010 3:39 PM

And what about Google chrome? That just has the tabs and the bar where you can type in the web address. It sure is very space efficient. I’m not sure thought whether it is touchscreen friendly or not.

Andreas Ødegård on April 6, 2010 3:54 PM

@Bart: Still has one toolbar extra: bookmarks. It also doesn’t support extensions like grab and drag, adblock or flashblock which are very useful on a small screened low power computer. Personally I also use a lot of other plugins which means Firefox is a must have, but that depends on the person.

Defaultluser on April 6, 2010 4:14 PM

Nice article, I’ve been running my Firefox like this for years because I hate clutter (but I also remove the status bar).Couple of things:1. you didn’t select small icons. This can save you a little more screen space.2. You don’t need Tiny Menu unless you’re running out of horizontal screen space. The full menu can co-exist with the navigation box and buttons even on a small screen, especially since you’ve removed the search box.When my GF bought a netbook, I did the same thing for her Firefox, and it basically doubled her screen real-estate.

Niall on April 6, 2010 5:44 PM

I would recommend using autoHideStatusbar and Tab Progress Bar. This will remove the statusbar and move the progress bar to each tab, which is both handy and saves space.

Andy on April 6, 2010 8:19 PM

@Andreas: You know the bookmark toolbar in Chrome/Chromium is hidable, right? A simple Crtl+B toggles it on and off. Also Chrome/Chromium does support extensions now, which means you can usually find roughly equivalent items for addons such as adblock (https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/gighmmpiobklfepjocnamgkkbiglidom).

Jay on April 6, 2010 8:46 PM

Yup, Andy is right. Bookmark bar is easily removed. Also has adblock, flashblock, and I think they already have (or one is coming) of grab & drag.I find Chrome is better for a small number of tabs – on my desktop, where I have like 200 tabs, Firefox is better. Chrome does use up less RAM in total, and it doesn’t freeze/crash. FF crashes like crazy, especially when you have 200 tabs…

sadburai on April 6, 2010 8:57 PM

just install Opera instead of using loads of addons for firefox. That browser is also much faster than Firefox (especially with slower internet connections because of Opera Turbo!).Try it out!

preSIK on April 7, 2010 12:24 AM

….or just chrome

Andreas Ødegård on April 7, 2010 1:23 AM

@Andy: Yeah, but keyboard shortcuts on a touch screen device is utterly useless because you have to bring up the on screen keyboard to activate it. TBH I haven’t paid much attention to Chrome lately because I’m used to FireFox. Even if it has the more common extensions, I use things like Wordcount, Firebug, Xmarks etc. I’m sure other people use Firefox for the same reasons, so switching out the entire browser isn’t a viable option for a lot of people.

Mikael on April 7, 2010 8:14 AM

I just hit F11 whenever i want more vertical space…

joe on April 7, 2010 11:59 PM

Let’s face it, the ipad is great if you are Steve Jobs and everything else is a stupid Win operating system being forced to run in hardware it was never intended to run.

LTM on April 8, 2010 2:51 AM

Full Fullscreen plugin and the all-in one sidebar plugin does the job for me.

Pepe on April 8, 2010 10:57 AM

Or you could use chrome :) )

Thomas Martitz on April 8, 2010 1:38 PM

You forgot autohide statusbar, also an extension so that you don’t need to disable it entirely, very nice!

SonyRuleZZZ! on April 10, 2010 9:53 AM

Only one question. Why Firefox? It is slow(IE №2), not efficient, and has a lot of unfairly stolen advantages. Use Opera 10.51+ or Chrome 4+ – the equal-by-speed(nearly) browsers and be happy. Europe choose Opera =)P.S. Hide menu function was implemented in Opera far a looooong time before Firefox realized that it is useful.

PowerTorsk on April 13, 2010 2:05 AM

I use Opera, but this seems to save up even more space. Not that I need it, here with my 1680×1050 screen…Good article :)

Skyler Call on April 21, 2010 3:51 PM

Andreas, the bookmark bar still shows up on the new-tab page when it is removed from the toolbar. No keyboard short-cut needed.

ruin on April 25, 2010 1:07 PM

Opera 10.51 will save more room than this. Not to mention that it’s quite a bit faster and lacks memory leaks.

Jaigoda on April 25, 2010 5:08 PM

Chrome does actually do a good deal better at conserving vertical space, shaving off about 75% of Firefox’s toolbar space. Going by some slightly fudged measurements gotten by your screenshots (I had to resize your picture to get it to be scale, yada yada), the vertical space taken up by Firefox is right around 60 pixels. However, this doesn’t include the progress bar at the bottom, which adds another 22 pixels. This brings its total to 82. Chrome is 62 pixels at the top, and doesn’t have a progress bar because it’s rediculously fast and doesn’t need one :].The bookmarks bar on Chrome can be permanently hidden, but you can still access bookmarks whenever you open a new page, where you have the bookmarks banner at the top along with your eight favorites or recently-visited pages.Of course, if you like Firefox, I doubt 20 pixels will be that badly missed. But for me, FF is too similar to IE, and I hate IE, so it’s either Opera or Chrome for me. Whatever floats your boat. ABI is all about choices, so I’m just throwing this out there.

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