Firefox: optimize the settings

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With a couple of changes in the settings, you can improve the performance of Firefox in Ubuntu or Linux Mint. These tweaks will make this fine web browser leaner and cleaner.

Make Firefox cleanse itself automatically upon quitting

1. Improve your privacy: you can configure Firefox to cleanse itself automatically, upon quitting. All cookies and history are being deleted then. Furthermore, you can limit the tracking that some websites do to follow you.

The price you pay is a small decrease in user friendliness, but it's not much. The privacy gain is huge, and outweighs this price by far.

You can do it like this:

Firefox menu button (with the three dashes on it) - Preferences - tab Privacy

a. Item Tracking: set it to:
Tell sites that I do not want to be tracked

b. Item History: change the setting to:
Firefox will: Use custom settings for history

c. Item Cookies: change the setting to:
Keep until: I close Firefox

d. Now tick the following setting:
Clear history when Firefox closes

e. Finally, click the button "Settings..." and tick everything, except for Saved Passwords and Site Preferences. Click OK.

Click Close and you're done.

Tip: sometimes it may come in handy to force a cleansing during your web browsing. Simply by closing Firefox and launching it anew.

Limit the storage

2. By default, Firefox can store far too much files. Limit it like this:

Firefox menu button (with the three dashes on it) - Preferences

Tab Advanced:

Tab Network - Cached Web Content:
- tick: Override automatic cache management
- set the cache to 50 MB, which is more than enough.

Click the button Clear now and then the Close button.

Disable the memory of the URL bar

3. The memory of the URL bar is more aggravating than useful, when you want to type a website address directly. An irritating busybody: "Maybe you want to type this?". Thank heaven you can disable this annoyance like this:

Type in the URL bar of Firefox:


Press Enter.

Now you're being presented with an warning. Ignore it and click on "I'll be careful, I promise!" (which is probably an attempt at humour. Sigh...)

Go to:

Double-click that line and change the value to 0.

Note: this is a user preference. Repeat it in each user account.

Disable Java and openJDK by default

4. When you've installed openJDK or Oracle Java, then it's safer to have the Java (or IcedTea) plugin in Firefox, disabled by default. Java is often under attack by criminal and malicious software and websites. Because of the nature of Java (it's platform independent), even Linux is vulnerable in this aspect.

You can enable Java / openJDK for a short while whenever you need it (usually pretty rarely). That way, your ease of use is reduced only a little bit, while your system becomes a lot more secure.

Disabling of Java in Firefox can be done like this:
Firefox menu button (with the three dashes on it) - Add-ons - click on Plugins (left side of the window) - click "Disable" for Java (or for IcedTea).

Note: this only applies to Java. There's also Javascript, which is safe. So there's no need to disable Javascript as well.

Configure Adobe Flash Player well

5. By applying the multimedia how-to you'll have installed Adobe Flash Player. You can improve its default settings, and among other things remove the relatively unknown Flash cookies.

Unfortunately most of this can only be done by a strange and unusual web based tool from Macromedia. This is how you do it:

a. Go to Adobe Flash Player Settings Manager

Note: that web page is the tool itself!

b. Now the settings manager opens with the tab Global Privacy Settings. Click here on "Always ask..." Or, if you prefer a higher degree of security, "Always deny...".

c. Now click the tab Global Storage Settings.
Put the slider at at 10 KB (otherwise it'll remember too much information in your cookies, which is bad for your privacy). This is a per-cookie maximum size.

d. Now click the tab Website Privacy Settings. Click "Delete all sites".

e. Finally, click the tab Website Storage Settings. Click "Delete all sites".

You may want to run this settings manager on a regular basis, in order to remove stored content.

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Add-ons and extensions: don't turn Firefox into a Christmas tree

6. You can install a lot of add-ons (extensions) in Firefox. Some of those add-ons can be very useful.

But they have a couple of important disadvantages, because they are "applications within an application":

- they slow Firefox down, especially if there are a lot of them;
- they can cause malfunctions; both in each other and in Firefox itself;
- it has occurred: add-ons with malicious content. Don't trust them blindly.

So don't turn Firefox into a Christmas tree: don't adorn Firefox with lots of add-ons. Limit yourself to only a few add-ons, that are really important for you.

Strictly speaking, extensions and add-ons pollute the clean code of your browser. It's wise to keep the level of pollution down to an absolute minimum.

Note: watch out for add-ons that claim to make Firefox faster! Often they do more harm than good. Do not install them: even if one or two of them can really make Firefox run noticeably faster, they may damage the stability of your browser.

Letters too small on web pages? Increase the font size

7. You can enlarge the displayed font size like this:

Press the Ctrl key and keep it pressed (don't release it). Now hit the plus key ( + ) for as many times as you wish, until the font size that you want is achieved. Minimize: keep the Ctrl key pressed and hit the minus key ( - ). Back to default: keep the Ctrl key pressed and hit the zero key ( 0 ).

This however enlarges both text and images. That often renders images ugly. Set the enlargement therefore to "Zoom Text Only". Like this:

First make the Firefox menu bar visible (not necessary in main edition Ubuntu, because there it's by default part of the global menu in the top of your display):
Firefox panel - right-click on the right of the green plus sign - tick:
Menu Bar

In the menu bar: View - Zoom - tick: Zoom Text Only.

Note: even if you see no tick box, you can place that tick nevertheless!

On netbooks with small displays you can also use the nifty add-on NoSquint. You can install it in Firefox, like this: Firefox menu button (with the three dashes on it) - Add-ons - Get Add-ons

The default settings of NoSquint aren't right. So configure NoSquint like this:
Firefox menu button (with the three dashes on it) - Add-ons - click on Extensions (left side of the window)
NoSquint: click - Preferences - Tab Zooming - Primary zoom method: Text zoom (text only).

On a netbook with a small display, you may want to configure it like this (click on the image to enlarge it):

Note: be very reluctant to install add-ons in Firefox: the more add-ons, the slower Firefox becomes.

Make new tab pages show your home page

8. By default, when you open a new tab page, Firefox shows either an empty page or thumbnails of websites that you've previously visited. If you prefer those new tabs to show your home page by default, you can do that as follows:

Type this in the navigation bar of Firefox:

Press Enter.

Press the irritating button "I┬┤ll be careful, I promise!" (sigh....)

Go to:

....and double-click it.

Change the current string value about:newtab into the URL of your home page, for example:

Close the config window and open a new tab page.

Want more?

9. Do you want more tips and tweaks for Ubuntu and Linux Mint? There's a lot more of them on this website!

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