Gentle Reader, I am somewhat surprised. That little piece I posted a couple of days back regarding fixing Mozilla's latest brain-fart has produced a ton of private messages—especially since I posted the screenshot below—asking how I did this or that, to restore functionality to the browser. Given all the rather contentious subjects I write about, I never would have figured that as innocuous a subject as this would generate much, if any, in the way of private mail. But it did. Maybe folks are worried about appearing ignorant of techy stuff? I dunno.
So okay, being the helpful, yet at the same time lazy, chap wot aye yam, I figured I'd "answer" all those mails at once, by posting a more detailed run-down on how I got the latest Firefox looking like a real browser again…
But first, a moan.
Just a few short years ago, we had five main browsers. Internet Explorer, while still buggy, had started showing signs of improvement, following a long period of stagnation. Opera had a brilliant interface and loads of really nice accessibility options for the visually impaired. Chrome was super-fast, for "light" use. Safari was a great traditional browser and made a good alternative to the still-buggy IE. And Firefox, with its huge community of add-on builders, gave us heaps of customisation options on top of being a pretty-well bulletproof browser straight out of the box.
Now what do we have? Forget Safari and IE; to get the latest version of the former, you now have to own a Mac, and for the latest version of the latter you have to own the newest version of Windows—which, to all intents and purposes, these days, means you have to buy a new PC every three years.
So we're left with Chrome—still admirably light and fast—and two main alternatives, Firefox and Opera; both of which are shedding features at a horrendous rate, seemingly in order to become as much like Chrome as possible. Because, what—the gain of a few milliseconds in page-loading time is the only criterion by which all users judge a browser?
Here's a thought from me: If I'd wanted Chrome, then I would have made Chrome my default browser long-since. I'm kinda assuming that the many other Firefox and Opera users out there would have done the same. We didn't. And yet, slowly, we're being given knock-off imitations of Chrome anyway because, erm… Mozilla and Opera think we want Chrome?
Head, meet desk. Desk, meet head.
Case in point (and leading back toward the point of this post), the menu bar. Quite simply, I do not know how anyone can use a browser without one. The bookmarks menu alone is invaluable. I've got over a thousand bookmarks, in fifteen main sub-folders, accessed by a traditional, easy-to-use, one-click-and-hover, vertical drop-down menu. How in the name of all that's unholy is that lot supposed to fit onto a horizontal bar the (not-fixed) width of a browser-window? Yeah, I know, there's ways to use the bookmarks bar so as to organise your bookmarks efficiently; but they already are organised efficiently, and a drop-down is the best, and obvious, way to do it. Which makes "reorganising" a bar to do the same job nothing but a workaround; a way to make a bad application do the same thing that a good application does by default. Pah!
On which note, let's begin by putting the menu bar back where it belongs…
A quick warning: if you've already updated to FF 29, then when your menu bar reappears it's gonna look bleedin' 'orrible, with a nastily-coloured background and stuff. Don't worry, we'll be fixing that in a bit.
This one's very easy; there's no add-ons to download or owt. (In fact, until I started getting mails mentioning it, I hadn't realised that many people thought it had been completely expunged from the latest couple of versions. It's not (though Opera's appears to have been); it's merely been turned off by default.) Simply right-click on any empty area of the toolbar, and you'll be presented with a list of available bars. Click on Menu Bar and your menu bar will appear, thusly:
And now we do need to install an add-on. The Classic Theme Restorer. Which does what the name suggests.
Once it's installed, click in your newly-restored Tools menu, and you'll find that the add-on has created an entry there. Click that, and its options dialogue-box will open:
While there's quite a lot of customisations you can make, the two we're most interested in, for the purpose of this exercise, are in the "Main" tab of the dialogue. Remove the tick from "Tabs in title bar," and set the Application button to Button disabled, then click OK.
Now, if you right-click the toolbar again, you'll find that "Add-on Bar" has been added to the options available. That's the bar at the bottom of the screen, where the status bar used to be. Select that if you want it.
Now right-click the toolbar again and select Customize. That'll open a screen in which you can drag 'n' drop buttons and other elements onto and off the toolbars, and from one toolbar to another. You'll want to get rid of a couple of buttons that the new version has added, and possibly put back some that it's removed or moved. If you plan to get rid of the navigation toolbar (which you can no longer do, for some reason, via the usual right-click process), you'll need to move everything off it, either into the "holding area" in the main screen, or onto other toolbars. When you're done, click the big green Exit customize button, at the bottom right, which acts as a "Save" button, as well as closing the customisation page.
If you don't want the navigation bar, go back into the Classic Theme Restorer dialogue-box and put a tick next to "Hide the navigation toolbar," on the right-hand side. (While you're there, you can choose to put the bookmark-star back in the URL bar, if you so wish.)
And that, for most people, is "job done." For those who asked about what one correspondent called the "minimalist Firefox 3 look," however, we need a couple more add-ons: Classic Toolbar Buttons and Status-4-Evar.
When they've installed, go to Tools→Add-ons (or type about:addons in the URL bar), and click the Options button, next to "Classic Toolbar Buttons." Scroll down the page that opens, and, under, "Toolbar button icons," you can pick several button-styles. I chose Firefox 3 'cause the all-new flashy-crappiness of the latest version had me feeling all nostalgic. Not too nostalgic, mind—I gleefully changed the back-forward button to Kempleton, as I never did like Firefox's keyhole-style ones.
Back in Firefox's own customisation page, drag the "Status text" element down and drop it onto the add-on bar, do the same with the "Progress meter," then save-&-exit the page. Now go back to the add-ons manager and click Options next to "Status-4-Evar." In the dialogue that pops up, change the "Show progress in:" and "Show links in:" boxes to Toolbar and click OK.
That makes the page-loading progress junk appear at the bottom of the screen, and also displays the link-information, when you hover over an anchored link, in the bar instead of that annoying animated pop-up, thusly:
That takes care of the "Firefox 3" part. As for the minimalism, mostly that's a case of me not using, and therefore removing, the toolbar-based search tool. Google is my homepage anyway, so I just open a new tab and search from there. With no need to make room for that search box, I can fit the largest element—the URL box—on the end of the menu bar, and then hide the Navigation bar, as described above. For the curious, this is what it currently looks like in my Customisation screen. (There's been a few small changes since the full-page screenshot above.)
And that, Gentle Reader, is just about that. Please feel free to drop any questions, criticisms, better or alternative methods and so forth, into comments.
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