Firefox tweaks

With Firefox 4 about to come out, I figure it is way past time to get some tweaks about version 3.x out.
Now I used to be a big fan of Firefox until it became more bloated than Internet Explorer and started taking 2 or 3 minutes (literally) to load. But unless I want to get flamed here, I must admit it is a good browser and Mike at IFix Computers likes it and knows more than a trick or two.
As a matter of fact I had written an article about add-ins for Firefox security with Mikes help but for some reason cannot find it on this site. Hopefully I can find it, resurrect it, update it, and get it out in the next few days. Until then there is a quick blurb here.

The best way to tweak Firefox is by accessing its hidden preferences by using the “about:config” feature. Be warned that about:config and many of the preferences it can access are hidden for a reason.

About:config is a much more powerful configuration tool than Firefox’s standard dialog boxes. This means that it’s also much easier to really screw things up if you don’t pay attention.

In fact, when you launch the about:config page, the first time, you must accept an agreement warning you of tool’s dangers before you can proceed, in fact the button says “I’ll be careful, I promise!” on it.

Remember the last time you were not careful, yup, that will happen, but not only to you but to your children and grandchildren, and not in the good way.

To be on the safe side, back up your “prefs.js” file before you start editing. Then, if something goes wrong, you can restore your original preferences by copying the backup over the corrupt file.
Instead of writing an entire article on how to backup, just go to the Mozilla site here.

If you’re unable to restore your preferences the way the Mozilla web site states, you can exit Firefox and open Firefox in “Safe Mode”. To do this, simply go to your “All Programs” folder and under the “Mozilla Firefox” folder choose the “Mozilla Firefox (Safe Mode)” icon. Then, just select “Reset All User Preferences to Firefox defaults”. This will get you back up and running, but remember it will restore all user preferences to their default values and you will lose Bookmarks, security settings and the such.

Now with all the warnings and recovery instructions out of the way, let’s open the “about:config” tool.

Launch Firefox, go the Address bar, and enter “about:config” where you would normally type in a web site you want to visit.
Once the page is open, you’ll see a very long list of preferences (one per line). Each entry is searchable by keywords.
The entries can be a Boolean, integer, or string value and each entry contains a Name, Status, Type, and Value. Typically, you will be modifying only the Value, by double-clicking on it and making the change.

Now that you’re in, let’s look at a three handy tweaks.

First, if you have a broadband (High Speed) connection and want to speed up Firefox, and who doesn’t, you can tweak the browser’s HTTP pipelining and max connections preferences. BTW, I have an article on how to do this in Internet Explorer here.

Enabling pipelining allows Firefox to make multiple requests from a responding server without waiting on a response, and tweaking max connections will increase the number of simultaneous connections Firefox can have with a single or multiple servers.

To find the about:config entries we need for the first part of this hack, search for pipelining by typing the “network.http” in the “Filter:” section at the top of the page. Within the results, you will find the entries that we’re interested in.

Locate “network.http.pipelining” and change its value to “True” by simply double-clicking on any part of the line. True is the value at the end of that line and the default is “False”.

Now find “network.http.proxy.pipelining” and also change this to “True” by double-clicking on the line somewhere.

Lastly, find “network.http.pipelining.maxrequests” and change this to value to 8 by double-clicking anywhere on the line. A new window/box appears and the number “4” is the default.

Now go back and enter “max-connections” in the filter box at the top of the page. Find the entry “network.http.max-connections”, double-click on it and change this value from “30” to “96”.

Locate “network.http.max-connections-per-server” (which should already be in the list) and change it from “15” to “32”.

If you’re like me and you hate the annoying countdown that occurs every time you install a Firefox extension, there’s an about:config preference that can disable it.

Search for “enable_delay” and you should see the entry “security.dialog_enable_delay”. Change this value to 0 (zero).

Finally, here’s a tip for all of us who didn’t win those elementary spelling bees (sorry mom, I really did try).

By default, Firefox checks spelling only in multiple-line text boxes. You can set it to check spelling in all text boxes easily enough.

Enter “spellcheckdefault” (all one word) in the filter and you should locate the “layout.spellcheckDefault” entry. Change the value to “2”.

Of course, these are only a few of the changes you can make using Firefox’s about:config tool. If you’ve discovered any useful Firefox about:config hacks, let me know.

Until we meet again, have a virus free week!

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