Adding 'view page in no style' to Firefox Quantum's context menu

January 28, 2018

Yesterday I covered the limitations of Firefox's Reader mode, why I like 'view page in no style' enough to make it a personal FireGestures user script gesture, and how that's impossible in Firefox 57+ because WebExtensions doesn't expose an API for it to addons. If I couldn't have this accessible through Foxy Gestures, I decided that I cared enough to hack my personal Firefox build to add something to toggle 'view page in no style' to the popup context menu (so that it'd be accessible purely through the mouse in my setup). Today I'm going to write up more or less how I did it, as a guide to anyone else who wants to do such modifications.

An important but not widely known thing about Firefox that makes this much more feasible than it seems is that a great deal of Firefox's UI (and a certain amount of its actual functionality) is implemented in JavaScript and various readable configuration files (XUL and otherwise), not in C++ code. This makes it much easier to modify and add to these things relatively blindly, and as a bonus you're far less likely to crash Firefox or otherwise cause problems if you get something wrong. I probably wouldn't have attempted this hack if it had involved writing or modifying C++ code, but as it was I was pretty confident I could do it all in JavaScript.

First we need to find out how and where Firefox handles viewing pages in no style. When I'm spelunking in the Firefox code base, my approach is to start from a string that I know is used by the functionality (for example in a menu entry that involves whatever it is that I want) and work backward. Here the obvious string to look for is 'No Style'.

; cd mozilla-central
; rg 'No Style'
708:<!ENTITY pageStyleNoStyle.label "No Style">

(rg is ripgrep, which has become my go-to tool for this kind of thing. You could use any recursive grep command.)

Firefox tends not to directly use strings in the UI; instead it adds a layer of indirection in order to make translation easier. Looking at browser.dtd shows that it just defines some text setup stuff, with no actual code, so we want to find where pageStyleNoStyle is used. Some more searching finds browser/base/content/, where we can find the following fairly readable configuration text:

<menupopup onpopupshowing="gPageStyleMenu.fillPopup(this);">
  <menuitem id="menu_pageStyleNoStyle"

The important bit here is oncommand, which is the actual JavaScript that gets run to disable the page style. Unfortunately this just runs a function, so we need to search the codebase again to find the function, which is in browser/base/content/browser.js:

 disableStyle() {
   let mm = gBrowser.selectedBrowser.messageManager;

Well, that's not too helpful, since all it does is send a message that's handled by something else. We need to find where this message is handled, which we can do by searching for 'PageStyle:Disable'. That turns up browser/base/content/tab-content.js, where we find:

var PageStyleHandler = {
 init() {
   addMessageListener("PageStyle:Switch", this);
   addMessageListener("PageStyle:Disable", this);

 receiveMessage(msg) {
   switch ( {
     case "PageStyle:Disable":
       this.markupDocumentViewer.authorStyleDisabled = true;

Since I wanted my new context menu entry to toggle this setting, I decided that the simple way was to add a new message for this. That needs one line in init() to register the message:

   addMessageListener("PageStyle:Toggle", this); // <cks>

and then a new case in receiveMessage() to handle it:

     // <cks>
     case "PageStyle:Toggle":
       this.markupDocumentViewer.authorStyleDisabled = !this.markupDocumentViewer.authorStyleDisabled;

(I tend to annotate my own additions and modifications to Firefox's code so that I can later clearly identify that they're my work. Possibly this case should have a longer comment so that I can later remember why it's there and what might make it unneeded in the future.)

We can definitely disable the page style by setting authorStyleDisabled to true, but it's partly a guess that we can re-enable the current style by resetting authorStyleDisabled to false. However, it's a well informed guess since Firefox 56 and before worked this way (which I know from my FireGestures user script). It's worth trying, though, because duplicating what PageStyle:Switch does would be much more complicated.

Next I need to hook this new functionality up to the context menu, which means that I have to find the context menu. Once again I'll start from some text that I know appears there:

; rg 'Save Page As'
567:<!ENTITY savePageCmd.label            "Save Page As…">

There's a number of uses of savePageCmd in the Firefox source code, because there's a number of places where you can save the page, but the one I want is in browser/base/content/ (which we can basically guess from the file's name, if nothing else). Here's the full menu item where it's used:

<menuitem id="context-savepage"

At this point I had a choice in how I wanted to implement my new context menu item. As we can see from inspecting the oncommand for this entry (and others), the proper way is to add a new toggleNoStyle() function to gContextMenu that sends our new PageStyle:Toggle message. The hack way is to simply write the necessary JavaScript inline in the oncommand for our new menu entry. Let's do this the proper way, which means we need to find gContextMenu and friends.

Searching for savePageAs and hidePlugin (from another context menu entry) says that they're defined in browser/base/content/nsContextMenu.js. So I added, right after hidePlugin(),

 // <cks> Toggle view page in no style
 toggleNoStyle() {
   let mm = gBrowser.selectedBrowser.messageManager;

(This is simply disableStyle() modified to send a different asynchronous message. Using gBrowser here may or may not be entirely proper, but this is a hack and it seems to work. Looking more deeply at other code in nsContextMenu.js suggests that perhaps I should be using this.browser.messageManager instead, and indeed that works just as well as using gBrowser. I'm preserving my improper code here so you can see my mis-steps as well as the successes.)

Now I can finally add in a new context menu entry to invoke this new gContextMenu function. Since this is just a hack, I'm not going to define a new DTD entity for it so it can be translated; I'm just going to stick the raw string in, and it's not going to have an access key. I'm putting it just before 'Save Page As' for convenience and so I don't have to worry that it's in a section of the context menu that might get disabled on me. The new menu item is thus just:

<menuitem id="context-pagestyletoggle"
          label="Toggle Page Style"

(I deliberately made the menu string short so that it wouldn't force the context menu to be wider than it already is. Probably I could make it slightly more verbose without problems.)

After rebuilding my local Firefox Quantum tree and running it, I could test that I had a new context menu item and that it did in fact work. I even opened up the browser console to verify that my various bits of JavaScript code didn't seem to be reporting any errors.

(There were lots of warnings and errors from other code, but that's not my problem.)

This is a hack (for reasons beyond a hard-coded string). I've made no attempt to see if the current page has a style that we can or should disable; the menu entry is unconditionally available and it's up to me to use it responsibly and deal with any errors that come up. It's also arguably in the wrong position in the context menu; it should probably really go at the bottom. I just want it more accessible than that, so I don't have to move my mouse as far down.

(Not putting it at the bottom also means that I don't need to worry about how to properly interact with addons that also add context menu entries. Probably there is some easy markup for that in, but I'm lazy.)

PS: My first implementation of this used direct JavaScript in my oncommand. I changed it to the more proper approach for petty reasons, namely that putting it in this entry would have resulted in an annoyingly too-wide line of code.

Written on 28 January 2018.
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Last modified: Sun Jan 28 20:28:55 2018
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