How I set up my Firefox 29's UI

May 4, 2014

Firefox 29 came out recently and brought with it a new user interface, which a number of people had negative reactions to. I'm not one of them. Bucking my usual trend with Firefox UI redesigns, I've come around to liking this one more than Firefox's previous UIs. Before I describe how I have my UI set up, I have to make a confession; I didn't arrive at my current setup or feelings instantly and the new UI had to grow on me. I actually run what is basically Firefox Nightly (hand built periodically from the latest trunk code), so for me the new UI dropped several months ago and I've had time to acclimatize and fiddle around.

My two priorities in my Firefox UI is that I want as much space as possible for content, especially vertical space, and I mostly care about quick access to things I use frequently; infrequently used things can be somewhat awkward. I also don't use bookmarks as I have a different solution to the problem.

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, I've put a picture of how my Firefox window looks here. My UI customizations that create this are:

  • Turn off displaying the menu bar. This is a less radical change than it sounds because you can get the menu bar back temporarily by tapping Alt.

    (That tapping Alt makes the Firefox menubar reappear is one of those irritating undiscoverable UI features. I wouldn't have found it if I didn't accidentally hit Alt from time to time and then realized what the flickering in my Firefox window was.)

  • Strip out almost everything from the 'URL bar' area, because I want as much space as possible for the URL box itself. The S in a red circle icon (and the menu dropdown next to it) is from NoScript, one of my essential Firefox addons.

  • Use the *-bar customization feature to add my most commonly used menus back to the tab bar area over on the right. What I have there at the moment is History, Preferences, Character Encoding, and Web Developer Tools.

    (*-bar customization is part of the menu you get when you hit the right mouse button over empty space in eg the tab bar. You can also use this menu to turn back on the menu bar.)

I've moved away from having a status bar or addons bar at the bottom of my Firefox windows. It takes up extra space and it's simply not that useful any more. I kind of miss having a loading progress indicator but on the modern web those have been misleading for years and in practice the thing I really care about is whether the page is fully loaded or not and the per-tab throbber does that okay for me.

(Firefox 29 can also put many menus and indicators from addons in the tab bar area if you want, which helps reduce the need for a separate status bar.)

There are things I don't fully like about this UI, for example I'd still prefer the stop/reload button to be a full button outside of the URL box, but for my tastes my current setup works decently. At first I disliked being forced to always have a tab bar even in single-tab windows but losing the menu bar makes up for it and the result is actually more functional (eg it's now easier to move pages between being standalone windows and being in a tab in an existing window).

Written on 04 May 2014.
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Last modified: Sun May 4 01:10:12 2014
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