Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Firefox Annoyances

I was a Galeon user up until a few weeks ago, when I heard that Galeon development was coming to an end. The developers are moving to Epiphany, and I'm not really interested in following them.

Galeon is a Mozilla based browser, just like Firefox. Galeon predates Firefox, and actually had many of the features that Firefox is known and loved for before Firefox even existed, notably "tabbed browsing" and being a stand-along web browser based on the Mozilla rendering engine, rather than a bloated "Internet suite".

Galeon never had the popularity that Firefox has, however, and there are a number of features that Firefox had that I knew I wasn't going to get in Galeon. Notably, cross-platform portability, and support for extensions.

I'd actually tried to switch to Firefox on several occasions in the past, but kept getting annoyed by various problems with it. This time I finally found a set of extensions which make it bearable, but there are still some significant annoyances. Many of these annoyances are, not surprisingly, areas where Galeon was superior. First, the annoyances that I was able to correct via extensions:

  • Single shared close button to close tabs. This makes as much sense as having a single shared close button to close windows. I use the Tab Mix Plus extension to correct this. Despite its goofy name, it's probably my favorite Firefox extension.
  • No single window browsing option I don't want websites to be able to open new windows, only new tabs. Tab Mix Plus also helps here.
  • Tabs open in the wrong order. Older versions of Galeon actually had an option to choose where new tabs would appear. Then, a few versions ago, they got rid of the option because they figured out the "right" place to open new tabs. Once again, Tab Mix Plus comes to the rescue. (in Events select "Open new tabs next to current one" and "Change openeing order")
  • No "clone tab" ability. Tab Mix Plus fixes this too.
  • Doesn't save session on exit. Surprisingly, Tab Mix Plus fixes this too. I guess that's what they mean by "Plus". I'd also tried an extension called Session Saver, but it seemed to make Firefox unstable.
  • No option to use a separate application for "view source". I like to "view source" in gvim. The ViewSourceWith extension fixes this.
There are still a number of annoyances for which I haven't found a cure:
  • Back-button history isn't preserved across tabs. For example, if I middle click on a link, the new tab's back button is disabled.
  • Middle clicking on submit buttons doesn't work. It should submit in a new tab.
  • No "detach tab" feature. Tab Mix Plus get close top this by having a "Duplicate in New Window" feature. It isn't quite the same though. I don't want a copy, and I don't want a reload (especialy important for "AJAX" apps). I want exactly this tab moved to a separate window.
  • No separate "Smart URL" in bookmarks. Firefox does allow bookmark "keywords", but it doesn't let you have separate URLs for "with arguments" and "without". For example, I want to be able to type "gg" in the address bar to go to "http://google.com/" but "gg foo" to go to "http://google.com/search?q=foo".
  • No custom toolbar search boxes. In Galeon, any bookmark on your toolbar that had a "smart URL" (a URL with a %s in it) would get a text field next to it. This was really nice because you could make custom search boxes. I had one for Google, one for my contacts list, one for the bug database, one for Wikipedia, and several others.
  • Only one, atomic, bookmarks toolbar. I'd like to be able to drag individual bookmarks/folders around on the toolbars when in customize mode.
  • No iconic bookmarks. In Galeon it was possible to choose an icon for a bookmark. This was handy for bookmarks that you wanted easy access to, but which you didn't want to take up a huge amount of space.
  • No bookmarks on the context menu. Again, this was a feature Galeon had. It was great for bookmarklets (like "post to del.icio.us").
  • Session saving is still a bit hokey. I want my session to save if I quit. I don't want it to save if I happen to close the last open window. This is probably actually an issue with Tab Mix Plus, rather than Firefox itself.
  • Closing the last tab should always close the window. This works with ctrl-W, but it doesn't work with the close button. Instead, a new, empty tab is fabricated for me. It astounds me that Tab Mix Plus doesn't have an option for this.
  • Keyboard focus occasionally flakey. I frequently run into issues where the cursor is blinking somewhere, but typing does nothing. I've noticed this on Linux and the Mac. (it's likely that I just don't use Windows enough to have run into it there yet) The problem can usually be solved by clicking on another window, and then back, but it's still annoying to periodically find that half a sentence was typed into the ether.
  • More standard shift-insert behaviour. On Linux, pressing shift-insert (in text fields, etc.) should paste the contents of the primary X selection, rather than the contents of the clipboard. ctrl-V already pastes the clipboard.
posted Tuesday, January 24, 2006 (13 comments)