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
Thanks for hyping Tabs Plus; I've just installed it. You should check out the Clone Window Extension; it makes cloning a tab or window do the "right thing" in terms of browster state. I think it still does a page reload (not positive), but it does keep your browser history, etc.

  Anonymous Anonymous on January 25, 2006
"Middle clicking on submit buttons doesn't work. It should submit in a new tab." - try this: http://dragtotab.mozdev.org/submittotab/  
  Blogger Fire Snake on February 15, 2006
"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." - just properties on the bookmark and delete it's name. it will remain the favicon.ico only  
  Blogger Fire Snake on February 15, 2006
"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." - i'm running out of time, but can you check if this extension does move the tab from one windows to another? http://piro.sakura.ne.jp/xul/tabextensions/index.html.en
i see somewhere in the page: "Moving tabs between browser windows."  
  Blogger Fire Snake on February 15, 2006
Thanks for your suggestions, Fire Snake. The SubmitToTab extension is great. It is, however, interesting to note that its author calls it "an ugly workaround for bug #17754".

The iconic bookmark trick is also a very nice tip, and I'm actually not sure why I hadn't thought of that. Thanks! Of course, this trick doesn't work if the favicon isn't the icon you want, or if the site doesn't have a favicon at all. However, 90% of the time the favicon does the job.

I didn't try Tabbrowser Extension, as even its own web page says "This extension strongly unrecommended. Tab Mix is recommended instead...". I'd actually investigated Tabbrowser Extension back before I started using Tab Mix Plus (in fact, the "unrecommended" [sic] warning may be what lead me to use Tab Mix Plus in the first place) and I'd heard that it can make Firefox very unstable.  
  Blogger Laurence on February 16, 2006
Have you noticed the text rendering issues on the Mac? I have a feeling it's a CSS issue with the Mac version of Firefox. Text sometimes overlaps, which can get so bad as to make a page unreadable :(

I tried resolving duplicate fonts in Font Book; but the problem returned. Have you had this problem too? Maybe you know of a fix for this. It bothers me so much I've had to stop using Firefox on my Mac

  Anonymous Emily Gonsalves on April 14, 2006
No separate "Smart URL" in bookmarks:

This feature most certainly exists in Firefox similar to how it's setup in Galeon (I was previously a Galeon user too).

Try bookmarking:

Now right-click on the bookmark, and assign "gg" as the keyword.

Now, typing "gg test" will google for the word test.  
  Anonymous Anonymous on July 05, 2006
The key word was "separate". While Firefox does have an almost-equivalent to Galeon's smart bookmarks, it does this by overloading the bookmark's one-and-only URL. In Galeon a bookmark has two URLs: a normal URL and a "smart" URL. The smart URL would be used if and only if parameters were provided. This was nice because you could create a "gg" bookmark that would go to "http://www.google.com/" if typed on its own (or clicked on) but it would go to "http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%s" if given a query.

I actually have exactly the bookmark you describe in Firefox and the thing that annoys me about it is that if I type "gg" on its own I get sent to a Google search for "%s". (I do have to give kudos to the Firefox guys for the neat "Add a keyword for this search" option in the context menu, though. It's great.)  
  Blogger Laurence on July 05, 2006
Good to see there are others who remember what we're losing with Galeon. Detaching/moving tabs is a big one for me. Another one you didn't mention: in Galeon, you can navigate to a folder in the Bookmars Toolbar and then use the context menu to create a bookmark of the current tab right into that bookmark folder. Firefox gives you only an empty (useless!) "New Bookmark" window.  
  Anonymous Anonymous on November 19, 2006
I feel I should add that in Firefox 2 when you right-click on selected text in a text field and click Cut/Copy, nothing gets sent to the clipboard. You have to use Ctrl-X/C.  
  Anonymous Anonymous on April 15, 2007
Why bother with searching with bookmarks when Firefox has an integrated search toolbar component that can be configured far more than any piddly bookmark can?  
  Blogger EepĀ² on July 25, 2007
EepĀ²: What do you mean "toolbar component that can be configured far more than any piddly bookmark can"? As far as I can tell the search toolbar only lets you add pre-made search engines, which hardly seems more configurable than (or even as configurable as) bookmarks. Interestingly, each of the search engines seems to have a subset of the features that Galeon's smart bookmarks had: a plain URL, accessible by searching for nothing, and a "smart URL", accessible by actually searching for a query. Is there some other feature they have that I'm missing?

The only difference I see between the search toolbar and Galeon's smart bookmarks is that the search toolbar UI only works with the mouse. ie: I have to click in the search box to type the query, and if I want a different search engine from the currently selected one it's even worse, as I have to select the right search engine from the drop-down. With Galeon's bookmarks (and Firefox's too) I can set a keyword for a bookmark, so searching Google is as easy as "CTRL-L gg query" while searching Amazon is "CTRL-L az query".

Firefox's search toolbar is slightly more powerful than Firefox's search bookmarks in the sense that the search engines can have two URLs (plain and smart) but that's exactly what I'm complaining about. If they'd simply add the ability to have both type of URL to a single bookmark then bookmarks would be just as powerful as the search toolbar, but with a more keyboard-friendly UI.

As it is, I've removed the search component from my toolbar to save space, and I get by with bookmarks, but I still get annoyed every time I end up on a search for "%s".  
  Blogger Laurence on July 25, 2007
This is a REALLY useful post. I've been trying to switch to Firefox from Galeon for quite a while now since, as the original post states, Galeon is no longer being developed. But I just can't bring myself to do it. Tab Mix Plus definitely helps quite a bit, but there are still so many things that are seemingly beyond repair. Oh hell, this is going to turn into a blog post any minute now... :)  
  Blogger Alex on September 20, 2007