firefox nitpicks

When I mentioned I was switching from epiphany to ffox, I mentioned that I thought that epiphany still offered a better basic user experience. A couple friends asked me to elaborate, so here is an unordered list of things gathered over several days:

  • printing dialog: ephy’s is native; ffox’s is not native in Ubuntu’s build, and I hear it is even worse in the stock build. Not a huge deal, just ugly.
  • window icon: I found it very nice that ephy used the favico as the window icon; it was useful for finding relevant windows when alt+tab-ing.
  • history in new tab: when you open a link in a new tab in ephy, it inherits the history of the previous window, so that the back button works as you’d expect. This doesn’t work in ffox, and it drives me nuts.
  • direct bookmarks from url bar: in ephy, the url bar autocompletes not just from your history but from your bookmarks. This is huge once you’re used to it. (I hear fixing this is in the pipeline for ffox 3.)
  • bookmarks, generally: the hierarchical folders thing is so ’70s. Thankfully, ffox has the delicious bookmark plugin that rips and replaces the default ffox bookmarks, but by default ffox feels dreadfully primitive here, and even the delicious plugin feels clunky on occasion. (Again, I hear this is being fixed, but it should be a high priority.)
  • theming: I realize this will never really be fixed (unless GNOME switches to XUL) but it is still irritating that changing my GNOME theme does not change my firefox theme as well. The pseudo-themes people have put together are close but still irritating.
  • clutter/organization: not that ephy is perfect on either of these points, but I would love to see lots of ffox preferences nuked and some reorganization. Maybe I’m just too boring, but I never realized when I was using epiphany that one would want an entire page of preferences for tabs. (A ‘tab mode’ was mooted about on the ephy developer list, which made sense, but that was one checkbox, not six.) And I’d never think to find my list of cookies under preferences- that is a list of data; it should be under edit or view, not preferences.
  • polish on the little things: ffox has lots of things that feel like they were implemented slightly half-assedly- the hypothetically cool autocomplete from the search box, for example, is often useless (at least on a 1024×768 screen) because it shows you the text you’ve already typed, and all the suggested completions are hidden behind hyphenation. Suggested completions in the URL bar have similar issues- I get neither enough of the URL nor enough of the page title to actually be useful; just an often-identical fragment of each. These aren’t a big deal, but when you add up lots of little things like this, it gives the impression that ffox does not care much about polish, which will hurt them in the long run.

There are more, I’m sure, but now I’ve been using it too long to remember them :/

30 thoughts on “firefox nitpicks”

  1. At least as a GNOME user, Firefox conforms to its UI guidelines. As a KDE user, it is incredibly frustrating. At least have an option in the linux build to pick where the OK/Cancel buttons will go. They probably already have some switch or #define case in the code to handle the Windows UI guidelines…

    The plugin is a lifesaver, though I wish I had a bit more control over the tool bar (why in Tags View can’t I have a link directly there, instead of two clicks to open a tag, then click the link). I was so used to having links to click at that top level, it took me a bit to readjust.

  2. I almost mentioned that problem with the delicious plugin; that is my one ongoing frustration with it.

    Now, if only I could access all my *files* that way… :)

    That is IMHO a big issue. The firefox printing dialog has even less features than the gnome one, it’s hardly usable to make a good printout of a webpage.

    Well, firefox has a quite distinct, recognizable icon I think too.

    Actually, there is an extension to firefox 2 which provides this auto-completion functionality

    For the rest, right now I’m using neither firefox nor epiphany, I’m trying Opera and I really like it thus far.

  4. The first thing I do with any fresh gnome install is install epiphany, basically for the reasons listed above. One annoying thing about firefox is the middle scroll wheel doesnt work on tabs, and its somethign I use alot in epiphany to switch between the tabs trying to find what I want.

    I really hope epiphany is adopted my most distros as the app of choice over firefox. I think the firefox guys are doing great work however, I mean epiphany wouldnt be possible without firefox.

    It would be good if firefox was modularized in a way so that epiphany could take advantage of the web page rendering libs without being dependant on firefox itself (at the moment in ubuntu you have to install firefox to install epiphany)

  5. Agree with most of your comments. I also switched “back” (to ff). Mostly to get access to ff-extensions. In fact, since you mention bookmarking I thought I’d mention the gmarks plugin.

    Using it just ‘makes me smile’, I think it’s brilliant (but you need to be into the whole google-rules-the-world thing…)

  6. i love konq, but some google websites don’t support it too well…

    main problem with firefox is that it devours memory over time…

  7. Epiphany also works fine in Multihead settings, while Firefox only works when you have only one display.

    If you have Xinerama, Firefox can run only in one display. When you try to load Firefox in other display, it will complain there is another session running.

  8. I can’t seem to find a plugin for ephy at all though?
    This is the only thing that really annoys me about ephy. It rocks otherwise.
    But I have to share my bookmarks with Windows PCs. So a would be truly awesome.

  9. Before they even think about putting stuff like that in the pipeline, they should fix the memory leaks, they’ve been in there *way* too long.

    Second, I’m not so sure about all the functionalty you’re suggesting, shouldn’t that be/remain the domain of extensions? Firefox started as a project to create a lean and fast browser, because the mozilla suite was so bloated. I’m under the impression, that it’s becoming more and more bloated itsself now.

    Did I mention they should fix the memory leaks before they touch anything else?

  10. Funny, one of the things you mention as a plus is a huge minus for me, so much that it made me stop using epiphany. Namely:

    window icon: I found it very nice that ephy used the favico as the window icon; it was useful for finding relevant windows when alt+tab-ing.

    This to me very annoying behavior made it hard for me to find my web browser, because it had some random icon from some random page I happened to be visiting. I guess this is some sort of “document-not-application” kind of thinking, but since epiphany uses tabs, and I might not be looking for the one currently active but some other, “hidden” document… this is conceptually broken.

    But sure, if you don’t use tabs, and regularly visit the same web pages with favicons that you recognize, I can see how it can be useful. Me, I don’t web that way.

  11. What also irks me about Firefox (on Dapper, might be fixed) is that it doesn’t play nice with metacity, and new browser windows (launched from a global keyboard shortcut) tend to instantiate behind other windows and without focus. But that’s all part of those Epiphany-feels-GNOMEy little details that buy my vote.

    Stéphan: epilicious is an official Epiphany extension – is that what you’re looking for?

    Floris: it’s not that the browser icon is distinct, it’s that it’s different for different web-sites. Which segues into…

    Simon: yeah, some people like it [1], some people hate it [2], but at least it creates passionate users. :-) Similarly, some people use one browser window with lots of tabs, others use lots of windows with few tabs. I’m a lots-o-windows guy, so I prefer Epiphany (right) over Firefox (left) as shown at

    I believe that favicon-as-window-icon is an optional Epiphany extension at


  12. Mozilla Firefox still doesn’t implement the Freedesktop standards for cut and paste. So if you copy some text in Firefox, close FIrefox, and then try to paste it somewhere, you get a BLANK CLIPBOARD. So unacceptable in 2007. There has been no progress on this Mozilla bug since 2006 September.

    If Mozilla actually wants Firefox as default, maybe they should try baby steps first, like i dunno proper clipboard management like Epiphany does.

  13. The only reason I’m not switching to Epiphany as we speak is that topic-based bookmarks setup. Look, I see the point of it and it’s pretty darn snifty, but the fact is, I have a regular bunch of sites that I read every day and I want to be able to go to my “Daily items” folder in my bookmarks and hit “Open all in tabs”, go grab coffee while the browser snags all those pages for me, and get back and read through them quickly. Going to each page serially is not fun and clicking on each item in a long list of items (ever read a lot of webcomics over lunch to get your head out of the job for ten minutes? You *need* “Open all in tabs” :D ) isn’t efficient either.

    Is there some sort of workaround for epiphany to do this?

  14. Mark – the latest epiphany (in Ubuntu 7.04) has a “open in tabs” option – at least for the categories you put in the bookmarks toolbar.

    Can’t say I use it though… liferea for RSS does the job for me..

  15. Thanks Stewart, that’s a help – but I’m still a bit stuck because I can’t seem to get epiphany to take some directories in my firefox bookmarks and not mess them up with recatagorising them into topics.

    Don’t get me wrong, the topics idea is a good one, it’s just that if you’re coming to epiphany with a bookmarks file that you’ve been maintaining and adding to for the guts of a decade, it doesn’t work so well. :(

    Is there a way to take a directory of bookmarks from a firefox bookmarks file and have those bookmarks put in a topic (and those bookmarks alone, without extra catagories being put in there or cross-links)?

  16. Sorry Mark, but I have no idea… About the time google came on the scene I stopped using bookmarks seriously (apart from what fits on the bookmarks toolbar) and instead just googled…

  17. Yeah, I can see how that would work, but for the initial morning “newspaper reading” part of the day, it’s just too inconvienent. Oh well.

  18. […] Hey there Kevin,I’ve been using Epiphany for a very long time now and I gotta say I don’t miss Firefox at all. About your first problems, the Session restore is a default thing in Epiphany, I am not sure where to set it but I have it. The cursor in the URL when opening a new tab is frustrating I know, but I’m used to doing ctrl+l now. For some other comparisions you might want to check out this link from a GNOME hacker: […]

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