Optimizations for Firefox, Thunderbird and its relatives

Since early 2005, the recommended browser is Mozilla Firefox (called Iceweasel on Debian). Since it is a browser-only program, you will need at least an additional mail program, such as Thunderbird (called Icedove on Debian).

The browsers Mozilla and Netscape 4, 7 and 9 are deprecated. For the fans of all-in-one browser suites, there is Seamonkey and its Debian derivative Iceape.

Alternative Skins for Firefox/Thunderbird can be obtained from https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/themes/


There is an ever increasing number of extensions for Firefox and Thunderbird at https://addons.mozilla.org/. The older site with add-ons originally for Mozilla at http://www.mozdev.org/ is also still active.

Browser Addons

For us the following extensions are particularly useful:

Ad Block Plus
Strips advertisements from web pages. Supports adding subscriptions to block other annoying stuff like/or social media links. Further subscriptions for the plug in can be found at http://www.fanboy.co.nz/index.html
Clear Fields
gives you buttons to clear the address field and other text fields you may have in your browser. After installation of this add-on, these buttons are not visible, you have to right-click on e.g. the Navigation bar and select Customize ..., which gives you a new window with a selection of buttons. Drag'nDrop the respective Clear .. buttons to the position you want them to sit on.

Cooliris Previews
Cooliris Previews gives you the power to browse and share Web links and rich media faster. Just mouse over any link, and the Cooliris preview window immediately appears to show you the content. To email it, just click.

Get rid of annoying Macromedia Flash content.

Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer
If you use Firefox on more than one computer, you'll want Foxmarks. Install Foxmarks on each computer, and it will work silently in the background to keep your bookmarks synchronized. You can also log in to my.foxmarks.com to manage your bookmarks from any computer.

Easy way to restrict all kind of scripting to certain, trusted sites. Includes protection against CrossSiteScripting et al. Also replaces FlashBlock.

Old Location Bar
Convert the new Location Bar in Firefox 3.x back to good old 2.x style. You can also try OldBar.

Additional menu bar to turn Javascript / Java/ Cookies/ Popups on or off, change (fake) the user agent identification and many more. Contains the functionality of NoScript and FlashBlock.

Resizeable Textarea
makes <textarea> resizeable.

Display the content of all tabs as sidebar or in one window by pressing F12.

lets you insert tab characters in multi-line text input fields (i.e. <textarea>).

Tab Mix Plus
has numerous possibilities to tweak tabbed browsing. The options menu is quite hard to understand. Under Display you can add a tab opening and a closing button to the tab bar. (The latter has moved into the individual tabs in Firefox 2, so you might miss closing tabs in the very right of the browser window)

TWiki:Plugins/FirefoxExtensionAddOn TWiki FirefoxExtensionAddOn
eases editing of TWiki topics - see also FirefoxAddOnTwikiEditorPeterZumbruch.

Lets you type german umlaut and accented characters with a US keyboard.

Mailreader Addons

Colored Diffs
Nicely colored unified diffs - if you get emails on repository check-ins and want to see quickly what your colleagues (or you) did to break the code ...
preferences dialog to customize the way dates are displayed in the message listing.
Display Mail User Agent
Display the sender's mail program as an icon.
Enigmail is a security extension to Mozilla Thunderbird, enabling you to write and receive email messages signed and/or encrypted with the OpenPGP standard. When starting it for the first time, you are guided through the basic setup. Find more infos about encrypting your mails at GSI with different mail clients here.
Image Zoom
Resize large images embedded in emails to fit on the screen.
Allows you to export and import messages, e.g. save all emails in a folder as separate files (no official add-on, use at own risk).
adds a "redirect" entry to the menu and a corresponding button to the tool bar
Message Filter Import/Export
export your filter rules to another Thunderbird profile, e.g. on your laptop, at home or at a different institute.
ReminderFox: Reminds you of important mails
This tool allows you to mark emails for configurable reminder, which can be a popup, sound and display in Thunderbird's status bar.
Switch between different signatures (in the mail composition window!) - personal signature - official GSI signature - etc.
Viewing Outlook vCalendar meeting invites in Thunderbird. For Debian Icedove you may use Iceowl instead.

Browser Configuration

Mozilla and its relatives offer many configuration settings, but some of them are hard to find. So here are two ways for changing the browser behavior.

ALERT! All modifications are at your own risk. In worst case you'll have to delete your misconfigured profile and create a new one.

Using personal css settings

To get some information about this feature take a look at the Customizing Mozilla webpage.
Here's one example: To accentuate links which open a new browser tab or window you'll have to create a new file named userContext.css in the subdirectory chrome of your profile (usually ~/.mozilla/firefox/{random}.default/chrome) and add the following content:
:link:hover[target="_blank"],:visited:hover[target="_blank"] {
  color: white !important; background: red !important;
:link:hover[target="_new"],:visited:hover[target="_new"] {
  color: white !important; background: red !important;

Changing menu fonts

As the Mozilla programs are based on GTK, your KDE settings will not influence the look and feel of these programs (although in some KDE/Debian versions the KDE settings also have an entry for GTK settings).
To change the fonts used in your iceweasel/icedove menus, go to
  • ~/.mozilla/firefox/XXXX/chrome, were XXXX stands for the profile subdirectory you want to use
  • Copy userChrome-example.css to userChrome.css and edit that file
Example: insert
/* Global UI font */
* { font-size: 10pt !important;
font-family: FreeSans !important;
The corresponding icedove directory is ~/.mozilla-thunderbird/YYYY/chrome. In my case I did not have any example files there, so I just copied the userChrome.css from the browser chrome-subdir here.

Changing the browser preferences

Another way to modify the browser settings is the internal configuration page. Typing about:config into the location bar will grant access to many options. Read more on this website.
For instance changing the value for browser.tabs.closeButtons to 3 will result in only one central closing button at the right edge of the tab bar.

Mailreader Configuration

According to the netiquette (german only website) it is not recommended to send e-mails in HTML format. You can configure Thunderbird to send plain text e-mails as default. For this you'll have to go to the menu »Edit« - »Account Settings«. In the corresponding window click on »Composition & Addressing« and uncheck the box for »Compose messages in HTML format«. That's all.

alert In spite of the netiquette German laws are forcing us to append the official GSI e-mail signature to external correspondence. Since there is no automatic procedure for Thunderbird at the moment (June 2007) you'll have to configure this manually.

Additional Sidebar Tabs

-- ChristopherHuhn, ThomasRoth - 2004 - 2007
Topic revision: r22 - 2015-05-05, StefanHaller