Firefox 3.0 Power Tweaks

Thursday Jun 26th 2008 by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
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Run the new browser faster and more efficiently. Or, download FireTune to make it still easier to boost Firefox’s performance.

Mozilla made a bit of a splash last week by releasing the long awaited Firefox 3.0 browser. Last Tuesday some 8 million copies of the new browser were downloaded in an event that Mozilla called Download Day (so far, as of the time of writing, there has been no official word from Mozilla as to the actual number of downloads).

Given the popularity of the browser – in just over a week it has captured 4 per cent usage share – I thought that it would be a good idea to write an article that will look at some of the most requested Firefox 3.0 power tweaks. These tweaks allow you to take the browser and really make it your own.

Tweak the Awesome Bar

The new address bar in Firefox 3.0, dubbed the Awesome Bar, seems to be a feature that some users love and others hate. However, not liking the Awesome Bar is no excuse for you to consider not using Firefox 3.0. You can tweak the behavior of the Awesome Bar or even make it look and feel like the old Firefox 2.0 address bar.

Here I’ll show you two ways that you can tweak the Awesome bar.

Tweak #1

One tweak is to control the number of sites that show up in the Awesome Bar. Kick off this tweak by typing about:config into the address bar, hitting ENTER and then promising to be careful.

Opening about:config

Into the Filter box type the following: browser.urlbar.maxRichResults

Now double click on the preference that’s displayed to allow you to change the value.

Editing browser.urlbar.maxRichResults

Notice that the value is set to 12. This is the default number of sites listed by the Awesome Bar. To change the maximum number of sites displayed just enter a new number and click OK.

To finish the tweak restart Firefox 3.0.

Tweak #2

Another tweak open to those that dislike the Awesome Bar is to install an add-on than changes how the Awesome Bar looks. The add-on is called oldbar and this makes the Firefox 3.0 address bar look like the Firefox 2.0 address bar.

oldbar add-on

oldbar add-on

What this add-on does is change the multi-line display of previously visited links and returns them to the traditional single-line look.

Firefox 3.0 without oldbar add-on

Firefox 3.0 without oldbar add-on

Firefox 3.0 with oldbar add-on

Firefox 3.0 with oldbar add-on

Performance tweaks

While there’s no doubt that Firefox 3.0 is faster and far less demanding on system RAM than previous incarnations of the browser, it’s possible to make Firefox 3.0 better and faster.

Limit RAM usage

Some people are paranoid about the amount of RAM applications running on their PC consume. If you’re one of these people then this tip (and the one following it) is for you.

Start by typing about:config into the address bar, hitting ENTER and then make a promise to the Fox that you’ll be careful.

Into the Filter box, type the following: browser.cache.disk.capacity

You’ll notice that the default value for browser.cache.disk.capacity is 50000. This means 50,000KB. If you want to use less RAM, then devote more space to the cache. A good starting value for those running Firefox 3.0 on PCs with between 512MB and 1GB of RAM is 150000. Double-click on the entry to change it and click OK when done.

To finish the tweak restart Firefox 3.0.

Tweaking browser.cache.disk.capacity

To finish the tweak restart Firefox 3.0.

Note: Remember that caching data to the hard disk is slower than caching to RAM, so while this tweak frees up more RAM for other applications, the effect on Firefox will be that accessing sites that you’ve previously visited will be slightly slower.

Trim RAM usage when Firefox is minimized

This tweak is great for those who want Firefox 3.0 to make good use of memory while it’s running, but to make that memory available to other applications when the browser has been minimized to the Windows task bar.

Start by typing about:config into the address bar, hitting ENTER and once again making a promise to the Fox that you’ll be careful.

Right click anywhere on about:config page and select New and Boolean.

Trim RAM when Firefox 3.0 is minimized

Create a new Boolean value called config.trim_on_minimize:

Creating new Boolean value called config.trim_on_minimize

Click OK and use the next dialog box that’s displayed set the value to true and then click OK again:

Setting Boolean value config.trim_on_minimize to true

To finish the tweak restart Firefox 3.0.

Bonus tip

Finally, a bonus tip for those of you who want a faster Firefox 3.0 but don’t want to tinker deep in the bowels of the browser. Rather than manually mess about with configuration settings, download, unzip and run FireTune (no installation necessary – just run the executable file).

FireTune

FireTune is an application that makes it easy for you to apply a selection of the most popular and effective tweaks – all it takes on your part is a few clicks!

FireTune is safe and most people that use it find that their browsing experience is dramatically improved.

Enjoy a faster Firefox!

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