Firefox 4 tips: Bend the new browser to your will

There's a lot to like about Firefox 4, but some of the changes can be annoying

Mozilla released Firefox 4 last week. I'm trying hard to like the new browser, but it keeps finding ways to annoy me. First, it moved the Reload button for no good reason (same for the Home button, but that's just as easily fixed). Second, it put the tabs at the top of the screen (again, easily fixed). Third, and most important, a bunch of my favorite add-ons stopped working. Luckily, I've come up with a few ways to fix the interface quirks that are driving me nuts and solve the extension compatibility problem.

Put the Reload Button Back Where It Belongs

For some reason Mozilla decided it would be a good idea to relocate the Reload button (which, as I'm sure you can guess, reloads the current page) to the right side of the address bar. To me that makes zero sense. The Back/Forward navigation buttons still reside on the left, so why move Reload way down to the other end? Don't like that one bit, no sirree.

Fortunately, it's an easy problem to correct:

Click the new Firefox button (the orange one in the upper-left corner), then choose Options, Toolbar Layout. Drag the Reload button to the left side of the address bar, right next to the navigation arrows, and then drop it. Click Done.

Simple, huh? Interestingly, in Firefox 4, the Reload button doubles as a Stop button, which is why you don't normally see the latter -- until you enter Toolbar Layout mode. If you decide to drag Stop over to the left so it stays with Reload, it will "disappear" into Reload when you exit Toolbar Layout. But it'll stay visible if you leave it on the right side.

Put the Tabs Back Where They Belong

Tabs now span the very top of the screen. Maybe that's "better" in some way, but it's not the way I like it. Thankfully, it's even easier to fix than the Reload button. Here's how:

Click the new Firefox button (the orange one in the upper-left corner), then choose Options, Tabs on Top to turn off that option. Presto! Now your tabs are back below the address bar (where they belong, in my humble opinion).

Don't see that orange Firefox button? Right-click in an empty area next to your open tab(s), then click Menu Bar. That'll turn off the more traditional drop-down menu toolbar and replace it with the Firefox button. (Actually, that same right-click menu also has the Tabs on Top option, so you can access it there just as easily.)

Get Disabled Add-Ons Working Again

My biggest problem with Firefox 4 is incompatible add-ons (aka extensions), of which I encountered about a dozen after installing the update. Without the likes of PermaTabs Mod, Flstflip, and Craigslist Image Prefetcher, I might as well run Internet Explorer!

Fortunately, there's a way to turn off Firefox's compatibility check, which is what blocks these add-ons from running. A word of warning, however: while some or all of your "incompatible" add-ons may indeed run just fine in Firefox 4, there's a potential downside: one or more of them might wreak havoc, preventing the browser from running properly or even running at all. Try this at your own risk.

Open a new tab, type about:config in the address bar, and press Enter. Right-click anywhere in the main window, then click New, Boolean. Copy and paste in the following preference name: extensions.checkCompatibility.4.0 Click OK, then set the value to False (which is the default). Exit and restart Firefox.

Now you should have full access to all your add-ons.

By the way, if you don't want to take the risk of messing up your browser, your only option is patience: most developers can and will update their add-ons to be compatible with Firefox 4, but you never know how long it will take.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get -- and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .

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Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
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