Jeremy Felt

Adjusting to Firefox

I’m giving Firefox another shot as my default browser.

In December, when Microsoft announced they’d be using Chromium for their future browser, I was partially happy because it meant one less browser engine to worry about.

I was also partially unhappy because it meant one browser engine had that much more power in deciding the future of the web.

In January, when a program manager at Microsoft suggested Mozilla “get down from their philosophical ivory tower” and embrace Chromium, I started thinking more about what it meant to use Firefox rather than Chrome.

So here I am. A Twitter search shows it’s been just over a year since my last attempt, which lasted 2 months. I didn’t write a blog post that time, but instead mentioned two things in a tweet:

  • Chrome’s dev tools are still better (for me).
  • Firefox started off fast, but has been really clunky lately.

How helpful of me.

It looks like I also made attempts in 2012, 2014, and 2017. The frequency seems to be increasing? I should remember that Firefox was my default browser for years before Chrome came out. Maybe it will stick this time. 🤞🏻

My first impression upon opening Firefox 65 was that everything is boxy and feels sluggish. I have to remind myself that I’ve spent thousands of hours in Chrome and need to make time to get used to something new.

My first step was to switch to the light theme, which feels a bit better.

In general, typing feels slower in Firefox than in Chrome. Not a lot slower, but somewhat like walking through a mud. I dunno.

My immediate thoughts are all around look and feel. The spacing between bookmark icons and text in the toolbar is a bit off and the line height doesn’t feel right. Again, using Chrome for thousands of hours has my brain looking for something similar.

I do think the Firefox team would benefit from spending some more time tweaking defaults around text.

The default Firefox interface with the light theme applied.

I was able to immediately remove that “flexible space” to the left of “New Tab” through the “Customize” interface, which provides a nice amount of customization.

At this point I stumbled into the world of customized Firefox and started editing my userChrome.css file to make small adjustments. It was easy enough to tweak the toolbar height and adjust some line coloring. This is a task that could really be a time suck if you aren’t careful.

And then I found MaterialFox!

The Firefox interface with MaterialFox applied.

I replaced my userChrome.css file with the entire chrome directory provided by that project and now Firefox looks almost exactly like Chrome. I’m not sure if that’s a great thing, but it’s at least making my brain feel okay, so I’ll take it.

The look and feel is much better now, I just need to get used to whatever my brain is perceiving as sluggish.

The only other small annoyance right now is that in Chrome I can toggle the bookmarks toolbar with CMD-Shift-b. This toggles the bookmark sidebar in Firefox. There is no keyboard shortcut for toggling the bookmarks toolbar and I don’t think there’s a way to assign one without installing an extension, which I’m hesitant to do right away.

I’ll save that one for later and see how often I really want to toggle it.

That’s it for first impressions. I’m going to do my best at giving it at least a month. I haven’t used the developer tools yet, but I’ll try to stick it out and open Chrome for troubleshooting if I really need to. I’ll plan on keeping a running log of issues to publish if I decide to switch back so that I know what to check for next time. 🙂

Assorted Resources

These came in handy today.

  • Find your profile directory through “Help” -> “Troubleshooting”
  • If you use a custom userChrome.css file, don’t get smart and change the namespace URL to be HTTPS. It won’t work.
  • To inspect the styles for the “chrome” of the browser, enable the Browser Toolbox.

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