Ban Bloated Browser Bobbles

My first rule for computer user interfaces is "All the data and controls I want should be immediately available - nothing else should be taking up space". Its corollary is "Screen real-estate is the most valuable commodity on a computer - there will be more of everything else next year". With those principles in mind, I recently set out to trim the fat from my Firefox 3 UI, and found some pretty decent extensions, hacks, and tweaks.
  1. Ditch the Search Box:
    I know, this sounds crazy, right - isn't the search box one of the most useful parts of Firefox? It is, but I can do you one better. Google Chrome, and the Linux-based browsers Epiphany and Konqueror have the capability to assign a search engine a keyword ("g" for Google, for instance), so that you can type, say "g Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" into the address bar, and it will search Google for "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog". Little-known fact: Firefox does this too - just right-click on any search box and choose "Add a keyword for this search ..." in the pop-up menu - do this for every search in your search box, and you don't need the search box anymore, you can just use the address bar.

  2. Ditch the Menu Bar:
    Tell me, how often do you actually use any of the menus in Firefox? The awesome bar has replaced even bookmarks for me. So, to get rid of my space-hogging menu bar, and condense it to a nice tidy dropdown icon, I installed the Personal Menu extension - its dead useful, and, if you do happen to use the Bookmarks or History menus, you can give them their own separate icons. (You can also move your remaining buttons and controls up to the menu bar from the nav toolbar, to save more screen space)

  3. Get rid of Disabled Buttons:
    This one is a bit trickier, but will save even more space. Isn't it annoying to have a greyed-out buttons sitting in your nav bar? Well, you can tweak the userChrome.css file in the chrome/ subfolder of your Firefox profile folder (instructions to find it here) - adding the following lines will remove the forward, reload, and stop buttons when they wouldn't do anything anyway:
    #forward-button[disabled="true"] { display: none !important;}
    #stop-button[disabled="true"] { display:none !important; }
    #reload-button[disabled="true"] { display:none !important; }

    If you're like me, and never use the forward button anyway (the drop-down menu will replicate its function any time you'd want it), the following line will remove it all the time: #forward-button { display: none !important;}

    Just restart Firefox, and the userChrome.css tweaks will be put into effect (and I have no idea how removing the forward button will look on Windows or Mac - it looks fine on Linux, just switch operating systems (or I suppose you could find a new theme ...))

Well, that's my bag of tricks for today - anything I missed? (Also, I have Firefox set to automatically re-open my tabs from last time on launch, but, on the rare occasions when I use a homepage, does anyone know a good extension to get one like Google Chrome?)


Cool ... wait a second ... ?!?

I just finished a good book - it has a neat view of what the world could be like in 30 years. I might have blogged about it before (my Google-fu says nay), but its a really well worth reading - there are some interesting, plausible ideas about the future of society, the environment, and the net. Then I got to the end of the book, where the author is writing his notes about writing a 50-year forward projection, and talking about the end of the Cold War as a current event ... wait a second. A check of the front cover reveals that it was published in 1990 - that's right - we're nearly halfway into the future depicted there, and its still a reasonable idea of what the future will look like. I would definitely recommend reading it if you get the chance - available on Amazon or possibly your local public library (they're wonderful places, incidentally - they even have music and movies nowadays).

And did you really think I'd reccommend a book without mentioning the title or author? Earth, by David Brin, is what you're looking for.