Extreme browser customization

Note: this entry has moved.

I've already said why I believe FireFox is the best browser ever. Let me show you another amazing feature of this browser.

FireFox can be completely customized through CSS stylesheets. You know, the browser itself it built with XML (the I-came-first-than-XAML XML User Interface Language and Extensible Binding Language -think IE behaviors), javascript and CSS. What's more, all those XML, JS and CSS files are right there sitting in your profile folder waiting for you to play with them.

There are two main files that customize the browsing experience:

  • userChrome.css: modifies the browser's appearance.
  • userContent.css: modifies the appearance of all rendered pages.
Both files can be created inside your profile's chrome subfolder. Sample files for them are provided in the US\chrome subfolder inside your profile folder. You can rename and copy them to your chrome folder. You can create a new FireFox profile with the store location you want by using starting it with firefox.exe /p.

I my case, for example, I find the default search box at the top right of the browser too small. I usually perform searches like: xml performance site:weblogs.asp.net. That doesn't fit the textbox. What's more, as I'm using 1152x864 resolution, I've a huge wasted address bar.
In the userChrome.css stylesheet file, the following style declaration suffices to make the search box wider (see it in this screenshot): #search-container { -moz-box-flex: 300 !important; } Way cool huh?

But it doesn't end in browser customization. You can also affect the way ALL the pages you browse are displayed. That's the userContent.css's role. For example, I find the default font size for <pre> and <code> tags too small in comparison with IE. Easy enough to fix. I just edited the userContent.css stylesheet and added:

/* code font bigger. */ code { font-size: 10pt !important; } pre { font-size: 10pt !important; } It doesn't end in simple tag rendering modifications. You see, I spend a lot of my online experience either on MSDN or SourceForge. The former has the completely useless header with the usual MS menu I never use, the the later shows me the advertising banner which takes considerable space at the top of the page too. I didn't want to see them anymore. Piece of cake with FireFox.
I had a look at both sites' HTML source, located the elements I don't want to see, and added the following styles: /* MSDN */ #msviMasthead { display: none; } #msviFooter { display: none; } /* Microsoft.com */ #masthead { display: none; } #footer { display: none; } /* SF */ img[alt='Click Here'] { display: none; } Note the last style uses a CSS2 selector to hide the image with the specified alt attribute. This is possible because FireFox, unlike that 3 years old browser, supports the full CSS 2.1 specification, as well as some of the goodies from CSS 3. I needed to refer to the <img> alt attribute because there's no ID provided on it or its parent elements that I can reliably use, unlike MS sites. Of course, if the site changes, I'll need to update my css. No big deal.

And if you have the disgrace of having to work too much with GDN, the following will get rid of the amazingly useless header and search box and the advertising at the right:

td[background='/images/topbar_bg.gif'] { display: none; } span[id='_ctl2_RightNavigation'] { display: none; }

Of course, I've only scratched the surface. There are a lot more ways to customize your browsing experience. Happy firefoxing!


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