Exclusive features that make Firefox great

So, here I am, trying to join the Firefox ship again, and I must admit, it’s not as difficult as I think it would be, but I wish it was even easier. From this time that I’m actively using the browser, I noticed some great features I didn’t have in Chrome, and I probably will miss if I ever go back to Chrome again.

Keep in mind that the main browser I use to compare Firefox is Chrome, which used to be my primary browser. I know that some browsers have some of the features, but as I don’t use or follow their development, I can’t tell how well they work. I also believe that Firefox and Chrome are the most relevant browsers, that are available on most operating systems, open source (mostly) and with sync capabilities.

Firefox is great, and some of its greatness come from its unique features like:

about:config and the other abouts

It’s awesome that the browser lets the user see and customizing the settings so much, I usually have to adjust the scrolling speed on Firefox and I can set it natively from the about:config page, on Chrome I have to download an extension for that.

Advanced search options highlight all, match case and whole words

The Ctrl+F shortcut on Firefox lets you “Find” with some options that you do not see in Chrome: highlight all, match case and whole words. While this is good to have such options, additionally it could have an option to ignore accents like Chrome does, seems there’s a bug report about it, so I bet it will be fixed in the future. Also would be great to use regular expressions in Find option, fortunately, there’s an addon for that functionality.

Reader View

I think the Reader View is one of the exclusive Firefox features that I use the most, and so far it worked flawlessly. It’s great to declutter a page and see only the relevant content, the text, in a way that is much more pleasant to read. I, like many others, do not like to read on the computer too much, the Reader View makes that activity much less painful.

I do not understand why Chrome does not have this feature yet, maybe because they don’t want to hide advertisements in pages? I don’t know. I know there are some addons that try to replicate this functionality, but none that I’ve tried is polished as Firefox one.

Create search bookmarks from search fields (keyword searches)

It’s convenient to have the option to quickly create search bookmarks from search input fields, I wish I could create search engines instead of search bookmarks, because it seems more organized and more integrated with the browser, whereas, with the search bookmarks, I have to organize it. In the end, it works as well, it’s easy to make shortcuts from a search field and use straight from the address bar.

Chrome used to have a quick way to add search engines, but they removed long ago, I guess not many people used it. Now it seems that the search engines are created automatically, what sucks because you end up having a ton of saved search engines that you may not want to keep.

Simplify Page print

Another cool feature is the one the simplify the page before printing. That removes the style and the unnecessary stuff to save your printer’s work, and that’s great. It’s another feature that Chrome used to have and removed it.

Luckily, something like that can be achieved if the web page has some CSS rules to simplify the print.

If this feature is not enabled for you yet, you can probably enable it on about:config by setting print.use_simplify_page to true.

Download button and progress view in toolbar

Isn’t it good to see the progress of your downloads without having to lose some page height? I like the download bar on Chrome, it’s not bad, but it could use a good download indicator on the toolbar too. Firefox does it well.

Test Pilot

I won’t be including the Test Pilot projects as exclusive features because it’s uncertain if the project will remain in the browser, as they are all experimental. That said, I think the Test Pilot is one of the most exciting things about Firefox nowadays. Not only because of the great features available, like the Tab Center (Tree Style Tabs), Containers and PageShot, but the whole thing makes it awesome.

It feels like Mozilla invite their users, you and me, trying to improve their product the way they think it’s better but at the same time, interacting and caring about what the users have to say. And you can participate easily, on Github or the forums, it seems that the users are welcome. I know it’s not possible to make everyone happy, but at least, they seem to try.

It’s not from Google, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon

Not really a feature, but something to keep in mind. While these big companies build the products focusing on their particular interests and many times trying to restrict the user freedom somehow, limiting his access to a particular ecosystem. That’s “OK”, I mean, it’s expected that companies will try to protect their business. But from Mozilla, you can expect something else, you can expect that they will put their mission on top of that and work toward a healthy and better web.

What about the AddOns?

Because of the great (current) extensibility of Firefox, I know there are many AddOns that add unique functionality to Firefox so the list would be huge. Even then, Firefox offers pretty good functionality by default, so with all upcoming changes, I will let the AddOns for another time.

 

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Ubuntu is dropping Unity

Yesterday something very unexpected, at least to me, happened.

Canonical announced that Ubuntu won’t ship Ubuntu with Unity anymore, starting from 18.04, instead, it will come with GNOME.

I was following the development progress of Unity 8, but not very closely, every time I saw something, it did not look very polished, I know it was under development, but it didn’t seem exciting, I think I can put it this way.

While I have no hatred against Unity, I do believe it is a solid desktop environment, and I see that there are really good things about it, it felt like something a part of the Linux ecosystem and OSS, even not being so, but where else you would see Unity if not Ubuntu?

Even then, I’m a bit sad that Unity is going away, but when one door closes, another opens and this change may be very good to GNOME, that’s what I hope. GNOME could get more attention and be heavily improved. There are many people that do not look GNOME and like Unity, maybe with this, the good parts of Unity can be used to improve the weird parts of GNOME (top bar I’m looking at you).

Besides that, it should help Canonical make other Ubuntu areas better overall and contribute even more to the community and OSS.

Let’s see!

 

 

GNOME 3.24 released!

GNOME 3.24 was released!

Unfortunately, I won’t be using it soon, as it’s not available for my distribution yet but it’s always good to share and support the development. ūüôā

I really like the Night Light feature and the GNOME Games. Overall there are many improvements to make the desktop environment more friendly, which is great for casual users.

Here’s the awesome video showing the new features and the changes:

I think these release videos are really good! It’s amazing that it’s created using free software.

The patch notes can be found here.

Netflix on Firefox is now supported on Linux

It took some time but it’s happening. If you use Netflix, Firefox, and Linux, now you can watch it without having to spoof the user agent. Netflix on Firefox is now officially supported on Linux. Finally!

Unofficially supported on Chrome for Linux since late 2014, Netflix made its start on the Linux desktop. But requiring the Firefox and Linux user to use Chrome or spoof the browser’s user agent to watch the videos, what wasn’t ideal. Fortunately, this is over now, and there’s one less reason to keep Chrome installed.

Thanks to Mozilla and Netflix (?) to make it happen. But at what cost?

Netflix on Linux and Firefox

One of the minor issues I had with Firefox when I was trying it last month, was that Netflix didn’t work. And it wasn’t because¬†of a¬†technical limitation of the browser itself, it was because of Netflix.

I tried to contact Netflix support to ask about it, and their reply was that Netflix does not support Linux currently:

Hi there, that’s a good question, we currently don’t support Linux, you see Linux-based browsers do not have the premium video extensions required to allow our HTML5 player to stream movies and TV shows and that’s why at this moment is not working even using Firefox.

And I was recommended to use Chrome instead, which is a bad thing to Firefox:

However I’ve heard that some costumers might be able to watch Netflix using Chrome. Have you tried with that option?

The workaround I found to watch Netflix on Firefox was to spoof the user agent string with the UAControl extension:

Linux / Chrome 53: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Ubuntu; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/535.11 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/53.0.2785.34 Safari/537.36

This way I could choose a specific user agent string for a specific website only, like the Netflix one. The other extensions I tried changed the user agent string for all the websites, what is something that I didn’t want.

Even with Netflix saying that it does not block streaming on Linux:

Oh, we do not actively block streaming on Linux computers but cannot guarantee it will work consistently. Due to the customizable nature of Linux, we do not have solutions available for streaming problems on this operating system, […]

It’s weird that by spoofing the user agent on the browser makes the website work properly on Linux.

Spoofing the user string is not the optimal solution for the problem. I hope Netflix support Linux in near future, for the best of the users and the web.

 

From Chrome to Firefox

Last month I decided to try using Firefox instead of Chrome. I’m a fan of Firefox but years ago I started to use Google Chrome, mostly because of its sync feature and the features of the Google products that only worked properly on Chrome.

I was tired of every release of Chrome removing some feature that I appreciate, I wanted to revisit my good old browser and see how it’s going.

Sync

The first thing that made me happy is that Firefox Sync is working pretty well, and is a solid alternative to the sync of the Chrome browser. The only things I notice that does not sync are the dictionaries and the search engines, but I think it’s not big deal. For the search engines, I can use the bookmark keyword feature. Unfortunately, I could not find an alternative for syncing dictionaries, but there’s a bug filed already and I believe it will be implemented in the future.

Still talking about the dictionary, it’s only possible to choose one dictionary to check the spelling, Chrome already let you choose more than one.

Extensions

Firefox was popularly known for having powerful extensions, and it’s still the case. I could find an alternative for every extension I use on Chrome, and even more powerful ones. And there are good ideas that I could try on Test Pilot¬†that look really promising.

Tab Center is awesome! Page shot is really promising and Min Vid is great, I hope it work with more sites in the future.

But it seems that these powerful extensions may not work in future Firefox versions. It’s sad, but I hope Mozilla is right about their decisions.

There’s also the freedom of custom settings in the browser, that can be changed on about:config.¬†That is something really awesome to have.

And the new Container Tabs feature is great!

For now, I can say that I could switch from Chrome to Firefox without losing too much, but there’s only one problem.

Performance

One thing that I was let down by Firefox was the performance. It is significantly slower than Chrome. Not talking about the speed of loading sites or something like that. I mean the UI, that is not very responsive, some sites get very slow over time and when using other applications. Something I don’t notice when using Chrome.

I’ve tried using multiple versions of Firefox, different configurations with the help of the community (which by the way, is awesome), and could not achieve similar performance of Chrome. At least on Firefox on Linux. And that’s a deal breaker for me. If it was a small difference in performance, I think I’d be fine with it, but it’s not. It’s something that really bothers in day-to-day use and I cannot ignore.

Conclusion

There are some other issues with Firefox, but they’re not very significant, like the password import from Chrome, that does not work on Linux. I had to use the Windows version for that. But overall, it’s still a great browser. I just wish it had better performance on my system so I could use it as a daily browser.

I’m sorry I can’t choose Firefox now¬†but I’m¬†going to try it again later in this year, and I really hope it will be able to replace Chrome for me. And I look forward contributing to Mozilla and the Open Web.

 

 

 

 

GNOME Pixel Saver

One thing I don’t get in GNOME is the top bar, after using Unity and OS X (or macOS), it seems that the top bar waste some space. Both Unity and OS X use the top bar as a menu bar, which is pretty useful while saving space.

On Unity, the top bar doesn’t show the menu while you don’t put the cursor on the top bar, so it still has a clean look. On macOS, the menus are always there, while it doesn’t make interface worry free, you already know where are you going if you want to use the menus.

There’s an awesome extension that helps GNOME’s top bar to behave more like that, saving space, called Pixel Saver. It doesn’t show the menu items on the top bar, but it hides the window title bar when applications are in full screen and show the window title in the top bar.

That’s something I’d expect GNOME to offer by default, hopefully there’s this extension to fill the gap.

I think the extensions are a very important part of GNOME Desktop Environment. If it wasn’t for extensions like Pixel Saver, maybe I wouldn’t be using GNOME right now.