Firefox Minimalism

(Day 13 of 30 Days of Blogging)

I’ve been working on an opinionated and ultra-minimalist Firefox theme that pairs nicely with Tridactyl. I thought I’d share a few notes here.

But first some pretty screenshots! Here’s what you’re greeted with when you open a Firefox window:

Nope, it’s not a terminal, that text prompt is the address bar.

Here’s what it looks like with a page in a single tab:

The tab bar is hidden until there are multiple tabs. I find this helps me focus during certain tasks where I have a browser window with just one site I’m working on.

Here’s a slightly busier example with three tabs open:

One of the tabs is playing audio, which is shown with a yellow underline.

In order to fit on this blog, all of these screenshots are much lower resolution than I actually browse with. But even with windows at low resolutions you can see it’s pretty readable.

Trimmed Fat

Default browser UIs can be messy, and some things were obvious candidates to remove. Other things were less obvious but since the theme assumes hotkey usage, basically everything that doesn’t communicate important information gets hidden:

  • Navigation buttons (back, forward, home, reload): I use hotkeys or the right-click popup.
  • Page action buttons (bookmark, show info, add to Pocket, etc.): Either I have hotkeys or I never use these features.
  • Tab favicons: No branding and more room for the title.
  • The hamburger menu: The alt key can be pressed to temporarily show the menu bar. Most of the things in this menu can be hotkeyed (open dev tools, Firefox preferences, logins, etc.)
  • Extension buttons: I only use uBlock and Tridactyl.
  • Downloads button: Actually, I kept it because it’s handy to see download progress. It’s kind of annoying that it doesn’t auto-hide after the downloads are finished. I might remove it.
  • Page scrollbars: You can usually infer your position in a page just by looking at the content. Tridactyl has vim-like hotkeys for going to the bottom and top of the page.

Changed Habits

I used to be one of those people with 50+ tabs open, persisted across every session. Maybe once a week or so I would do a tab purge.

Using a “one-line” theme quickly discourages that habit. These days I rely more on multiple windows. When I start a new “task”, I open a new window on a different desktop. When done I close the window and all the tabs are gone. If I need to go back to some site I found before, I use browser history or bookmarks.

There are still some quirks to work out but once it’s ready I’ll throw the theme up somewhere on Github!