March 3, 2008

Unclutter Firefox menus

Author: Shashank Sharma

If you like your browser interface to be simple, try these extensions designed to unclutter Firefox. Compact Menu 2 and two alternative extensions collapses all the menus into a single drop-down button, creating room for you to add buttons such as Downloads, History, and Bookmarks to the menu bar. Organize Status Bar lets you rearrange all the items displayed on your status bar, or even hide some.

Extension logo

To install the Compact Menu 2 extension, click the Install Now button on its home page. Unlike most Firefox extensions that need to restart the browser before they work, Compact Menu is automatically enabled, but it won't replace the existing menus without your explicit instructions.

To make the entire horizontal list of menus easily accessible from a single button, click View -> Toolbars -> Customize. Scroll through the Customize Toolbar dialog box, and when you find the Menu button, drag it anywhere you like on the toolbar. When you click Done, your traditional menus will be replaced with a smart drop-down button. Clicking this Menu button will reveal the entire menu set. If you find the Menu button too simplistic, click Menu -> View -> Toolbars -> Customize, or right-click the menu bar and click Customize, to bring up the Customize Toolbar dialog box, and drag the Menu button back into it. Now, look for the Compact Menu button and drag this onto your toolbar, then click Done. You'll find a globe icon in place of the Menu button that can be used to access the menus.

By default, all the menus are placed in the compact menu. You can unselect any menu you do not wish to appear in the compact menu from the customize toolbar dialog box. One would imagine that by unselecting any of the menus, you'd be able to access them from the menu bar again, but this is not the case. If you remove any menu from the Compact Menu list, not only does it not show up in the drop-down list, it isn't part of the standard menu bar either.

Having discovered this flaw in the Compact Menu 2 extension, I tried two other extensions that offer the same functionality, Compact Menu - Blue and Tiny Menu. Compact Menu - Blue, when installed, inserted both the globe icon menu and the text Menu button to the toolbar without my consent. This extension also has the same flaw as Contact Menu 2 -- and the menu isn't blue. The Tiny Menu extension, on the other hand, plays nice when you tell it to not place any traditional menu into the drop-down list. It activates by itself when installed and adds all the menus to the drop-down list, but it just has the text button menu as opposed to the choice of an icon provided by Compact Menu 2.

Meanwhile, back at the bar

Thankfully, the Compact Menu 2 extension, like Compact Menu - Blue and Tiny Menu, does not need a place on Firefox's status bar, like many other extensions. I use only a few Firefox extensions on any given day, but on those few occasions when I've had to rely on close to a dozen or more, my status bar was an absolute mess. The Organize Status Bar extensions lets you systematically organize the status bar. You don't have to do anything fancy to install the Organize Status Bar extension -- just click the Install Now button on its home page and restart Firefox.

Click Tools -> Organize status bar to bring up the Organize Status Bar Options window. You'll see a list of all the items on your status bar, both hidden and active -- and at this point your status bar would show all these items as well. For instance, you'll see statusbar-progresspanel in the list and also on your status bar. This is unusual since the progressbar is only visible when some page is loading and indicates how much of that page has loaded. When you click any of the listed items, it is immediately be highlighted on the status bar. You can then reorder the items by clicking the Move Up or Move Down buttons or hide them by clicking the Hide button.

The Organize Status Bar extension is safe to use since all it does is reorder, or at most hide elements from the status bar. It can't be used to disable or uninstall any installed extension.

Every Monday we highlight a different extension, plugin, or add-on. Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us about one that you use and how it makes your work easier, along with tips for getting the most out of it. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your chosen topic recently or have one in hand.)


  • Internet & WWW
Click Here!