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On the other hand, we have Google Chrome. On installation, Chrome is a much more elegant browser, making much better use of the space available on your monitor. Bookmarks and menu options are consolidated into drop down menus, and page tabs are integrated into the title bar area at the top of the screen.
Chrome is much less customisable than Firefox, however, and Google's strict vetting helps to keep poorly presented plugins from cluttering up their browser.
Having used both Firefox and Chrome on and off for the last couple of years, I've found I've not been able to trade the functionality of Firefox for the sleekness of Chrome's interface. However, since Chrome has shown me just how little space needs to be devoted to brower functions, there seems to be an awful lot of wasted space when browsing in Firefox.
So, I set out to fix this and, with the help of some friendly plugins and themes, I think I've come up with a browser that is arguably as sleek as the Chrome interface, while retaining Firefox's super-usefulness.
NOTE: This procedure has been tested and works perfectly on Firefox 3.6. All plugins are rated to work on Firefox 4, but you'll probably have to play around a bit to get it to all work properly, you early adopter, you.
Use Small Icons
Easiest step in the process, this. Just right click on your menu bar and click "customise". This will bring up a new menu box;
Just click "use small icons"....
... and you'll see your icons shrink a little.
Drag Bookmarks To Navigation
If you use the bookmarks toolbar as a quick way to click to your most visited sites, you can save more space by moving these icons into your navigation bar. With the "customise" menu box still open, click and hold on "Bookmarks toolbar items".
You'll now be able to move this to your navigation bar - I prefer to pop them between my navigation bar and search bar like so:
Now right click on your menu bar and untick "Bookmarks Toolbar".
Add A Compact Menu
Using the Compact Menu extension for Firefox, you'll add a drop down Menu button to the left of your browser, next to the "back" button like so:
If it doesn't appear for some reason, bring up your customise menu again and find the "Menu" icon. Drag this into your navigation bar.
You can now right click on your menu bar and untick "menu bar".
SEO folk might balk at this one but I've never seen the point in what we commonly call the "title bar" - the section at the top of a Firefox window that shows the FF icon, page title appended by "- Mozilla Firefox", and the standard minimise, tile and close buttons. The only information provided is the page's title, but you can get that by hovering over your tab anyway. So lets get rid of it.
I did this by installing the Hide Caption Titlebar Plus plugin. Give it a try, but do check out the options available in the add-ons menu.
My preferred options are:
- Under "main", set "caption use mode" to "never".
- Under "look & feel", set "show custom caption/titlebar" to "never"
- Under "look & feel", set "skins for minimize, max & close buttons" to "Auto. Current theme's skin"
- Under "look & feel", untick "Enable new firefox application 'Home' Button & Menu"
With these settings, my browser has been cut down to just a couple of toolbars (yours may still be more, depending on the toolbars you use).
Drag Navigation to Raven Toolbar
This last step only applies if you're using the Raven Toolbar (which we're big fans of here at I-COM). The toolbar functions are incredibly useful, but do they *really* need their own toolbar? I say no.
Thankfully, although the icons in the Raven Toolbar are immovable, the toolbar itself allows the addition of icons from other parts of your browser, including your navigation tools. So, bring up your customisation menu again and start moving everything from your navigation toolbar to the Raven toolbar; your Compact Menu, forward and back buttons, address bar, bookmarks and search box, along with any other icons you may have in there. Once you've finished, close your customise menu, right click on the now empty navigation bar and untick "Navigation Toolbar".
The end result should look something like this;
Pretty sweet, eh?
Now all that's sorted, the only thing left to do is find a theme that fits with your new style browser. I'm a big fan of Rein (for Firefox 3.6), with it's clean interface, custom icons and some subtle touches that make Firefox fit well with your overall operating system theme.
Enjoy your new stripped down browser and comment below with any more top tips for Firefox customisation!