Why is Firefox in Windows better than Firefox in Linux?

I like Firefox. I use it at work. I use it at home. I get annoyed when I have to use other people’s computers and they don’t have Firefox installed. I have to say, though, as a three-year Linux user, that Firefox on Linux sucks, and that there’s absolutely no good reason for this suckage.

Here’s what sucks about Firefox on Linux:

  • Flash crashes. Yes, I know this is an Adobe problem and not a Firefox (or Ubuntu or whatever distro you use) problem, but it’s still a problem, and it’s annoying. It sucks. There are generally times of stability. Every now and then, though, Flash will crash on you. I’ve found this often happens when you have a lot of tabs open and try to close the last tab that’s open that has Flash embedded in it.
  • Tab jumping uses Alt instead of Control. In Windows, it’s cool to jump to the fifth tab by pressing Control-5 or to jump to the second tab by presing Control-2. In Linux, you have to press Alt-5 or Alt-2. Not as cool. It makes for awkward hand positioning, where I have to took my thumb or pinky under my hand.
  • Click doesn’t select the whole URL. This doesn’t bother me that much, as I generally use keyboard shortcuts (F6 or Control-L), and I know the setting can be changed in about:config, but a lot of new users get confused and frustrated by this behavior, and it’s annoying for it not to be the default.
  • Flash interrupts scrolling. If you have a middle-scroll button or finger-scroll touchpad, your cursor will stop dead in its tracks when it hits an embedded Flash element. Doesn’t happen in Windows, just Linux.

I guess that’s it. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be—a rather short list, but the Adobe Flash-related ones are particularly annoying. Ah, Adobe…


  1. – You are right about Flash crashes.
    – Tabbing by numbers doesn’t work as a whole here. Didn’t even know that existed.
    – Clicking the URL: I was annoyed to this myself in my early Linux days. Now, it’s just another habit.
    – Flash scrolling is solved for me in FF3 on Ubuntu Hardy.

    Point 2 and 3 are about usability. Certain things are different. Think of the location of the Preferenced/Options entry in the menu. Nobody said it should be exactly the same thing on different platforms. Actually, certain things are supposed to be different, as different platforms handle things differently, and that should be consequent.

    I understand your grieves, but some of them are about adapting to different systems. I would be annoyed the other way around if I started working extensively on Windows again.

  2. I recognize certain things are just different. That’s why I didn’t complain about Edit > Preferences v. Tools > Options.

    I don’t think the difference between Alt and Control is simply a matter of preference. Control is to the left of all the numerals, so you can keep your pinky on the Control key and use another finger to surf through the number keys. If you use your pinky for Alt, however, pressing 1 is awkward, and if you use your thumb for Alt, pressing 5 is awkward.

  3. Hey, hari. Good to see you again.

    Even though I know in theory that other browsers are “better” than Firefox, I always find myself switching back to Firefox. It’s unstable and a memory hog, but I love its interface and am just used to it.

  4. Agreed on the Flash thing. I can’t knock Firefox for Adobe’s problem, though.

    On the tab jumping, I usually just use ctrl-tab, so I’ve never even noticed that difference.

    I haven’t experienced the scrolling past Flash problem. That’s just weird.

    And as far as click-selecting the URL, that kind of weirded me out at first, but I find that I need to click a part of the URL about as often as I need the whole thing, so in either configuration it’s not the desired behavior a significant portion of the time. So it’s not really something that bothers me, other than just adjusting to the difference.

    Regarding using other people’s computers without Firefox installed, that’s what Firefox Portable is for. The awesome thing about that is that you can just pick up your profile directory, whether it’s from XP, Linux, or Mac, and copy it right onto the Flash drive and have all of your extensions/bookmarks/settings copied over with no fuss.

  5. The flash crashing issue is adobe’s problem, nothing we can do there.

    Flash scrolling appears to also affect swfdec, so it’s not just adobe’s flash here. Not sure whether java is also affected as I don’t have that installed right now.

    Tab via alt instead of control is probably because a number of standard linux apps follow the same scheme, irssi for example. Same goes for the urlbar issue, gtk widgets behave that way, so firefox on linux behaves that way for the sake of consistency. Basically, the mozilla devs have chosen consistency with the host environment over consistency across environments. I for one support this decision, but I realize its a largely subjective issue.

  6. I agree very much. I really like Firefox, and I really like using Linux (Ubuntu), too. Therefore it makes me sad when Firefox crashes more often than in Windows.

    Another thing I can’t understand, except the points you already wrote down, is the differences between “Preferences”. Why is this stored in “Edit” in Linux and not in Windows?

  7. -I don’t experience Flash Crash stuff. Odd.

    -I far and away prefer alt instead of ctr for this purpose, and don’t find that hand position awkward at all. Perhaps it should be mentioned that I play piano and guitar, and ma thus used to some hand positions others would find very awkward? In any case, I relish the use of alt for this purpose.

    -I prefer it to not select the whole URL. Double clicking is not a problem to select it all when I want to, but having the entire thing highlight when I only want a portion is a pain.

    -I don’t have that problem.

    I do have Firefox crash occasionally, though. Probably more than in Windows, but not enough to be noticeable to me.

    After all, one of the huge advantages of Firefox is how well it handles a crash. I just start it up again, and I’m golden.


  8. Fix firefox flash crash:

    sudo mkdir -p /etc/firefox
    sudo cat “XLIB_SKIP_ARGB_VISUALS=1” > /etc/firefox/firefoxrc

    I tryied, it’s works! Hope it’ll helpfull for you guys!

    Love Linux, love Firefox!

  9. I tried it out, Riddle, but it didn’t work for me (I’m assuming that’s for scrolling over Flash content). I’m using Xandros on the Eee, if that makes a difference.

  10. No, that’s for “Flash will crash on you when you have a lot of tabs open and try to close the last tab…”.

    Scrolling over Flash content doesn’t make any bad for me, just move the cursor to the scrollbar (maximum Firefox window), then I can scroll freely.

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