Speeding up Firefox

I love Firefox1. Really, I do. It can be speedy. It can be extensible. But apparently it can’t be both at the same time… All my development plugins make it slow, and all my browsing plugins make it even slower.

The segregation

Most of the time I don’t need both sets of plugins. I’m either working, or I’m browsing. So I sat down and divided my plugins into two lists: work and play.

Development profile

  • SearchStatus tells me the PageRank of a given site at a glance, and does some other cool things like highlighting nofollow links… A must for SEO.

  • I really like image zoom, but it slows down page rendering. Since I mostly use it when theming or tweaking a site, I put this one in my development profile.

  • I use the Firebug extension more than any other. This extension is the reason I could never use Camino or Safari or Opera for web development. It’s also killer on dynamic websites. Gmail and Remember The Milk both throw dire warnings if you have it enabled. This one lands firmly in “development plugin” land, since I don’t need it slowing down my regular browsing.

  • Gotta have the Web Developer toolbar.

  • And tamper data does some cool things for form submission.

Browsing profile

  • I use adblock plus and filterset.G when I’m playing, but I usually turn them off to work. So these will go in the browsing profile.

  • Linkification is great, but slows page load down, so it doesn’t make the cut for my development profile.

  • Try the BugMeNot plugin. It’s the end of compulsory website registration. (Also, check out the retailmenot website and plugin. I haven’t used it, but it sure seems cool)

  • Better Gmail fixes a bunch of the minor issues that the Gmail team hasn’t seen fit to address…

  • I can’t even pretend to need the StumbleUpon toolbar for work.

Both profiles

  • Google Browser Sync goes in both profiles. It will provide the glue which holds things together. It synchronizes my bookmarks, my history, my saved passwords and other form data. I was already using this since I use five different computers on a daily basis, so including it is a no-brainer.

  • If you’ve ever read xkcd, you know how important titles can be. Long Titles fixes a bug in Firefox < 3. it’s essential.

  • I can’t say enough good about the del.icio.us Bookmarks plugin. I didn’t believe at first, but I tried it and I’ll never go back to the old del.icio.us plugin. this is necessary for both sides. an interesting side note: I use the del.icio.us toolbar in “favorite tags” view, which replaces the bookmark menu bar. since each profile gets its own preferences, I can choose different favorites for work than I use for play.

  • Uppity is a great little tweak. It adds <alt><up> to go up a level on a website. It matches <alt><left> and <alt><right> (forward and back) perfectly.

The implementation

Now that I’ve decided how to split them up, I’ve gotta make the change. the key here is Firefox’s built-in profile manager. Read all about profiles and how to use them at mozilla.org. I created one called “default” and one called “development”.

I actually started with my current profile, since it had all of my favorite extensions. I duplicated it, then removed all of the unneeded stuff from each profile.

Finally, I created a pair of shortcuts to Firefox: one of them pointed to path/to/firefox -P "default", the other to path/to/firefox -P "development". I named the shortcuts appropriately and put them where quicksilver and launchy could get to them. Now my lighter, quicker Firefox profiles are a few keystrokes away.

One cool thing about using multiple profiles is that Firefox will launch a new instance if you tell it to open with a different profile. This means that you can have two copies open at once, one with development tools, the other with browsing extensions.

The result

It works! faster browsing, faster editing, faster loading. As I mentioned above, I can even run two copies of Firefox simultaneously… and they’re still quick. I think this setup is a keeper.

  1. This post is all about Firefox. If you don’t have it yet, get it: Get Firefox.