I’ve never exactly had a problem running the Firefox web browser on a netbook. But I do tend to disable a few toolbars so that the browser UI doesn’t take up too much screen real estate. When you’re using a 1024 x 600 pixel display, every pixel counts.

One user has gone a few steps further and created a collection of 10 add-ons for Firefox designed to improve the experience of using the browser on netbooks with small screens and relatively slow processors.

The Netbook Optimization Kit includes tools that do things such as hiding the Firefox Title Bar to save space, combine the search and location bars into one box, and replace the menu bar with a tiny menu pop up. There’s also an add-on to set the default zoom level, and an ad-blocker which I suppose could help you reduce CPU load, but really I’m not sure why some of these add-ons are included in a netbook-specific pack.

Do you have any other tips for optimizing Firefox for netbooks? Or do you simply use a different browser like Google Chrome? Sound off in the comments.

thanks Lee!

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19 replies on “Netbook Optimization Kit makes Firefox a bit more netbook-friendly”

  1. I haven’t tried Chrome or Opera, and I use the latest Firefox, mostly. But when there’s a problem, I use IE instead. The problem occurs when Firefox doesn’t display something that’s supposed to be onscreen, like a “submit” button at the bottom of a form. I’ve read that Firefox won’t process elements of a page that contain HTML errors, whereas IE will, in some cases; that could explain why Firefox doesn’t display a button that I have to click in order to complete a transaction. If I use the cursor to comb the part of the page where the submit button is likely to be, and if the cursor changes to a hand, that tells me there’s a button (undisplayed) in that area; Firefox will process the mouse click. But if the hidden button isn’t the button I was hoping for, but instead “Return to previous page”, I’m out of luck. To avoid the uncertainty, I switch to IE at times like that.

    Has anyone else had the same sort of problem?

  2. i use both chrome and firefox, but i mostly use opera due to the fact that its compact enough for me as it is and is very fast, even without the plugins and add blocker. i do use chrome as much as opera, though, because it does have all the plugins i like and is just as usable to me.

  3. I use both Chrome and Firefox on all my netbooks and each browser has its’ advantages and disadvantages. Rarely touch IE8 except in a special needs situation. Will also add I’ve been unhappy with Firefox since the developers introduced the ‘plugin crash protection feature’ in v3.6.6 which in my experience causes more problems than it solves.

  4. I am a happy Firefox user. I had to tweak a couple of things to make the browser more netbook-friendly though.

    Tiny Menu allowed me to have a single toolbar for the menu, navigation buttons, address box and search box. With the icon size set to small, it takes up hardly any screen space.

    Full screen mode is of course very useful for those times I need all of the screen real estate I can lay my hands on. One tweak I made there was to change “browser.fullscreen.animateUp” in about:config to “0” as the show/hide animation was rather sluggish sometimes on pages with background images.

  5. Chrome is probably nice for old people, then they can’t mess anything up. But who needs all those plugins/add-ons for minimizing screen estate, when only one is sufficient…
    And minimizing estate is not just for netbooks.
    I’ll make my own collection and get my 15 minutes…

  6. I just use Chrome…. I come at the issue from the perspective of ‘why fix Firefox’ when there is a better alternative you don’t have to tweak.

    It reminds me of the story of the farm who wanted to sell people turkeys with four drumsticks; So he feed his birds uranium, instead of selling them TWO turkeys. You don’t give people a mutant bloated monster browser, what Firefox is, when there is a natural & better alternative at hand.

    1. People like different side dishes with their turkey. “Best for me” doesn’t mean “best for everyone.”

      Example: I like my Jetta TDI and it’s diesel mileage is awesome. Everyone else should have to 1) like and 2) drive a Jetta TDI as well.

    2. Hey MonkeyKing,
      I have just installed K-Meleon on a Lenovo S-10 with W7 and 2GB of ram. I was running into issues with the beta of Firefox 4.1. Chrome was pretty much crashing on startup. Never been that stable on the netbook. Odd, it is fine on my DV7. Maybe too processor intensive. However, I must say K-Meleon kicks butt. Fast and lightweight. With built in pop up and flash block options as well as java script and other script blocking options. I advise all netbook folks to give it a look. Especially the 1GB ram netbookers.

  7. Just hitting f11 gives you full screen in firefox for those who like simplicity. I have tried Google chrome but tools like ad block and other great tools don’t yet exist for chrome as far as I know.
    I do know open source is the way to go.

  8. Chrome for me as well, hiding the bookmarks bar gives me the most space I’ve been able to get from a browser. Especially since they hide the bottom status bar unless when it’s needed. Also combining the tabs/window bar makes things nice since Chrome is always maximized on my netbook, so it just saves space nicely. It will be interesting to see if Firefox 4 is able to compete again on the minimalistic side.

  9. Specifically for firefox: vimperator. Chrome/Chromium: vimium/vrome. Don’t need anything else, but requires that you’re already comfortable with vim keybindings. There are also multiple open source projects using gecko or webkit rendering engines with vim keybindings too. Like slim-down versions of firefox and chrome/chromium.

  10. I don’t have nor have ever had a netbook, but I do rehabilitate old laptops. A good choice for resource constrained laptops is K-Meleon or K-MeleonCCF ME ( I recommend the latter). Both are pretty parsimonious on-screen by design. More importantly, both keep Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine but dispose of Firefox’s XUL in favor of Window’s native API. Even if you can’t appreciate that on a technical level, you’ll be able to appreciate it in terms of user experience: tightly integrated into the look and feel of the Windows desktop, less resource-intensive, and more responsive to user input. I’d be interested in learning anybody’s experience with K-meleon or its variants on a netbook.

  11. I also try to hide everything and get the most out of the screen, but since installing Chrome I hardly ever use Firefox. The launch speed alone is enough to get me to sway from my most used browser on actual pcs.

  12. I do a lot of the things mentioned in the kit, hide the title bar, combine search/address bar/status bar. I also use a CSS file that makes all the browser icons even smaller than ‘small icon’ mode. Also instead of a bookmark bar I have all my bookmarks in Icon form on the same row as the address bar. I hide the tab bar when I only have one tab open too (like older versions of Firefox did).

    After all of the customization I get practically full screen space all the time and keep all the functionality.

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