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Is your browsing too slow? Block the stuff that’s bogging you down. QuickJava is a simple Firefox extension that gives you the ability to temporarily turn off browser plugins.

Things like Flash, Silverlight and Java are great at extending what the web can do, but they can also make it unbearable. Flash ads use processing power, burn up battery reserves and play sounds – all without asking you for permission. The performance hit from browser plugins like Flash is significant – which is the reason mobile device manufacturers refuse to include them.

QuickJava is one of our favorite Firefox addons, because of how easy it makes turning off these resource-hungry plugins for desktop users. You can even take things to an extreme, turning of CSS and images entirely (not recommended). Here’s how it works.

Using QuickJava

Install QuickJava, then restart Firefox. When you do you’ll see two new things. The first is a button up top:

quickjava-top

Click this to quickly turn off your “favorite” plugins, by default Javascript, Java and Flash. If you’ve got the Firefox Statusbar enabled, you’ll also see these icons below:

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quickjava-bottom

Clicking the buttons can individually block, from left:

  • Javascript (JS)
  • Java (J)
  • Flash (F)
  • Silverlight (SL)
  • Cookies (C)
  • Images (I)
  • Animated Images/GIFs (A)
  • Style/CSS (CS)

Hover over any box if you need a reminder about what’s what.

You can change what shows up where easily in the extension’s settings. Right-click the icon, then click “Options”:

quickjava-settings

Several settings can be edited manually, but feel free to ignore this if you don’t understand it.

Blocking: A Mixed Blessing

If you block things, sites will break. More than a few sites rely on cookies for logging in, and turning off CSS will quickly make the modern web unusable. Gmail will run like crap, if at all, if you turn off JavaScript.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use this extension, but it does mean you need to think before you just turn everything off. Be selective about what you block: I recommend leaving it at Java, Flash and Silverlight, unless you really know what you’re doing.

Happily, blocking those three things is straightforward. Here’s what a flash item looks like with Flash blocked:

quickjava-disabled

Simple, right? Sadly there’s no one-click way to re-enable flash for just one item, unlike Chrome’s built-in option (more on that later). But you can turn flash back on with just a couple of clicks, retracing the steps outlined above.

If you’re stuck using Airport, or otherwise pathetically slow WiFi, I actually recommend turning off images along with Flash and Silverlight. Firefox is insanely fast when you do:

quickjava-images-off

It’s quick to toggle, so play around. Find settings you like for different circumstances, and let us know what works for you in the comments below.

What About Chrome?

QuickJava is a Firefox exclusive, but that doesn’t mean Chrome users are out of luck. That browser offers, built in, a “Click to Play” setting for browser plugins:

chrome-click-to-play

You’ll find this in Chrome’s settings. You’ll need to click “Show Advanced Settings”, then “Content Settings”. This works mostly like QuickJava, but is actually better in one key way: you can re-enable Flash for individual items. This means you could, say, watch a video on a news site without also enabling the flash ad on that same page. I wish QuickJava worked more like this.

Conclusion

Like I said, blocking Flash and Silverlight by default can seriously increase your browser’s, and potentially your computer’s, performance. Turning off other things can break things, but is also kind of fun to play with. I recommend you give this a spin if you’re looking to get just a little more out of your browser.

Want to do even more? Erez outlined other tips to help you keep Firefox from becoming unbearably slow How To Keep Firefox From Getting Unbearably Slow How To Keep Firefox From Getting Unbearably Slow I don’t like Firefox. I think it is a monolithic, huge, heavy browser, and its XPI-based architecture feels slow and dated. Firefox is more flexible than other browsers like Chrome but it also gradually slows... Read More , and Tina outlined how to make Firefox start faster How To Make Your Firefox Browser Start Up Faster How To Make Your Firefox Browser Start Up Faster Read More , so check those out if you want even better performance. Do you have other tips for speeding up Firefox? Please share them below!

Image credits: Red Panda Yawning by Neil McIntosh via Flickr

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