I love Firefox. Yes, it’s not perfect, I’ll admit to that in a heartbeat, but for me, it’s almost everything I want from a browser. One thing that does bother me though, is its slight tendency for clutter. Take, for example, the default orange settings button. It’s big, it’s ugly, and it takes way too much space. Luckily, there are simple add-ons that take care of this menace and help me keep my Firefox window cleaner and clutter-free.
The problem with trying to get rid of clutter is that it never ends. You get rid of one thing, and suddenly things you’ve never noticed before seem like clutter too. Sounds familiar? If so, there’s one clutter-freeing add-on you have to check out – Vertical Toolbar [No Longer Available]. What does this add-on do? You’ve guessed it. Vertical Toolbar adds a nice, thin, minimalistic vertical toolbar to your Firefox window, to which you can promptly transfer all those annoying buttons that take so much valuable space up on top.
By default, this is what your typical Firefox window would look like:
OK, maybe it’s not that terrible, especially if you do away with that huge orange button like I did, but it sure can look better. After installing Vertical Toolbar, you’ll have the tools to take this matter into your own hands, without losing access to buttons you need to use often. This is what Vertical Toolbar looks like before you start tweaking it:
I’ve reduced the window size in order to take the above screenshot so you can clearly see the default buttons. Included among them are a history button, a view add-ons button, a work offline button, a fullscreen toggle and more.
Before you start adding and removing buttons, take a few minutes to customize the toolbar itself. Do you want it to appear on the left or the right side? Should it take the sidebar with it? Should it always show, or auto-hide when you’re not using it? Are these small icons enough for you, or do you prefer bigger text buttons?
If you’re not sure what the “With sidebar” option means, just try checking it with a sidebar app open. If you do that, the vertical toolbar will migrate to the right side of your screen, taking your sidebar along for the ride. This is an easy way to move your sidebar to the right, in case you’ve always dreamed of doing so.
Getting Rid Of Clutter
Now that you have your vertical toolbar, its time to transfer all your unnecessary clutter over to it and free up some window space. To add and remove buttons from the toolbar, right-click the toolbar and choose “Customize…”. You can now use Firefox’s native Customize Toolbar window to drag buttons to and off the toolbar.
You can also drag existing buttons from your top toolbar and place them on the vertical toolbar instead. When you drag buttons onto the toolbar, look for the small black indicator that tells you where your button will be placed. The indicator is a little sneaky at times, but it’s the only way to make sure your button will be placed where you want it.
Vertical Toolbar also comes with several useful buttons of its own – ones you won’t find on Firefox by default. These include a toggle for private browsing, a view page source button, a print preview button and a Web console toggle, among other things.
This way, you can have more options than ever before right at your fingertips, and still enjoy a minimalistic and clutter-free browsing window.
Multiple Windows & Multiple Monitors
I work regularly with two monitors, and at least two Firefox windows open at any given time. If you have similar work habits, there are several things you should know about Vertical Toolbar. The first is that it doesn’t play very nice with multiple monitors. How so? If you want the toolbar to auto-hide when you’re not using it, you naturally also want it to auto-show when you do want to use it. This is a challenge when using dual monitors with an extended desktop. The toolbar appears just fine when it’s on the edge of your desktop, but if it has to appear on the side between your two monitors, it usually doesn’t.
If you work on it, you can master the exact mouse movement needed to make it appear and stay there, but it’s not very intuitive. To overcome this problem, you can set the toolbar to always show.
The second thing to note is that any change you make to the toolbar, be it in the options or buttons, will not take effect in any of the other open windows. At first I thought this was a feature – you can have separate toolbars for each window! But then I realized this is just a bug. Restarting Firefox will get all your windows back to the same configuration.
Vertical Toolbar is an excellent way to get rid of clutter, and if you’re using a small monitor, it will definitely free up some toolbar room and leave more space for what’s really important. The additional buttons that come with Vertical Toolbar are also pretty neat, especially if you need to access page source, the Web console or work offline often.
While it’s not completely bug-free, I can’t in all honesty find anything really bad to say about it. The only thing its sorely missing is the ability to add bookmarks and bookmarklets, and do away with the pesky bookmarks toolbar as well.
What do you use to get rid of browser clutter? Do you know of other add-ons similar to Vertical Toolbar? Tell us all about it in the comments!