A hack to ax those annoying windows

This tip isn’t as easy to set up as a Firefox extension, but it’s still pretty easy.

The problem

Many websites have links that force open a new window. Those new windows drive me crazy. At first I don’t notice a new window’s opened. Then I try to use the browser’s back button, and (“What? Where’d it go?!”) it’s disappeared, and I have to close the window or click back and forth between taskbar icons.

It’s not just me

I’ve watched others mouse up to a grayed-out back button. And usability guru Jakob Nielsen includes this behavior in both the #1 and #2 spots of his “Top Ten New Mistakes of Web Design.”

The solution

You can find more details here, but I’ve tried to keep this simple.
  1. Find your Firefox profile folder, the place where Firefox keeps your personal settings. The path to your profile folder:
    • On Windows XP/2000, the path is usually %AppData%\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\, where xxxxxxxx is a random string of 8 characters. Just browse to C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\ and the rest should be obvious.
    • On Windows 95/98/Me, the path is usually C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\
    • On Linux, the path is usually ~/.mozilla/firefox/xxxxxxxx.default/
    • On Mac OS X, the path is usually ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/
    Another easy way to find this folder is to search for the file “bookmarks.html” because your Firefox bookmarks hide out in that folder, too.
  2. See if there’s a file in your profile folder named “user.js”. We need to add the two lines in step 3 to that file. The user.js file probably doesn’t exist, but if it does, edit the file using a text editor, such as Window’s “notepad.” Most likely, you’ll need to create the file named “user.js” yourself. That’s easy, too. Copy the text in step 3 into a text editor (such as notepad) and save it as “user” (without the quotation marks). Close your text editor and rename the file (usually you can do that by right-clicking on the file) to “user.js” (again without the quotation marks). Windows will alert you that you’re changing the file’s extension (“It may become unusable”), but click “OK” or “yes” anyway.
  3. Either add these two lines to the existing user.js file or create a user.js file for them:
    // Reveal more tab/window options: user_pref(“browser.tabs.showSingleWindowModePrefs”, true);
  4. Cut and paste the user.js file into your profile folder (if it’s not already there), close and reopen Firefox, and you’re all set.
To set the features (you can choose to open new windows in the same window or in another tab), go to the Firefox menu bar and click on each of the following: Tools > Options > Advanced (For an operating system other than Windows, this section might be located here: Edit > Preferences > Advanced). There you’ll see a section called “Force links that open new windows to open in . . .” Choose your options.

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