Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Space in Firefox

My wife started using an eee for work. It's cool, but but there's one big (or small) inherent limitation: screen size. It's really hard to use some applications on a tiny screen.

Since browsers do just about everything now -- and even more once you start using a netbook computer -- making space on Firefox is crucial.

There's a lot you can do, but it's usually a trade off between convenience and screen space.

Space-saving Themes
The quick, comprehensive way to get more space is with a space-saving theme.

Classic Compact
Classic Compact is, well, the classic compact theme for Firefox. If gives you everything you have on your regular theme, but smaller. It can look a little squished, but that's because it makes all of the elements as big as possible within a smaller space. I liked it so much on the eee that I've started using it on my laptop, which has a 13" screen. Why not?

Classic Compact Options lets you tweak Classic Compact. Some tweaks are just cosmetic, but merging you menu bar into one button saves space.

Other Compact Themes
iFox Smooth, zblack and Littlefox do the same thing, but look a little different.

Tweaking Firefox
If you're committed to keeping your regular theme, you can tweak that for space. In fact, there are a few options you can choose without adding extensions.

Push F11. It puts Firefox into full screen mode. Lots of room. Putting your cursor near the top of the screen gets you the tabs and Bookmark Toolbar back. Hitting F11 again restores your normal screen.

Hide Toolbars
Firefox usually has three toolbars across the top:
  • Menubar
  • Navigation Toolbar
  • Bookmark Toolbar

And then there may be other toolbars added by extensions, like Web developer. You can get rid of toolbars.

View > Toolbars

Just uncheck the toolbars you can live without.

Remember that the Bookmark Toolbar is convenient, but you can almost as easily use the Bookmarks menu item.

Thin the Navigation Toolbar
If you need the navigation bar, but want to make it thinner:

View > Toolbars > Customize > Show: Icons > Check "Use small icons"

More space with very little loss of convenience.

Compact Menu2
This one's a little tricky. Compact Menu2 literally replaces your menu bar with a small, blue globe icon. It adds an option to hide the Menu Toolbar to View > Toolbars. That means you can hide the menu toolbar, but still have access to the menu items via the icon.

Clicking on the icon drops down a menu with the items that are usually on the menu bar (or those of them you chose to include).

Once you've installed the extension, go to:

View > Toolbars >Customize

Under "Select the menus you want to see in the Compact Menu" check the menu items you want. I chose all of them -- since the Compact version is a drop-down menu, it doesn't seem to matter much.

Then you find the small, blue globe icon in the icon area and drag it to whatever toolbar you want.

Literally replacing the menu bar has some interesting results. For instance, if you drag the icon to the Menu Toolbar it will replace all of the menu items, but what you'll have is the icon on the menu toolbar, which won't save you any space.

If you put it on the Navigation Toolbar, then you can hide the Menubar, but still have easy access to all of the menu options.

If you happen to hide the Menubar before you drag the icon somewhere, you'll lose access to the menu items -- including View which is the item you need to get the Menubar back. Of course only an idiot would do that. Fortunately I happen to know how to fix it. Find an empty part of the Navigation Toolbar (just to the right of the address bar works) and right click. That will bring up the toolbar menu and you just click the box by Menubar.

Tiny Menu does the same thing, but I haven't tried it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Google Bookmarks in Firefox

Using your Google Bookmarks is a lot more convenient with some Firefox add-ons.

If you haven't tried them, Google Bookmarks are always available online as part of your Google account. They're also integrated into Google Notes. That makes them handy for citing stuff you grab from the web.

The Firefox extensions let you keep your Google Bookmarks as handy as regular bookmarks in your browser. I've tried three third-party extensions as well as the official Google Bookmark button. They're all usesul.

Folders? Subfolders?
The third-party extensions enhance what Google offers by adding folders and subfolders.

Google Bookmarks doesn't do folders -- it does labels (or tags). Initially Gmail only offered tags too, but the big G bowed to public pressure and switched to folders. The extensions do that same thing for bookmarks by adding a virtual folders system.

I say virtual because, when you're using the extension to browse your bookmarks, it looks for all the world like they're in folders and subfolders. But if you go the the regular Google Bookmarks site you don't see folders -- you just see labels. Some labels are just: Label. Other labels are Label/Sublabel. The extensions turn the Label/Sublabel into folders and subfolder.

Deng Google Bookmarks
Deng Google Bookmarks puts the Google Favorite star on your menu bar with a drop-down menu. Clicking it drops down all of your Google Bookmarks, plus links for managing, adding, reloading your bookmarks, and going to your Google Bookmarks page.

The bookmarks drop down as folders. Putting your cursor on one of the folders either reveals the bookmarks in the folder, or reveals subfolders, or both.

The Deng options panel lets you enter your Gmail address and password so it can log in to get your bookmarks.

GBookmarks puts a dropdown menu on the Firefox menu bar and drops down your bookmarks in folders and subfolders, just like Deng.

Once you put in your Gmail address and password, you can select an option to have GBookmarks log into your bookmarks account as soon as you open Firefox. Otherwise it logs in the first time you click on the menu.

You can also have GBookmarks your bookmarks by date or title, and you can use the extension to import your Firefox bookmarks into Google.

Gmarks is the slickest and most adaptable of the extensions. At first glance, it looks like pure Google Bookmarks. When you click on the Gmarks menu, it drops down a list of your bookmarks by label. Some of the labels have "nested" labels within them. It's the Folder/Subfolder deal using Google terminology.

When you add a bookmark, it offers you the standard Google options: label and notes. To add a bookmark with a nested label, you put the label in this format: Label>Sublabel.

It's Organize Bookmarks box lets you change the name, change the url and add or delete a label. It doesn't offer virtual folders and subfolders, it gives you Google Bookmarks with labels the way Google intended.

Gmarks options menu lets you sort your bookmarks three ways:
  • Title
  • Date
  • Number of visits to a site
It pulls the number of times you've visited a site from your Firefox history.

You can make a list of labels you don't want to show up on the dropdown menu. You can also make a default label that's applied to unlabeled bookmarks. Or, more accurately, bookmarks that would have been unlabeled were it not for the unlabeled bookmark label. Gmail also lets you select any key to open up a Search Bookmarks bar. Once you've selected a key, you just tap it twice and the search bar pop open.

Display options let you put at the top of your list labels for the most recent and most used bookmarks. The bookmarks show up as nested labels.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ubuntu Keyboard Problem

Lost the use of my Shift keys -- both of them. The odd thing is that Caps Lock still worked fine. Turned out to be a Compiz issue. Went to:
System > Preferences > Appearance > Visual Effects
Selected "None" and both Shift keys started working again. (Notice the appropriate use of capital letters). It's not an elegant solution because I'm living without Compiz (but surviving). If you'd like to keep Compiz and the use of your Shift keys, take a look at this. I haven't tried it yet.

If neither of those things work, you can try this.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

No Room to Move

Here's a strange problem. I moved the panel that I usually have at the top of my screen to the left side of the screen and couldn't move it back. The panel is the bar across the top (or wherever) that holds menus, icons, the date, etc. Moving it panel is usually easy. So easy that I moved it by accident. You just grab an empty spot on the panel and drag it to where you want it. If you can.

With the panel on the left side of the screen there wasn't enough room for all of the items I have on it. Some of the icons disappeared. It turned out they were just so scrunched up that they overlapped. I click on Applications to get the drop down menu and Firefox opened. Turns out the Firefox icon was under the "cati" of Applications. Tomboy was under the "A" and OpenOffice was in between. To get the drop-down menu I had to click on the very end of the word. More amusing than irritating, until I tried to move the panel back to the top of the screen.

There was no empty space on the panel to grab it. I moved the cursor in minute increments between items and never found a gap.

Here's the solution: edit the xml file that holds the panel configuration.


Home (Select View > Show Hidden Files) > .gconf > apps > panels > toplevels > %gconf.xml.

You can open it with the text editor. If you want to do it from the command line:

sudo gedit /home/.gconf/panels/toplevels/%gconf.xml

Find this entry:


Change the stringvalue "bottom" to "top", or whatever is appropriate, save the file and restart X with Ctrl + Alt + Backspace.

While you're getting to %gconf.xml you notice all of the other xml files that control the panels if you want to mess around with them.