Where did my status bar go? How to customize Firefox 4’s UI

My favorite feature of Firefox is its ability willingness to be customized into anything I want through third party add-ons and the built-in user interface customization tool. Firefox 4’s main UI is a big change from Firefox 3, and as it gets very close to release, I see many people asking how to change things back to what they had before.

This post walks through how to customize Firefox’s UI to look like Firefox 3, though I ask one thing of everyone reading it: please give the new defaults a chance. They aren’t right for everyone, but a lot of time and research went into how people use Firefox and I think they’re a step in the right direction. I’m making this post because I’d rather see people using Firefox 4 with a few older UI elements than using Firefox 3 and missing out on all the other awesome improvements because of one UI irritation.

Comparison of Firefox 3.6 and Firefox 4 default UIs

Showing, Hiding, and Re-arranging Toolbar Items

Firefox makes it easy to customize toolbar buttons and other UI with its built-in customization dialog. To open it, right click in an empty space of the navigation area and select Customize, or open the View menu, go to Toolbars, and select Customize.

Screenshot of Customize dialog

With this dialog open, you can drag and drop buttons and other widgets into many parts of the UI. Add new buttons by dragging them from the dialog. Remove existing buttons by dragging them to the dialog. Here’s a list of Firefox 4 changes made in the main toolbar that can be reverted with this dialog:

  • Refresh and Stop buttons moved from the left of the location bar to the right.
  • Subscribe (RSS) button removed from the main UI. (see Les Orchard’s post on this for more details)
  • Home button moved from the left of the location bar to the right of the search box.
  • Bookmarks button added to the right of the search box.

Tabs on Bottom

Screenshot of Customize context menuFirefox 4 defaults to showing tabs on top, but it’s easy to change back to tabs on bottom. Bring up the customization menu by right clicking in empty space in the navigation area, or opening the View menu and going to Toolbars. Tabs on Top will already be checked, so just click it again to uncheck it.

Bookmarks Toolbar

The Bookmarks Toolbar is hidden by default in Firefox 4 and replaced with a toolbar button that lets you access all of your bookmarks with a single click. To bring the toolbar back, open the customization menu by right clicking in the empty space in the navigation area or opening the View menu and going to Toolbars. Check the Bookmarks Toolbar item, and the toolbar will appear. You can then remove the bookmarks toolbar button using the Customization dialog, as it’s no longer needed.

Screenshot of tabs on bottom and bookmarks toolbar

Menu Bar (Windows & Linux only)

Windows and Linux users may see the new Firefox menu in the top left instead of the normal File, Edit, etc. menus. You can revert to showing the normal menu bar by opening the customization menu (as described above) and then just click “Menu Bar”.

Screenshot of menu bar

Status Bar

The status bar was removed from Firefox 4 and link hover previews were moved to the location bar. A new toolbar called the Add-on Bar was added that only appears when you have add-ons installed that place items there. The status bar previously showed the page’s loading status and progress, active downloads, and add-ons.

To get the old status bar back, install Status-4-Evar. This will add the status message, progress indicator, and active downloads to your Add-on Bar, just like the old status bar. You can even move them around by opening the customization dialog as described above.

Screenshot of customizing status bar

The After Shot

Here’s what it should look like if you follow all the steps above (though hopefully you won’t follow all of them).

Comparison of Firefox 3.6 default with  Firefox 4 customized UI

Now you can use the Firefox 4 beta without frustration and hopefully learned a few things about customizing Firefox.