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How to Make Firefox 4 Look Like Firefox 3

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After upgrading Firefox 3 to version 4, when you first launch the new release the interface is drastically different. If you find you are more partial to the Firefox 3 interface, with a few configuration changes, you can easily make Firefox 4 look like its predecessor.

Note: we’re using the Windows classic interface in many of the screenshots, but it works the same in Windows 7 with Aero enabled.

The Model

Odds are you have probably have changed the default interface a bit, however we are going to use the “out of the box” Firefox 3 interface as our model.

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The Starting Point

We are going to start with the “out of the box” interface of Firefox 4. We have to make several changes to mimic the Firefox 3 look:

  • Move the URL above the tabs
  • Bring back the menus
  • Bring back the bookmarks strip
  • Re-organize the address strip
  • Bring back the add-on/status bar

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Configuring the Top

The first thing we need to do is change the URL bar location and the enable the tool strips that are turned off by by default in Firefox 4. Thankfully, we can easily make these changes within a context menu accessible by right-clicking in the empty space next to the active tabs.

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Move the URL Above the Tabs

Uncheck the “Tabs on Top” option.

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Bring Back the Menus

Check the “Menu Bar” option.

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Bring Back the Bookmarks Strip

Check the “Bookmarks Toolbar” option.

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Re-organize the Address Strip

Select the “Customize” option.

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We don’t actually have to add anything from the customize dialog box, simply drag the refresh, stop and home buttons to their respective Firefox 3 locations.

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Click Done in customize dialog when finished.

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Configuring the Bottom

Now that the top is in place, we turn our attention to restoring the add-on/status bar.

Bring Back the Add-on/Status Bar

Check the “Add-on Bar” option.

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This restores the add-on bar, but it doesn’t behave the way Firefox 3 does. For example, links you hover your mouse over will still show the target URL in a popup in the bottom left above the status bar. So to restore the Firefox 3 behavior we need the help of the Status-4-Evar add-on.

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Once installed, configure the options by going to Tools > Add-ons and then click the blue puzzle piece icon. Find the Status-4-Evar entry and click the Options button.

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In the Progress section, uncheck the “Show progress in the location bar” status.

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In the Download section, select Both in the “Download status button text” option.

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Apply your changes.

The Finished Product

While not an exact mirror image, it’s pretty darn close, in XP and the classic view.

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If you’re using Windows 7 or Vista, you’ll see something that looks like this, which isn’t quite right:

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What you can do, however, is install one of a number of Personas for Firefox, which will disable the Aero effects on the top. For instance, there’s OS Integration or Minimalist, or even Default.  Once you’ve enabled one of those, Firefox will look like this:

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That’s pretty close to what Firefox 3 looked like.

Download Status-4-Evar add-on for Firefox 4

Jason Faulkner is a developer and IT professional who never has a hot cup of coffee far away. Interact with him on Google+

  • Published 04/6/11

Comments (46)

  1. JIm

    I just don’t understand the whole FF4 thing. Why would they take so much time and energy to make their browser look more like IE? I’m staying on 3.x as long as possible.

  2. arahman87

    They are not modelling FF4 after IE, it’s Chrome they’re taking clues from.

  3. jon_hill987

    This was the first thing I did after upgrading last week. I hate the minimalist interface that Chrome has mad popular.

  4. Matthew

    . . . and reapply ‘Littlefox’ under Appearance ‘cuz I need all the space I can get. Cheers.

  5. Michael

    I believe FF4 mimics Opera more than any other browser for its major interface lift. There are minor elements that you can definitely see in IE and Chrome though. Overall, it just feels like a mixture of the other 3 major browsers. There is nothing to distinguish itself from a UI perspective anymore. I’m not saying I like IE9, but at least Microsoft did something different with it that hasn’t been done before. Firefox did not.

  6. Tim

    I personally really enjoy FF4 new look, but you can never satisfy everyone.

  7. Cambo

    I actually like the new layout…and love Chrome’s as well. Less of my screen is taken up by junk I never use… (i.e. Help/View/History).

    Unfortunately the downfall for Firefox is still it’s memory leaking add-ons. It’s better with FF4, but keep it open for a few hours straight and watch your memory usage climb and machine performance fall.

  8. Vilhelm

    I would recommend another interface in Firefox 4.0 to you:

    1. Tabs on top (of the window).
    2. Show always tab bar (in Tools, Options, Tabs).
    3. Hide menu bar (use Alt to access it temporary).
    4. Show or hide your other toolbars as you wish (I prefer to show the bookmarks bar – with several folders – and hide the Google toolbar).
    5. You can draw some Firefox and Google toolbar icons to the left of tabs bar.
    6. If you wish, you can customise (move, remove and add) FF icons and Google toolbar icons and search bar at the navigation toolbar

  9. Woot

    Dude, why would you even do that? Look at how much space it’s sucking!! Oh, my Goddess!

  10. Anon

    I don’t understand why they went backwards on the UI of FF4. I don’t know why Chrome & Opera has similar features. But as to old school Firefox users, What do we use most out of Firefox? [TABS]. Why in “you know who’s name” would they put the most active tool further from reach than it was? Even if there is an option move them on bottom of URL bar.

    I said I would never use FF4, but I went at it for a few weeks and here is my FF4, as close as I can get it to look like how I had my FF3.6. After the customization FF4 is worth it.

    http://i.imgur.com/7CJuP.png

  11. Flyte

    Yeah, that’s a bit of a waste of time and screen space. FF4′s new layout is much better for 16:9 displays where vertical space is at a premium.

  12. Lucky

    Thanks for the tip. I, however really like the FF4 interface. I have actually just changed my default browser to FF4 and the new interface is one of the reasons why. I can imagine some people just have a hard time with change. I’m one of them. I really liked the IE 8 interface and really hate IE 9′s. I guess that’s why I like FF4′s, because it reminds my of IE 8.

  13. BallyIrish

    I turned my Firefox 4 into a Walnut theme dol, and what a blaster it is! It look grand in wood finish.

  14. cam2644

    I like FF4′s interface too much

  15. Doron

    Note that there is actually a firefox 4 theme designed to look like firefox 3.

  16. javabean

    i really hate those commentors that make comments about memory usage….. i am currently running firefox 3.6.16 with 57 tabs open(add-ons Betterprivacy, downthemall, flashblock, flashgot, gtranslate, https-everywhere, noscript, personas, text to voice) all of that is just an un-tarred/uncompressed installer running on Debian Sid…..my hardware is a P4 3.0ghz with hyperthreading and a single gig of ram…. no video card…. and i have an open Comix(basically just a zip file viewer that deals with jpg’s) application showing an 194 page comic….plus battle fo wesnoth game(currently between moves)

    so please, please, PLEASE stop whining about memory problems…… my system is doing just fine…..EVEN Though i am doing things that your not supposed to do!!!!!!

  17. Tom

    There is an old saying: you can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time , but never all the people all the time!

  18. Erin

    Thank you for this. I was really frustrated when I downloaded FF4 to see them try to be like others. The reason I stuck with FF3 was BECAUSE of the differences. There’s two more things, though, that I don’t like and am wondering if you can help with. In FF3 there was a little button beside the back and forward button that let you see all the previous pages. I found this really helpful at times, such as when a page has you stuck and won’t let you back up or when you want to go back several pages at once. I also heavily use the yahoo toolbar but none of my buttons are there and I’ve tried everything to get them back with no success.

    Thanks again!

  19. Pepper

    I’ve had Win 7 for about 2 weeks now, -what a mess change just for the sake of change is what I call it.
    Useless!
    I’ve down loaded a 3rd party start menu.
    New Google Chrome is the same ribbon like look -useless.
    Thank goodness for Sea Monkey same interface as before.
    I note almost all programs are only x86 (32bit) for win 7 anyhow.
    Cheers,
    Pepper 10 Apr2011

  20. Pepper

    Forgot to address FireFox 4:
    Tried it for 3 days & dumped it -useless interface.
    Very time consuming not intuitive at all.
    Thats when I went to SeaMonkey
    Pepper

  21. Jason Faulkner

    @Erin – Right click on the back and forward arrow buttons and your previous site listings will be visible.

  22. cactusdr

    I put FF4 on a Win 7 64-bit machine (primarily because I despise the 64-bit OS) and was really surprised at the increase in speed of Firefox. Had 3.6.10 installed previously. Other than that I truly dislike the “improvements”. FF has lost its individuality with FF4. As other have posted it’s like opening up IE, Opera, Chrome or Iron. Why not call it ExplorerFox?
    Mine is only one opinion and yes, I believe the adage you can’t please everyone 100% of the time, but if they can make all of these changes they can certainly give the option of using either the default look to FF4 or using the 3.x.xx interface.

  23. tommy2rs

    The beauty of Firefox is that you get to make it what you want it to be. Hate the default look, change it to what YOU like. Want ten miles of crap at the top of your browser? Pile it on! Want to maximize your screen real estate? Get to it!

    Firefox can be everything to everyone, just takes a bit of tweaking. Why else would you be reading How To Geek if you don’t want to learn How To? Quit whining and get to tweaking.

  24. WilliamLX

    I hate the new interface in FF4. The feature I would use very frquently are my bookmarks. With FF4 you have an extra step to get to these. Minimalist is ok until it gets in the way of usability. For the same reason I do not like Chrome – where are all the basic navigation tools??????

  25. Mike

    They moved backwards on this release, what a headache.

    So we have to spend 5 minutes to make it as usable as the last version- that’s pure fail.

    Maybe if they like google so much, they should just go marry it.

  26. chokchai

    As someone said, you can’t satisfy everyone. I love the new interface, and can’t understand why anyone would want to waste five lines of real estate when with FF4 you only need three!

  27. kiran

    How to get the “history” in the back/forward buttons. Nobody seems to have answered that. The little drop down near the back/forward buttons allowed you to navigate to any page in the history. Not anymore with FF4.

  28. Jason Faulkner

    @kiran – Right click on the back/forward buttons.

  29. Claudio P.

    I tried it while it was still in beta for… say – 5 seconds.
    I reverted back to 3.x asap.
    I don’t need a Firefox looking like Chrome. If I have to use Chrome, I use Chrome.
    I like my Firefox to be Firefox.

    So I will stay with 3.x as long as I can, but MANY thanks for those tips. ;)

  30. Mary K.

    Great article. I was about to switch back to FF 3 until I found this.

  31. walt

    OK, except all those little icons on the bookmarks bar take up precious space. I depend on this bar to rapidly switch between sites that I use constantly or need immediate access to. The little hieroglyphics take up space, contribute little to nothing (the internal file htmls show up as a disk drive all the same) forcing bookmarks into the overflow section.

    If Mozilla was so concerned about screen real estate, then why add meaningless hieroglyphics to take up critical space on an important navigation tool? There is a reason we no longer speak and write Phoenician.

    I’m lobbying to spawn a Firefox 3.6 branch onto Sorceforge so we can maintain firefox3 as an independent, unique and productive tool. Any thoughts? It’s GPL’d and the source code is available as open source.

  32. Robert C

    Big warning flash to Mozilla: don’t EVER do that again.

    I switched to Google Chrome only to discover it is far worse. Was about to look into Opera and even Safari.

    Thank you for the tips on this site. The Firefox 3 theme and Stratiform add-on were key. However, I should not have had to do all of that in the first place.

    #1) The entire world is not using a smartphone. I am a website designer with a large flatscreen monitor. I want menus

    #2) If you screw people over with an update and make it too hard for them to go back to what they liked, they will leave you. Case in point: Microsoft IE

    #3) Removing options is stupid (more applicable to Google Chrome). Making them obscure is worse. We are stuck with MS Office because we have no other viable choice. Web browsers are not in that same category.

  33. wtf

    thanks firefox i thought you were the sh*t now i have to go thru this long ass process just to get my interface back?!?!?!? and i have to do this on every f**king machine …

    a big f**k you to mozilla if i wanted this s**tty interface i would use chrome

  34. Lee Hughes

    Still don’t get it. i want that ugly light blue solid background around the toolbar to go aero, how do i do that?

  35. jason

    Chrome – I simply don’t trust google, nor do I trust bloatware spyware masters Microsoft so I am stuck with Mozilla, who are hell bent on being as light weight, minimalistic as possible.

    This might sound a good deal until you realize that the browser as significant problems under the hood, such as cpu eatage as I call it. The bug is still be analyzed and and a fix incoming soon.

    That said reading through one or two replies. I think some people have lost the whole point of why Mozilla went with the minimalist look. It was not because Bloatware meister M$ IE 7,8,9 was stream lined and it pissed all over firefox for practically every single test performed, especially IE 9. It’s because it’s chic and fashionable to be as slim lined as possible.

    The trouble is people are like sheep, if one tells mozilla they want minimalist everyone else follows without even having read the actual question poll in the first place…so ergo before we know it, we are stuck with an anemic browser that is more reminicent of IE and Chrome than it is FF. The old FF was a huge resource eater. If you Left the browser open too long and the resource usage went through the roof, 100% cpu usage, and ironically FF 4 inherited the very bad traits of hog dog FF3.

    Mozilla are well known for adding pointless bloatware to it’s products, specifically it’s FF browsers, sounds more like the mouse chasing the cat..coz in my opinion all 3 browsers are as equally as bad as each other.

  36. jason

    I forgot to add, its an illusionment of being stream lined when you hide a ton of bloat behind the interface, and this is where Mozilla fell over..hide the bloat and make it look slim lined people will download it…how gullible we are.

  37. Matt

    Thanks for this. After about the 3rd time I tried to go home or refresh the page and had to stop to find the button I knew I needed this article. Thanks for demystifying configuring the FF4 interface.

  38. User without Interface

    WHY, WHY , WHY IN THE NAME OF GOD, “PROGRAMMERS” CHANGE THE USER INTERFACE IN NEW VERSIONS AS DEFAULT.
    WHY THEY DONT PROVIDE A SIMPLE 1 CLICK BUTTON “PRESS HERE IF YOU WANT THE PREVIOUS USER INTERFACE”
    I DONT WANT TO “LOOK LIKE” , OR “SIMILAR”, WANT THE SAME SIMPLE MAYBE BORING BUT PLEASANT FOR ME USER INTERFACE.

    SAME FOR THE STUPID TASKBAR ON WINDOWS 7, WHICH I PREFER TO HAVE UNDER, NO HIDDEN, OR ALLWAYS VISIBLE, BUT ****UNDER**** MY MAXIMIZED APPLICATION WINDOW .

    (INTENTIONALLY USING UPPERCASE) IM FURIOUS. WITH THIS S***T

  39. napper

    Any when the next FF to have a major UI change comes out everyone will be saying “Bring back my FF4. New stuff is bad, I hate change. Blah blah yadda yadda.”

    Happens every time. The only thing that doesn’t change is the whining.

  40. John

    No, Napper, sometimes you need to go by the simple adage that if something ain’t broke, you don’t “fix” it. I don’t mind that they offer a new interface, as long as they offer you the choice. I learned how to change FF4 back to the classic version in 30 seconds by typing a query into Google, but a lot of computer-illiterate folks wouldn’t think or even know to do that.

    I felt the same way about Windows itself. I run Windows 7, but it basically looks like Windows 2000, because that’s the interface I’m most productive with. Now, not all changes are bad. I didn’t go back to the Windows 3.1 UI when I upgraded to Windows 95, because that was a real improvement. This wannabe Mac nonsense they call “Aero” is not helpful.

    If I want my browser to work like Chrome, I’ll use Chrome. If I want my Windows to work like Mac OS X, I’ll buy a Mac.

  41. Thomasxz

    At https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/performance/

    The show that any add-on add to Start up time and Load time of site, some more than other, and the in Firefox 4 they force the user to use an add-on to get normally behaviour for a web-browser like an status-bar that sick thinking.

    Does any know of an Simple Lightweight browser with an Separate Location and Searchfield and an Statusbar out of the box????

  42. John Johnson

    Thank you, How To Geek! Firefox 3 was messing up so I was forced to download the new Firefox, and this article saved me from being forced to adjust to the “better” interface that Windows is trying so hard to convince programmers to use.

  43. JohnFx

    Great article. I hate the new minimal FF 4.x layout.

  44. Steve

    I hate FF4 minimal layout and will stay with 3.xx unless I follow this how to. If you need more screen real estate then you need a bigger screen. I have a 20″ 16×9 screen and I certainly don’t need more space.

  45. crinklequirk

    Thanks so much for putting this out! At the office our computer guy warned us we’d be getting the Firefox 6 “upgrade” soon, but when it came I found I was unprepared for it. ICK – bad, un-intuitive changes that just stressed me out, like putting the tabs on top. Thankfully, when I looked at the email from the IT guy, he’d included a link to make FF6 look FF3, and it worked beautifully. Thanks again!

  46. Vahkris

    While working on this for my wife, I found another piece that’s missing from this update. The Back/Forward history drop menu.

    A good substitution can be found by loading this add-on:
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/backforward-dropmarker/

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