Web browser hacks

Castor oil for your webs—ts


Which browser?

Firefox

A good default option. Functional. The host organisation Mozilla makes a reasonable attempt at arguing for user interests. AFAICS this only sometimes comes into conflict with the interests of their funding model. This is my default browser.

Chromium

Chromium is the open source part of the Google Chrome browser. It’s missing some google widgets and sync technology, but also probably spies on you less.

Google Chrome

The closed-source version of the Chromium project. Chrome is making changes that seem likely to sap autonomy and give advertisers your data, and it does suspicious user tracking. On the other hand, it has some cool extensions that I like to use and is a dominant standard.

Chrome is sometime (but not always) subject to the same odd emoji quirk as Brave, below.

Brave

Left field entrant, hyped upstart Brave attempts to block the conventional ad economy and privacy nonsense and replace it with cryptocurrency-backed privacy-compatible advertising. It seems to be largely Google Chrome compatible, supporting most of the same plugins etc. It claims blocking the tracking economy overhead makes it faster. Using it is smooth so far.

Weird quirk: on linux after each upgrade the emoji break in subtly different ways. Sometimes it helps to reinstall color emoji

sudo apt-get reinstall fonts-noto-color-emoji

Sometimes it helps to remove the outdated Unicode 9.0 symbola font

sudo apt-get remove font-symbola

Some XML config may make the problem go away.

Safari

Safari is also a thing, although AFAICT it is a force on Apple mobile devices only.

Attention management

See blocking distractions.

Backspace for backspace not back-one-page

What an awful shortcut. In Firefox

You can set the Integer pref browser.backspace_action to 2 on the about:config page to disable the backspace action

In Chrome AFAICT this is no longer necessary. They disabled backspace navigation since it appears to be causing frequent data loss relative to intentional use. There is an extension to disable the shortcut if you are on an old version of Chrome.

Privacy

Various privacy-related tweaks are advisable. See browsing confidentially.

Style customisation

You want your internet your way, right? I seem to remember that being part of the original promise of CSS, although in practice it has been tedious and difficult to enact that for various reasons. There is a community of people living this dream despite the obstacles. They use browser extensions Stylus and (See also xstyle which eases using these styles automatically. These are the products of a DIY punk web-styling community who maintain a standard called usercss. Styles can be found on the polished but spyware-tarnished userstyles.org or in repositories online e.g. github userstyles.

If the interface for Stylus seems clunky it is because it was forked from an older version called called Stylish that seemed to be a de-facto standard for this. Stylish was found to be spying in a sordid way and this AFAICT continues. Beware.

Searches

Chrome magically supports the search option on almost any site that searches via the tab to search feature.

Firefox eschews this for a manual search installation on a per-site basis. It is particularly difficult to get Google Scholar search in Firefox, although not impossible, because it is missing the XML document that describes how to search.

One can, e.g. load the following XML search description document into Firefox.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">
    <ShortName>Google Scholar</ShortName>
    <Description>
        Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly
        search for scholarly literature.
    </Description>
    <Tags>Google scholar academic</Tags>
    <AdultContent>false</AdultContent>
    <Image height="16" width="16"
        type="image/vnd.microsoft.icon">
        http://etienne.gaudrain.eu/opensearch/scholar_16x16.ico
    </Image>
    <Image height="32" width="32"
        type="image/vnd.microsoft.icon">
        http://etienne.gaudrain.eu/opensearch/scholar_32x32.ico
    </Image>
    <Url
        type="text/html"
        template="http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q={searchTerms}"/>
</OpenSearchDescription>

State management

Organising windows/tabs/bookmarks and possibly even syncing tabs/booksmarks/history/etc across devices.

Worldbrain Memex is a browser note-taking assistant which does fancy version of this.

For now I’m just synchronising groups of tabs. Ideally I would like an extension that that synchronises across all the browsers I use, i.e. mobile Safari, Firefox, Chrome.

I started with One Tab:

Whenever you find yourself with too many tabs, click the OneTab icon to convert all of your tabs into a list. When you need to access the tabs again, you can either restore them individually or all at once.

Sadly it’s closed-source abandonware. There are competitors, such as better-onetab, (Chrome/Firefox) and tabs-aside, which are also open source. I like better-onetab, which I have turned into a cross-browser sync via exporting to files and using file sync, so I gave the extension’s creator money.

A commercial option (free for beta) is : Toby. Looks neat but I wonder how much one should trust them with such intimate data as what you are browsing?

Password managers

You need a password manager. Get one. It’s free and quick.

Automation

See browser automation.

Misc

Tamperchrome — edit the requests that a browser makes. Super nerdy.

Viewimage fixes google search.

Miscellaneous Chrome command line switches.