text-only browsing in Firefox
June 5, 2015 4:53 AM   Subscribe

Is there an extension or some setting in Firefox (e.g. in about:config) I can activate so that only text loads by default as I browse?

Ideally this would give me the option to click on the space where an image or a video sits, to activate it. But really the main requirement is what I wrote in the question above.

The motivation here is to minimise the amount of data it takes to load a page. I'm currently on a tight budget, and am trying to stretch what I've got. I noticed that when I opened, say, the Vimeo homepage, it chewed through about 100 MB in a couple of seconds as the page loaded (the MetaFilter homepage, by comparison, only asked for 0.3 MB). That made me realise that even when I'm not pressing play on videos or looking at images, many webpages are still gouging away at my data.
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
An extension for firefox like: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/image-block/ could do this for you.
posted by nickggully at 5:48 AM on June 5, 2015

I did try that extension, but it doesn't work for me - images still load, even having cleared the cache. All it does is toggle the permissions.default.image value from 1 to 2, which for some reason in the current version of Firefox (38.0.5) has no effect. I also tried setting the value to 0 and 3, but without the desired outcome.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 6:21 AM on June 5, 2015

I have this extension (for web development work) and it will do what you want: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/web-developer/

It adds a cog button with a dropdown to your Firefox toolbar. In the dropdown, choose Images > Disable Images > Disable All Images

As long as that option is checked, images will be disabled in all web pages you open after that. I've just tested it on a few sites and have not found any exceptions.

Unfortunately, it doesn't have the option to selectively show images.

For videos, you may want to activate Firefox's option to make Flash not load by default. Go to about:addons (Plugins tab) and set Shockwave Flash to "Ask to Activate".
posted by snarfois at 8:26 AM on June 5, 2015

Chrome has this as a built-in feature. Check under Settings → Privacy | Content Settings → Images → Do not show any images. You can then whitelist specific websites in an exception list. In that same Content Settings pop up you can disable plugins (video), JavaScript, Media (like webcam), and a whole host of other features.

I recall this also being a feature built in to Firefox, but I don't have it installed to check. After a quick Google I found How to disable images in firefox | Firefox Support Forum | Mozilla Support, which has a more arcane (but not appreciably more complicated) set of instructions.
posted by books for weapons at 8:37 AM on June 5, 2015

Try uMatrix.

Make the global scope (*) deny by default all the crap you don't want (image, plugin, frame, etc), and whitelist by site/domain/globally (eg metafilter.com) what you need.

Ask in this thread if you need help troubleshooting something.
posted by Bangaioh at 8:38 AM on June 5, 2015

I should have warned about this in my first reply: be aware that by default the uMatrix global scope will allow all image requests regardless of source/destination and also all first party requests. This means requests of any type from example.com to example.com will be allowed by default, and image requests from example.com to any domain will also be allowed. You don't want that.

You will need to explicitly change the * * image allow rule to * * image block in the uMatrix dashboard. A simple way to accomplish this is by clicking the image box on the top row of the global scope to make it dark red (always deny unless explicitly whitelisted) instead of the default dark green (always allow unless explicitly blacklisted). Same goes for frames and plugins if you want to always block those as well (you probably do).

These screenshots give an idea of what I'm talking about, although you definitely do not want your configuration to be like that. Your image column needs to look like the cookie column in that example.
posted by Bangaioh at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2015

Thanks for the suggestions.

uMatrix seems somewhat beyond my technical abilities, so I haven't given it a try.

I installed Web Developer, but the results were the same as for Image Block - not all images are blocked. For example, if I open the Wikipedia homepage, the logo in the top left-hand corner has disappeared, but the images throughout the rest of the page are still visible.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 7:03 PM on June 5, 2015

I use the Firefox extension 'ImgLikeOpera', which seems to work for images - but I don't know about video, so might not suit you completely. Also, I'm running a rather old version of firefox so don't know if the extension is updated for the current version.

I like the flexibility that ImgLikeOpera gives with changeable default settings and the ability to change settings for each tab.
posted by Lebannen at 11:06 PM on June 5, 2015

uMatrix seems somewhat beyond my technical abilities, so I haven't given it a try.

Effectively saving bandwidth by blocking things will always cause some grief, I've just done some testing and noticed that some forums require images for some navigation functions like jumping to the first unread post in a thread. There's no escaping some fine-grained management for some sites.

I've tested the current Wikipedia front page as instructed here and it loads with no images as it should. Actually, even clicking some of the images won't immediately load them, you need to middle-click them into a new tab and from there open one of the direct links.

If you decide to give uMatrix a shot, this is the test config I used:

matrix-off: about-scheme true
matrix-off: behind-the-scene true
matrix-off: chrome-extension-scheme true
matrix-off: chrome-scheme true
matrix-off: localhost true
matrix-off: opera-scheme true
* * * block
* * css allow
* * frame block
* * image block
* * other block
* * plugin block
* * script allow
* * xhr block
* 1st-party * allow

Install the extension, click its icon in the URL bar then the header with the version number to be taken to the dashboard. Go to the My rules tab, click Edit, erase all existing rules and paste the ruleset above, then click Save and Commit.

You should also activate all options in the Hosts files tab, you it will prevent a lot of crap from loading without any effort on your part.

I've opted to allow all scripts to save headaches and because it might be easier to manage them with a dedicated script blocker like NoScript. Notably, for both Wikipedia and MetaFilter, CSS and scripts are the majority of loaded data so you may wish to reconsider that and allow on a case by case basis.

If a site is giving you trouble and you can't be bothered to figure it out and are willing to let it load everything, click the uMatrix icon and toggle blocking off temporarily and reload the page. Temporary changes are reverted when restarting the browser or clicking the eraser icon.
posted by Bangaioh at 7:42 AM on June 6, 2015

Thanks for all your detailed help, Bangaioh. Even if uMatrix isn't for me, hopefully your notes will be helpful for others tackling the same problem.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 8:42 PM on June 6, 2015

I was quite surprised that Wikipedia was an exception. It appears they are using a cutting-edge technique for offering different images depending on your screen resolution (using srcset), and looks like the Web Developer Extension does not yet allow for this. I don't think you'll find many websites using this technique yet, but you happened to test on one of the few that does.
posted by snarfois at 1:52 AM on June 8, 2015

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