Mozilla Discoveries

© Beverly Howard, Austin, Tx, 2004

Mozilla has been my "Browser of Choice" for well over a decade and I end up trying to explain why to so many people that I have decided to put this page together to both make it easier on myself and to provide a more complete listing of it's advantages to anyone who might be interested.

Learn More about the "Mozilla Concept" by Clicking Here.

There are actually a number of Mozilla variants including the Netscape Browsers, that, for the most part are functionally identical.  At the moment, visitors to the above site are being directed to the "FireFox" product that only includes the network browser and does not include an email client and the other benefits of the full Mozilla package that includes browser, email, newsgroup and an excellent basic html editor.

Where "FireFox" is a "browser only" application, Mozilla "Thunderbird" is an email/newsreader only package, so, if you want both, at the moment SeaMonkey is the current incarnation of the "Mozilla Suite" which includes all packages.

Configuring Mozilla
Threads with Unread
Processing just "Your" Threads
Un-Splitting Attachments


Mozilla and it's cousins are currently basking in the glow of their security advantages.  I write this following the week of the "Download.Ject" Internet Explorer compromise that took a week for MS to address.

IE requires users to use a confusing and unclear interface to set security levels where the Mozilla preferences are clear and concise.  Since the EMail client is part of Mozilla, most of those settings flow to your email to reenforce your Mozilla mail security settings.

It's a simple process (Edit/Preferences/Security/Popup) to both block popup windows but to allow specific sites (such as slideshows) to continue to execute popups.

The automatic download problem is handled by simply asking you if you want a file to be downloaded or executed.  If you are smart enough to use Mozilla, you are probably smart enough to say "no" to malicious downloads.


There's a new configuration option in all of the current Mozilla offerings... a new option in the address line.  about:config

While this new feature is valuable, there is very little documentation on the entries other than the value names themselves... tip, copy the value name and google for that rather than running a search on general terms.

The configuration is built into the browser display... when the page comes up, you can change the values on any of the entries as well as add new keys by either double clicking or right clicking on the line of interest.

Apparently, the value will revert to the default if you insert an invalid value.

In my case, I had two great needs...

First, increase the message composition font size which does not change when the Windows general font settings change..


The syntax of the values was the hard part... in my case I needed to change the default of "medium" to "xx-large"

values are small, medium, large, x-large, xx-large

Second, stopping Acrobat from loading when a pdf link is clicked

/ Locate plugins by scanning the Adobe Acrobat installation directory with a minimum version
// pref("plugin.scan.Acrobat", "5.0");
pref("plugin.scan.Acrobat", false);

I did have to edit four files (two "winprefs.js", one "all.js" and "prefs.js") as it appears that one "seeds" another... just not sure which one does what.

The problem turns out that Mozilla (and Netscape) has a "plugin search" feature that not only "finds" the removed plugins, but the search also adds time to pdf loads... a double wammy.

I also changed browser.helperApps.alwaysAsk.force to "false" to enable the "Always Ask" toggle in the helper apps preferences.

user agent tool


On Windows platforms, the "default" newsreader is Outlook Express which my help explain why most of the world avoids using newsgroups.  In a word, Outlook Express stinks.  It is a terrible interface that presents most newsgroups to newcomers in a form that overwhelms them completely with information overload and does so with no tools to deal with that overload.

Mozilla's newsreader uses the same simple interface as the Mozilla Mail client which includes a spell checker and security options (such as no java, prevention of image displays, prevention of hidden downloads, and url execution)  There are a number of "filter" and config options, but I'm only going to dwell on the two features that none of the other newsreaders have that make processing huge numbers of message easily managable.

The Newsreader is part of a full Mozilla Install, but it exists as a Mail/Newsreader client only under the name ThunderBird.

For those with some newsreader experience, you will understand that one of the most powerful options is the ability to set the header display to display "Threads with Unread" where most newsreaders only allow the user to choose between "all" and "unread" messages.

The power of this selection is that while it hides almost all previously read messages, it displays the previously read messages that relate to new postings within old threads so that all of the previously discussed text is instantly accessable.  This feature single handedly renders "quoting" of messages irrevelant... unfortunately, irrelevant only for the Mozilla user who knows about this feature.

The following image and the insert showing the groups current message count begins to display the advantage of this.  Even though there are almost 400 messages in the section, both the current messages headers and those that relate display on one screen that's only 24 lines high.

The top thread is expanded to show that the first message in the thread has already been read but there is a new message related to in that has not been viewed.

Quick Filtering for your Threads

This "threads with unread" filtering opens up another option that allows you to immediately process any threads that you may have participated in no matter how long ago the thread was active.  Clicking on the bars at the top of the header list sorts the headers by that column, so, with "threads with unread" selected, clicking the "Sender" bar allows you to immediately see the current threads that you have participated in previously.

Highlight any of your previous messages and then click the "sort by thread" button on the top bar and any new messages in that thread are immediately visible by the boldface listing.

Once you have read the new messages in a thread, highlight your own message again, re-click the "Sender" bar and you are ready to proceed to your next thread containing new messages.

There Are a Few "Gotcha's"

Nothing's perfect and that includes Mozilla.  The following are a few quirks that you may encounter and how to address them.

IE "Lockout"

You have to face it... most of the current world uses Internet Explorer, and Microsoft has elected to use ActiveX "extensions" within IE that "break" websites when they are visited by users running browsers other than the latest version of Internet Explorer.  Mozilla apparently elected to not use ActiveX extensions because of security issues, so, when a site requires that ActiveX be available to execute what it want's to on your machine, the page breaks.

Fortunately, these pages don't come up that often and most have the opportunity to run an IE session if they absolutely have to get to the page... Best response? ...write the webmaster and the company management and tell them you can't access the page.

A couple of solutions have appeared recently.  The first is a "User Agent" plugin  Installing this adds the ability to select IE as what is "reported" to the page you are visiting... if a page fails to load or gives you the "gotta have IE!" message, use this, click reload and my experience has shown that about 80% of these pages will do fine with Mozilla.

One of the bonuses of this plugin was the ability to add an entry for the PocketPC user agent string.  This has been valuable to be able to see how pages will render when I am using a PocketPC when mobile.

For those that do not, there is another plugin that offers the option to simply open the current page by launching IE directly to that page.

One "gotcha" about the User Agent plugin!

A few days after I spoofed IE, I rebooted the computer, having forgotten to revert the user agent.  When Mozilla started I got a message stating that  I shouldn't use the Mozilla Java plugin with IE... Took me a few starts for it to dawn that nothing had happened to the plugin, but that Mozilla was reporting itself as IE via the User Agent string on startup.

The User Agent Plugin is supposed to "revert" to "default" when Mozilla is shutdown and restarted, but was not doing so.  Manually resetting it cured the Java message.

Subject/Sender Searches Impact the Filter Settings

Mozilla has a fast "filter" option at the top of the message header list that allows you to enter a "string" that may be in the message sender's address or the subject line which instantly filters the messages down to only those with that string... very nice, very usable, very powerful.

However... this search option works on "all messages" and when you type anything in this box the results are from all message and not the current filter view.

If you mark one of the messages from the above search as "unread" to expose it when you click "clear" the newly marked message will not appear under the current tread view.

Solution, simply re-select the "View/Threads with Unread" option.

Attachment Splitting

Many Newsgroups impose a limit on attachment size and posters may use "attachment splitting" to upload files larger than the limit imposed on the group, and, while some newsreaders support attachment splitting and reassembly, Mozilla does not.

Been running a manual process to combine split file attachments received via Mozilla/Thunderbird mail for some time, but knew there had to be an easier way... turned out there is...

A Google search turned up

Ed's discovery "trick" is that while Mozilla does not save multiple message files, it "stores" multiple messages in a single file even though Mozilla refers to these files as a "folders"

Here's a slightly modified version of the process shown on Ed's page to set up an easy way to run repeating multi message decodes with minimum Mozilla effort;

Someone who read the above multipost decode steps was put off by the "number of hoops to jump through"  

While the above steps may seem intimidating, once setup, UUDeView retains the previous settings, so it is actually a simple process to repeat when necessary.

Ed also has a suggestion to simply find the Mime.uue using file explorer and <double-click> it which will open it in UUDeView because of the "file" extension.

An expansion on Ed's approach is to create a shortcut to the
Mime.uue file and put it on the desktop.  You can get to it even faster if you assign the shortcut a "hotkey"

UUDeview also has a command line option so the process can be automated if you need to use it regularly.

Create a shortcut to call UUDeview with the decode arguments on the shortcut's command line.

In my case, the UUDeView command line (almost straight out of the help file) is;

<drive-path>\Uud32 /d "<drive-PathToMozillaLocalFolder>\Mime.uue" /p c:\download /o ov /g

Another twist is that it turns out that there are different mail/news client approaches to "splitting attachments"  The above will work 99% of the time but not always.  In many cases when the above conversion doesn't succeed with a full decode, UUDeView creates a series of multiple decoded files named "0001.TXT" etc.

Ironically, these incomplete files can be decoded completely by simply running UUDeView again on these .txt files, so, I created a second shortcut containing;

C:\Apps\UUDeview\Uud32.exe /d "C:\Download\000?.txt" /p c:\download /o ov /gg

 ....which, when run immediately after any decode failure, almost always results in a successful decode.

After marking the messages containing split attachments to decode within the newsreader window press;


These are the Mozilla/Thunderbird keyboard shortcuts to bypass your mouse to copy the files to the mime folder... assuming you don't have other folders beginning with "L" or "M"

Then launch the first shortcut above... tip, assign a hotkey to the shortcut if you are going to use it often.

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