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Since 22.09.2001

Updated 23.02.2002

The Merry Amateur's Mozilla FAQ

A tiny end-user FAQ about Mozilla on Linux. The new generation web-browser from is used as basis for Netscape v.6.

 How do I install Mozilla ?

There are several ways. Here is how you can install an official "tarball".

1: Get a build
A stabilized “Milestone release”, like Mozilla 1.1, or a nightly (frequently uploaded test-builds with all the brand new fixes and bugs.) The files are around 10MB

2: Unpack it
Open an xterm or similar, cd to where you downloaded the file, and:

tar -zxvf mozilla-i686-pc-linux-gnu-sea.tar.gz

Content unpacks to a subdirectory called mozilla-installer

3: Run the installer

cd mozilla-installer

Always keep mozilla in a separate directory. Do NOT change default install location /usr/local/mozilla unless you know what you do. If you install to /usr/bin the next installation will delete your whole bin directory. Yes, it's a bug.

If you customize: Keep the PSM module (Personal Security Manager) if you use secure pages like webshops, yahoo mail and online banking. PSM is the crypto part of Mozilla.

When selections are done, click “Install”. Installer extracts required files to the chosen directory and then runs Mozilla for the first time.

4: Initiate/register installed components

Still as root, Mozilla running: Start Composer and MailNews once (if installed). There is no need to create a mail account: Just cancel the account wizard if you don't want to create a mail-account for root.
When this is done: QUIT Mozilla (File -> Quit). You are ready to start Mozilla for the first time as your own private user.

5: For ease of use: Add Mozilla to your path
If you use bash as a login shell, add Mozilla to path by adding :/usr/local/mozilla to the end of the PATH statements in your local .bash_profile

Next time you log in and start X, this path is included and you can start Mozilla from an xterm by simply writing mozilla &

Untill path is set you can start it with

cd /usr/local/mozilla
./mozilla &

 Tricks and treats..

Mozilla is still in development towards version 1. Now and then basic syntax may change. On those occations it's beneficial, or even required, to create a new profile when you install. That can be a lot of tedious work however, so personally I "fake" a new profile instead, keeping my old profile directory and most files there intact.

Some steps to fake a clean profile are:

1: Delete possibly outdated "system" files:
Only a few key files normally need to be deleted / recreated when choosing this "workaround" approach. Before deleting any of these system files, always quit mozilla. The files I delete to fake a new profile are:

localstore.rdf: ~/.mozilla/Default User/<something>/localstore.rdf
XUL.mfasl: ~/.mozilla/Default User/<something>/XUL.mfasl
appreg: ~/.mozilla/appreg

and on the odd occation:

component.reg: /usr/local/mozilla/component.reg

You can find more about the various files in your profile directory at Henrik Gemal's Mozilla pages. Note: Some filenames vary since the page is primarily based on MSWindows.

2: Change to a default theme:
Before installing a new milestone: Change to one of the default themes (Classic or Modern). Theme syntax may have changed between versions. If your profile use an external theme, it may have become incompatible in between releases. In worst case an outdated theme can leave parts of windows invisible.

Consequences of deleting...

If localstore.rdf is missing on startup, a default version of it is created. Various browser appearance settings get a little confused then, some no longer in harmony with your settings in prefs.js. Your mailnews settings for columns to display are also forgotten, so you must de-select those you don't want displayed there.

To reset browser appearances: Start Mozilla, open File/Preferences. Check ALL the buttons you can possibly add to the interface under "Navigator", and click OK.
Now open preferences AGAIN. Uncheck all you don't want displayed, and click OK.

Deleting XUL.mfasl doesn't cause any havoc. It's a "fastloader" for XUL. Iif the file is missing, it is simply recreated on next startup.

Appreg contain information about (amongst others) your plugins. A bug causes it to increment after a new version install. This normally doesn't do any harm, but the file can grow huge over time if you're an eager beta-tester. I get suspicious when  this file is over 30K. (Bug 109739)

Deleting appreg is slightly tricky. After deletion, Mozilla loose track of your profile on the next startup. But fear not: In order to revive the old existing profile:
-Start Mozilla (Mozilla spawns the profile manager on next startup after a appreg deletion, believing there are no profiles)
-Now click the button marked "Manage Profiles"
-In the next window, click "Create Profile..."
-In the popup, click "Next" button
-and under "Enter New Profile Name" add the exact name of your OLD profile directory (found right under ~/.mozilla). This is by default called "Default Profile".
-Then click the "Finish" button and then button labeled "Start Mozilla"

Mozilla now starts up with your old "Default Profile", creates a fresh appreg, and live happily ever after.

Deleting component.reg is never required if you use the installer and allow it to delete all in /usr/local/mozilla before a new installation.

Deleting it is only relevant to those who do NOT use the installer, but merely unpack mozilla to a directory where files already exist. In this case (and also when you build it yourself) component.reg might grow old and outdated over time. This is the situation that might become a problem, and is mended by deleting the file and allowing it to regenerate automatically. (Read: "fix version mismatch")

-If you for some reason need to delete component.reg manually when Mozilla is installed in a root-owned directory: Start mozilla and components once as root afterwards (before starting as regular user) in order to re-initiate the registration of installed components in component.reg.

-If you have component.reg in a directory you are owner of: Quit moz, delete the file, restart moz, and that's all there's to it. The file recreates and takes care of itself from there on.

Other files
Other files it is safe to delete to clean things up "when in doubt" are the *.msf files in your mail directories. (~/.mozilla/Default/<salt>/Mail/mailaccount/*.msf). Again: Quit Mozilla before deleting anything. The .msf files are indexing files corresponding to each their real mailfolder, and are recreated on next startup if missing.

 How do I change the date-format in Mail ?

Mozilla will use what your locale is set to. To list it, write “locale” in an xterm. The particular environment variable deciding date format is LC_TIME. If "LC_TIME="en_US" is set, MailNews will show the American syntax of Month/Day/Year. If you want the british Day/Month/Year, add this to your .bashrc (provided you use bash as your login shell)

export LC_TIME="en_GB"

Or, if you want to do it strictly correct and are in Norway (where the same date format is used)

export LC_TIME="no_NO"

The next time you start Mozilla where the new variable is set, dates in MailNews will display accordingly. To list all available locale variables: locale -a

 Add dates to body in mail-replies

There is a preference with three possible variables for this. No UI yet - this must be added manually. An interface for this in preferences is bug 107884 .
Here are some headers you can add manually for now:

0 = No reply header at all
1 = "<author> wrote:"
2 = "On <date> <author> wrote:"
3 = "<author> wrote On <date>:"


user_pref("mailnews.reply_header_type", 2);

 Can Mozilla play wav's when new mail arrive?

Not in the current nightly builds. The feature is being re-coded: Bug 104174.

The old method still works in the 0.9.5 release however: Add this in your prefs.js (or user.js) and let the path be a valid path to a wav-file:

user_pref("mail.biff.sound_file", "/home/dark/fem-mail.wav");
user_pref("mail.biff.use_default_sound", false);

 Wheel-scrolling.. does it work?

NS4 needed some additional tweaking to wheelscroll, but Mozilla scrolls like a dream if X is set up right. Here a setup for a PS/2 Logitech Pilot wheelmouse under XFree86 v.4.0.1 as found in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Mouse0"
Driver "mouse"
Option "Device" "/dev/mouse"
Option "Protocol" "IMPS/2"
Option "Emulate3Buttons" "off"
Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"

Wheeling magic is done by the ZAxisMapping. If the mouse behaves erratic: Note the Protocol option.

 Open link in new window often paste to URL-bar..

A typical wheel-mouse accident. NC4.* disallow scrolling while button is pressed, but Mozilla will happily slide, paste and send you off on new adventures. To avoid it: Disable the feature that allows pasting URLs while over content-area. Add this to prefs.js (or user.js). Exit Mozilla before modifying the file:

user_pref("middlemouse.contentLoadURL", false);

 More preferences I should know?
 Where are they documented? has a general overview and below is a scattered handfull I picked up here and there. General preferences are listed/documented in defaults/all.js and *nix specific settings in defaults/unix.js.
Your own settings go in prefs.js or (preferably) user.js in your mozilla profile dir.

Always quit Mozilla before modifying prefs.js by hand.

Don't autohide tooltips after 5 seconds

user_pref("noautohide", "true");

Don't let moz autoraise on it's own when window get focus:

user_pref("mozilla.widget.raise-on-setfocus", false);

View the caret in browser content area: Toggles on/off with F7


Enable “snap-slide” scrollbar by defining the width of a "grab sensitive" area on both sides of it. Slide cursor out/in of this area during a grab, and page will "snap" to/from the scrolling position. Neat feature. Higher numbers than 0 turns the feature on, width is number multiplied by scrollbar width.

user_pref("slider.snapMultiplier", 6);

Make newsgroups display with full names
e.g. have n.m.p.builds display as netscape.mozilla.public.builds


Printing: Switch location of date-stamp and page numbering

user_pref("print.print_footerleft", "&D");
user_pref("print.print_footerright", "&P");

Disable the <blink> tag:

user_pref("browser.blink_allowed", false);

 Wipe the URL bar clean with one click

A little addon - diggler - will do this, by adding a tiny button on left side of URL-bar.
(The closest you get with Mozilla itself is Ctrl+L and then a backspace.
Related bugs: 24651 and 104634

 Plugins and Helper applications

Your mileage and directories may vary. Here is approximately how you do i in versions of Mozilla older than 0.9.9: Note that some of the commands span two lines on this page:

cp /usr/lib/netscape/plugins/*lash* /usr/local/mozilla/plugins

cp /usr/lib/RealPlayer8/ /usr/local/mozilla/plugins

ln -s /usr/local/jre1.3.1/plugin/i386/ns600/ /usr/local/mozilla/plugins/

To use the Acrobat Reader plugin (instead of using acroread as a helper application) link the plugin to the mozilla plugins dir, and place the binary executable in a directory in your path. For instance:

cp /usr/local/Acrobat4/Browsers/intellinux/ /usr/local/mozilla/plugins

cp /usr/local/Acrobat4/bin/acroread /usr/bin/

In version 0.9.9 bug 45699 was fixed: From now on you can place plugins in  ~/.mozilla/plugins
(You may have to create the directory manually)

An alternative for those with older builds: Create the dir and in ~/.bashrc add:

export MOZ_PLUGIN_PATH="/home/myuser/.mozilla/plugins"

NOTE: If you modify the plugin path but already had a .mozilla dir from before, you have a file called appreg in the .mozilla dir. The file contains data about plugin whereabouts. It will not yet update correctly. If you get strange plugin results after adding new path: Read above about how to fake a clean profile.


Works without problems in most cases, grab a tar.gz or an rpm - install - and copy files as described above. (Or link to the .so file)
There are still a few open Flash bugs in Mozilla, in particular: Very large animations may tax the CPU.

RealPlayer may have problems as a plugin if built with egcs, the currently default compiler. Get the RH7* rpm or build it yourself with gcc 2.95-2 or higher to get it to work as an inline plugin. At some point the official compiler will be upgraded so this will work for all. Actually it WAS upgraded, but people were a little miffed mozilla wouldn't start at all anymore, and didn't want to install the tiny .so file required to utilize the new binaries.

Adobe SVG:
Mozilla can do SVG (vector graphics format) internally. This is "work in progress". If you want a plugin for it instead, Adobe has a beta of their SVG v.3.0 for Linux. Seems to work just fine. Here is a link you can test it on once installed:

The Quicktime plugin from Apple is not available for Linux as such, but can be run using the WINE based Crossover plugin from CODEWEAVERS . The plugin is commercial, licenced on a per-user basis. If you ever purchase a single piece of code for Linux, this is The one. Worth every cent.

My experience with WINE-based applications on Linux was so-and-so, but reviews of Crossover were good. I took my chances - ordered the CD - and it turned out to be a true gem. Finally a WINE implementation that just plain works. After install, you never notice it isn't native.

Shockwave for Director:
Available only for Mac and Windows, but again accessible via the Crossover plugin (see above). I still haven't come across anything it doesn't handle, but according to release-note such cases exist. Works for me. If you install, let this one replace your native Flashplayer plugin.  Shockwave handles more formats and is newer.

The next release of CrossOver will support many more plugins. Here is the first screenshot ever made of Mozilla playing MS Media Player on Linux.

For an overview of multimedia formats handled by the above plugins:
Here is my current about:plugins

 Read MSWord *.doc attachments in Mozilla

There are too many approaches to mention them all. You can use the original MS WordView on Linux as a helper application, if you buy the excellent Crossover plugin from Codeweavers. And as most things on Linux, you can do it all for free. Here is how I browse MSWord .doc attachments on the fly in Netscape 4.*, provided they don't contain spaces in the filename. The exact same approach is valid for Mozilla, it will actually load the page in whatever browser you have open at the moment.
  Install WV and libwmf
  For image-support in WV: install ImageMagick .
WV includes scripts to convert from just about anything text-related to ... something else. wvMime will let you open a file from Netscape and display in Ghostview, but for me that was way too slow. I picked up an idea or two in that and other scripts and came up with this simple 5-liner that converts a .doc file to html:

wvWare "$*" > $FILE 2>/dev/null
netscape -remote 'openUrl(file://'$FILE')'
rm -f $FILE

As root, save the script in /usr/bin as for instance “showdoc”.
“chmod ugo+x showdoc” to make it executable
Then add a Netscape preference for helper apps:

Description: Microsoft Word Document
MIMEType: application/msword
Suffixes: doc
Handled by:
Application: /usr/bin/showdoc %s

The script removes the temporary html-file from your home-dir again once it's been rendered in the browser. The result may not be 100% identical to the original document, but WV does a very good job at it. Support for “walking ants” and “fireworks” is absent, but I doubt anyone really miss it.

Netscape won't handle filenames with spaces on Linux, so if they contain a space you must save to disk first and run the script from commandline like this
showdoc “stupid file name.doc”
The html'ified file will still render in Netscape, if it's running. If Mozilla 5 is running, it will render there.

 Make KVirc open links in Mozilla

Similar to above: In KVirc: open Options/General Options.
Under Interface>Outputwidget to the right of “Browser Commandline (%=filename)” fill in this and click OK:

mozilla -remote openURL(%)

Afterwards, web-links you double-click will open in Mozilla.

Apart from quoted Mozilla code, user-preferences and counters, content  is ©2002 R.K.Aa., Oslo, Norway