How To Copy Words Without Trailing Space In Firefox and Thunderbird

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 23, 2012
Updated • Jun 26, 2017
Firefox, Thunderbird

You have multiple options to copy a single word in the Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client. You can move the mouse cursor to the word's first letter, press and hold down the left mouse button, and move the mouse to the end of the word to highlight it.

You could also use the keyboard shortcut for this once you have placed the cursor at the beginning or the end of the word that you want to copy (by using Shift left-arrow or Shift right-arrow). Or, you could double-click the word to copy it directly (a triple-click highlights the full line up to the next carriage return). While doing that, you may notice that the trailing space behind the word is always highlighted as well.

If you are double-clicking words to highlight and copy them afterwards, you probably have a hard time understanding why the trailing space is included in the highlighting. I personally have no idea why it is the case, but that it seems to be the default when you double-click words in most applications under Windows.

firefox double-click copy trailing space

firefox copy without trailing space

It is easy enough to fix with the Shift-left key, but still a nuisance especially if you highlight and copy words regularly. Mozilla developers have added a preference to the browser and the email client that changes the behavior so that only the word, and not the word plus the trailing space are highlighted.


Enter about:config in the Firefox address bar. First time users need to confirm that they will be cautious before they see the preferences listing. Filter for the term layout.word_select.eat_space_to_next_word and double-click it to set it to false.


Click on Tools > Options, and in the Options window on Advanced > General. Locate the Config Editor button in the menu and click on it. Filter for the exact same term and double-click it to set it to false.

Both changes are automatically enabled once you set the parameter to false. I suggest you try it by double-clicking on a word on a website or in an email. To reverse the changes, repeat the exact same steps. The preferences should be set to true once you are finished.

How To Copy Words Without Trailing Space In Firefox and Thunderbird
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How To Copy Words Without Trailing Space In Firefox and Thunderbird
Did you know that you can turn off the copying of a trailing slash when you highlight words or phrases in Firefox or Thunderbird?
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  1. John 2 said on July 29, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Unix, Linux, etc. all get this right by default – double click only selects the word, not the trailing space. Selecting the trailing space too is another one of the brain-dead Windows ‘features’ that I can only guess arose due to some wet-behind-the-ears Microsoft developer thinking they were ‘smarter than the users’, ignoring feedback from the majority, and resulting in grief for millions of poor hapless suckers. (Another favorite: using the back-slash rather than forward slash as the directory path separator! Ya, that made it so much easier to type….NOT!)

    I can not for the life of me think of a use-case scenario where anyone would want the space included in the double-click word highlight feature as their default. Here the reasons I double click a word:

    1) Remove the word. Okay, so I admit that after I double click the word I have to hit ‘Backspace’ twice to wipe the word and one of the two spaces that are left. Not a big deal, since this is the least common use-case of word double-click. And since I expect only the word to be highlighted, double click, double backspace is an easy and expected pattern. (Plus in some word processing apps those double spaces can be removed automatically if you really want that done for you).

    2) Replace the word. In this case, I want a space left on both sides of the word, because otherwise I’ve got to type it back in after I double-click then type a word to replace the original. This is a frequent use-case.

    3) Copy the word for inclusion somewhere else. In this frequent use-case I only want the word put into the copy buffer, because I may be using it from the copy buffer for anything, and don’t want to have to undo the extra added space in those cases where it is not appropriate.

    Thanks for your fix, and thanks Mozilla and Thunderbird for being wise enough to appreciate many of us would be grateful for a way to over-ride the Windows default!

  2. Ken Krupa said on July 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Excellent – thank you!

    BTW, MS Word will select the following space when double-clicking (usually a good thing) but is smart enough NOT to underline the space. This solution for Thunderbird is good enough.

  3. CGA said on March 24, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This is an incredibly irritating “feature”.

  4. Dhaval said on March 24, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for this tip.

  5. SFdude said on March 24, 2012 at 5:02 am

    thanks Martin!
    I tried to find a solution for a long time….

  6. Reggie said on March 24, 2012 at 1:22 am

    This has always been such an annoyance. Thank you, Martin! Where would we all be without you :-)

  7. John said on March 24, 2012 at 12:01 am


  8. Scott said on March 23, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    For the hundredth time, “Thanks, AGAIN, Martin!”

  9. Sam said on March 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Linux-Ubuntu does not do this so there is no need to set this parameter when using Linux. But now I know how to fix this dumb Windows behavior. Thanks!

  10. Robert Palmar said on March 23, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Great tip, Martin. The kind you only find here.

    I think the original thinking way back whenever
    was adding the space was actually helpful
    in that after copying the text you would
    likely type something else afterward.

    The triple-click highlights an entire paragraph
    for me and not just the line for some reason.

    On the shift arrow technique, Control Shift Arrow
    lets you jump highlighting a word at a time.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 23, 2012 at 7:22 pm

      Robert, the triple-click can highlight more than a row, it ends at the next carriage return. This means it can be up to a paragraph.

      1. Robert Palmar said on March 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm

        I see. It’s one line if its just one line. Thanks.
        Never really played with triple-click
        but maybe it will be handy.

  11. Jekyll said on March 23, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Great! But, what about Chrome? How can we do that also?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm

      I do not think that there is an option for that, only know that you can disable it in Office products as well.

      1. DanTe said on March 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm

        Just tried that. Microsoft lets you either select the word or not to select the word. No settings to leave out the ending space. Oh well.

      2. DanTe said on March 24, 2012 at 12:42 am

        Thanks for the tip. Been bugging me for years.

        You’ve mention we can disable it in Microsoft Office? How?

      3. Martin Brinkmann said on March 24, 2012 at 8:28 am

        I do not have Office installed right now, I think it was this feature:

  12. Midnight said on March 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Great tip, Martin. Thanks!! :)

  13. WebHybrid said on March 23, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks, Martin. There is no way I ever would have known how to fix this twenty-times-a-day annoyance. It’s this level of detail that makes your advice such a standout.

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