Why I do not like Firefox's new Download Panel

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 16, 2012

If you are running a recent Nightly build of the Firefox web browser you have probably noticed that downloads are now displayed in the interface directly instead of a download window as they have been previously. This is the new download panel of the browser. Once you start a download a new icon is displayed in the browser's main toolbar indicating the download.

You can click on that icon to take a look at the recent downloads and work with the files right from within the interface. Here it is for instance possible to load them right away, or open the folder the items have been downloaded to.

firefox download panel

The feature is currently only active in the Nightly version, and deactivated but integrated in Aurora and Beta versions of the browser.

The thing that is irritating me the most is that the icon does not disappear after a certain time. It is permanently displayed in the interface once you start your very first download of the session, and will remain visible in the toolbar until you close the browser.

There is no option in the Firefox preferences or in the about:config listing to hide that icon after a certain amount of time after downloads complete.

There are two workarounds available that help you deal with the issue.  You can set the preference browser.download.panel.removeFinishedDownloads to true to remove the download right after it has finished in the interface. This triggers the closing of the download panel icon in the toolbar as well. What this does though is reduce the use of the download panel, as you can't use it to open a file or folder right after you have downloaded it anymore.

The second option is to switch back to the old download manager window. For that, you need to set the browser.download.useToolkitUI preference to false. This restores the browser's original download window so that the download icon in the toolbar is no longer displayed.

You can edit both preferences by loading about:config in the browser's address bar. If you have never opened the configuration before you need to confirm that you will be careful. Once there, copy and paste the entries into the search form at the top to locate them here. A double-click switches boolean values automatically, so that is all that you have to do.

What I would like to see is a setting in the Firefox preference window to toggle between the download panel and the download window, and an option to automatically close the download icon after a set amount of time, say 20 seconds after the download has finished.


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  1. jim said on August 29, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    I dislike it as well. Am trying DTA as a replacement. If I don’t like it, I’ll go back to download statusbar, which I used for years. I can’t get pdf, csv, xls and other file types to open at all in Firefox (Nightly) any more, whereas with Download Statusbar, all I had to do was click to open them. Firefox seems to be going backward, not forward.

  2. xenosilvano said on August 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I had really been looking forward to this but now all I want to do is get rid of it.
    I went back to pinning the download window as a pin as app tab:-

  3. fokka said on August 17, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I actually quite like the new download-panel! I know it’s not a great solution for power-users and i too am missing a few functions/infos in the new interface, but the fact, that i can access my dls without switching to another window, or tab (like i had to until now), makes for a much more convenient experience, for me and i can imagine for a great deal of casual users.

  4. Someone said on August 17, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Hey I like your news and i’m subscribed but please don’t diss a feature which is not even nearly done. It’s work in progress, your problems are being dealt with.

    Anyway try using these settings :

    “browser.download.useToolkitUI”, false
    “browser.download.panel.removeFinishedDownloads”, false
    “browser.download.manager.retention”, 1

    Those are the ones that i’m currently using.

  5. jasray said on August 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Should be able to right click toolbar area, customize, and drag the icon down into the widow–click done. Always works for other oddities like the one described–disappears. No need for about:config.

  6. Marlon Orozco Baños said on August 16, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    One more for Download Status Bar, I don’t know if it can be automatically hidden (I use the mini-button style) but if it is in the add-on bar it can be hidden or showed by ctrl+/. But the way I use it is very much the same to the new download pannel, so, I will have to test it :)

  7. pd said on August 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I hate it too.

  8. coyote said on August 16, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Add another in the Download Statusbar camp.

    I’ve always wondered why Firefox (or any modular platform for that matter) doesn’t take the best of the best add-ons extensions, apps, gadgets, etc. and make them part of the core system. It just seems like a easier and much more social way of adapting and upgrading. The mod community creates what people want on the fly, the main programers see this and add those features to the new builds, compensating the modders along the way I would hope as well.

    For instance, webmail notifier, autocopy, printedit, download satusbar, tabmix plus, and several others I have been using for multiple iterations of firefox. Some from the beginning… all extensions that should be part of the core browser by now.

    1. fixitman said on April 17, 2013 at 11:09 pm

      Actually, they’ve done this several times, making “popular” extensions part of the browser. I find, their implementation is usually not the same, and whether people liked the original or not, they tend to complain. MY view is, leave well enough alone. Change browser version with major changes every two years or so, and allow people to keep the older version (with security updates and no GUI changes) for at least another two years. It’s upsetting to some, who have automatic updates turned on (always a bad idea) and only use their computer every two months or so, to see radical changes every time they start their browser. This should stop. People don’t “intuitively” know what the developers have up their sleeves at every turn, and most people do NOT want un-needed changes, but for their OS, or their browser, to work the same, even if they get a new computer and only boot it up every two years or so. (Extreme case, but this is what developers need to plan for rather than “nightly changes no one wants.”

  9. edeemc said on August 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I am using dowload status bar., hope can help you out:


  10. Ken Saunders said on August 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Forgot to mention, you have to add the download button to the Add-on Bar via the Customize Toolbar window.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Ken, does that remove the button from the other toolbar automatically then?

      1. Ken Saunders said on August 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm

        “does that remove the button from the other toolbar automatically then”

  11. Threshold said on August 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Stuff like this makes you really wonder if developers actually use their implementations or just test the code.

    If you don’t like to immediately clear your downloads history like me you have this long bar taking all of your screen: it’s just stupid.

    I got rid of it the minute it appeared in Nightly and kept using Download Status Bar which they should have just included as main download feature.

    1. Paul said on August 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      Nightly builds are for testing purposes and some of the new features tested may not be implemented in the official release.

  12. Ken Saunders said on August 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Fear not, I’m sure that someone will write an add-on to fix things.

    You could move it to the Add-on Bar where it’s less obtrusive.

    1. xenosilvano said on August 18, 2012 at 12:06 am


  13. Peter (NL) said on August 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    And when you clear the search and download history, does that icon not disappear from you browser main GUI ??

    For me it is less disruptive than the planned social media favicons …

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      It would be pretty uncomfortable to delete the download history after each download to have it disappear during sessions. I have not tried though whether this removes the icon from the browser.

  14. ódio said on August 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    I only use Download Statusbar since ever.

    1. Paul said on August 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      +1 but on the topic it may be easy to opperate with files this way without leaving the browser window.

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