Mozilla to remove text icon options from Firefox. Small icons too?

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 3, 2013

If you are using Firefox you probably read about Mozilla's plan to release the Australis theme redesign of the browser. While there is still no definite release data for that, preparations are being made to pave the way for it.

You may know that it is possible to change the size of the toolbar icons in Firefox, display only text as icons, or icons and text together. If you do not, let me walk you through the feature quickly.

The options are listed in the customize menu. To get there press the Alt key when Firefox is active, and select View > Toolbars > Customize from the options. This should open a separate window full of icons. Here you can drag and drop icons to one of the browser toolbars, or select icons from a toolbar to the customize window to remove it from the browser.

You find the show menu at the bottom which defines how buttons are displayed in the browser. The default option is icons only. You can change that to text or icons and text instead. Let me visualize that for you (from top to bottom: standard icon layout, icons and text combined, small icons, and only text.

Mozilla plans to remove the text options from the Firefox web browser as part of the preparations for the Australis design launch. This means that users won't be able to select any text based icon option when they customize the interface of the Internet browser.

While it is certain that text based icons are removed from Firefox in the future, it is not clear yet if the small icon option will be removed from the web browser as well. The option to do so is only briefly mentioned during the discussion on the Bugzilla page.

The option to display text with icons or only text is not the only option to be removed natively from the browser. Panorama, a feature that was integrated in Firefox 4 in the browser,will be removed from it and offered as a standalone add-on instead. (via Sören)


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  1. RealShane said on March 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    So, Firefox 28.

    For many years I have had icons with text on the tool-bars and icons without text on the status/add-on bar. As of 28 it seems you can’t have it this way. Time to look in about:config I guess.

    Been using this browser since it was Firebird (and liked that it shared the name of a 650 BSA and was disappointed that it changed to the same as an awful Clint Eastwood movie).

    Time to seriously look for a different browser, seeing which way the wind is blowing.

  2. TICKED OFF said on December 6, 2013 at 9:30 am

    It is because of stupid nonsense like this (changes for no good reason), that we refuse to upgrade most of our software! When a person has spent years learning how to use various programs and finally has them the way they want, why screw things up by “upgrading” only to find absurd innovations like this? People have better things to do with their lives than constantly having to relearn various program setups, download “fixes” to get back the features they already had and liked, or worse yet, have to try to reinstall the OLD program because the NEW one is intolerable.

    LEAVE THINGS ALONE. If it ain’t broke, don’t “fix” it.

  3. Sidewinder said on April 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    On my install of Firefox, the customize option for the icons is “stuck” at “Text & Icons” and changing it back to Icons Only…. it won’t save. On a restart, it’s back to “Icons & Text”.

    Is this yet another “feature” that’s being shoved down our throats?

  4. Simon said on February 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I personally don’t know anyone who use large icons in Firefox, so this is absolutely nuts.

  5. Coyote said on February 4, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    They will pry the menubar from my cold dead hands.

    1. Coyote said on February 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      I should clarify. The menubar NEEDS to stay on the desktop version of any browser (or any application for that matter… *ahem* Office).

  6. Jim said on February 4, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    It’s pretty obvious I’m not the only one wondering if the FF devs have lost their direction, if they ever had one. There are blatant contradictions in their implementation. For example, they get rid of the status bar to save screen real estate, but then they eat it up again by pushing everything to the top bar and are apparently going to make it worse by using big icons. Put Panorama in, then take it out. DOH!

    Seriously FF devs, did it ever occur to you that people might actually be using FF because they don’t like Chrome? If I wanted a browser that was like Chrome, I would just use Chrome. Quit trying to be like Chrome and just be FF. We’ll all be happier that way.

    1. Daniel said on February 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Full Ack.

      I wonder about the new direction and motives behind their decisions myself. If Firefox plans to be more like Chrome, the very first thing they should do is get rid of their XUL design interface. While it makes customizing the browser very easy – that has been a large reason in the big success they received from the huge number of feature-rich extensions – the downside is, that it’s just not very fast. At least compared with the lightning fast interface of Chrome.

      Note for the uninformed: I’m not talking about the results of all those (often theoretical) browser benchmarks out there, but about the perceived (and real) difference in reaction times in handling the different browsers.

  7. greg said on February 4, 2013 at 4:20 am

    Guys, please speak up to Mozilla about your concerns! I’d really hate to lose small-icons, and hopefully if users speak up against it Mozilla won’t remove them.

  8. GiddyUpGo said on February 4, 2013 at 12:58 am

    I hate and refuse to use the Default Firefox theme. I use and like the “Qute Classic 4.0.1” theme.
    I use the text and icons settings. I would not like it if the text and icons settings were removed, and would think about changing browsers…..enough is getting close to too much!

  9. Doctor Zaius said on February 4, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Apparently Mozilla is forgetting there are blind/visually-disabled users who rely on those text icons. Not surprised.

  10. Stan said on February 3, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    I use panorama, but could do without it.
    I also use small icons and text, and even have the Menu Bar turned on – and would very much like to keep them.

  11. Ken Saunders said on February 3, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Aside from not being able to separate the back and forth buttons and/or always show the forward button (an add-on can fix that), and the fact that I have an add-on that uses the small icons feature (, it doesn’t matter if it goes away because the only other difference between small and large icons is 4px. Large icons are 20×20 and small 16×16.

    I suspect other add-ons and themes in particular will be affected.
    My add-on provides 64x64px icons for large, and 48x48px ones for small.
    It was created for individuals with visual impairments in mind, but it’s also helpful for users of large wide screens and high resolution settings.

    I wonder if removing the text feature could impact users with disabilities. Some people have problems with using and identifying icons. Especially since Mozilla went from 32x32px icons to tiny 20×20 ones.

  12. Ken Saunders said on February 3, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    “…it is not clear yet if the small icon option will be removed from the web browser as well”

    Mentioned here too.

  13. lontong said on February 3, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Eh, just another fine day at Mozilla HQ I see.

  14. kiiutu said on February 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    small icons has always been a much appreciated feature for more. What is with Mozilla removing options lately…sheesh guys.

  15. Tom said on February 3, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    I do use small icons to save a little screen real estate, and would be sad to see that option removed.

  16. greg said on February 3, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    I understand the panorama removal (and I’m an active user of Panorama). But offering it as an extension seems a good idea and hopefully I can live with it.

    BUT removing small-icons is unforgivable and hopefully the user-base can prevent this by complaining enough. I’ve always used the small-icons and it is one of the little-things I really like about Firefox, being able to use small-icons.

    There’s a reason I & everyone else use Firefox. Yet Mozilla seems content to keep making it more and more like Chrome. Shameful.

  17. rpwheeler said on February 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    1) I use small icons
    2) with my bad experience with Google’s new design I hate now and then, I see any interface long-time features removals as fallacy if not proven otherwise.

    I need performance and low memory usage, and don’t need at all any damn interface changes Mozilla brought or announced in last 3 years.

    Ribboon, Windows Metro/Modern/8, new Google’s — I don’t want all that freaking interface and icon craze at all. Less functionality, but eating even more memory. They all doing just wrong job, and I’m very unhappy with this “new interface era”.

  18. Compuitguy said on February 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    removal of both features is no biggie for me

  19. Caspy7 said on February 3, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Part of Mozilla’s reasoning in removing Panorama was the very low number of users actually using it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not a factor for this as well.
    I’m curious, does anyone who’s reading this use the text labels? If so please reply.

    1. fbend said on May 3, 2014 at 4:35 am

      I use them. If I wanted just icons I could use any other browser but I prefer to see the text.

      1. Anonymous said on September 20, 2015 at 8:31 pm

        I’m with definitely with you on this one. I’m not of the caveman era and learned to read at about age 5-6 yrs. A picture(icon) may mean various things but a word means only one. However, some folks do prefer icons…so-o-o-o, PLEASE give the user the option!

    2. Jaxxon said on February 3, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      I use the text labels. Without them, like my glasses, I have no idea what I’m looking at. Looks like I’ll soon be searching for an add-on that gives me back the text labels.

    3. Transcontinental said on February 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      I do not use the text labels, but I think that some features in a browser — in whatever in fact — are so tied to fundamentals that they have not to be considered on their success, moreover when they have no impact on the rendering (code implication). Being preoccupied by such details is, IMO, relevant of the “purity” approach. Panorama was, is, linked to the “sophistication” approach. So, removing sophistication leading to adding purity is not, in my belief, the right scheme.

  20. Transcontinental said on February 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I think there are two objectives to avoid in the elaboration of a web browser : purity and sophistication. And I have the feeling these two points are the lot of concurrent teams inside the development team.
    What about a third approach, that of a user’s perspective ?

  21. Transcontinental said on February 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    So it appears that there’s been brain storming to include Panorama, then brain storming to remove Panorama. There has been no brain storming for icon display options, that being a “natural” fact, and now there is brain storming to “rationalize” icon display.
    Don’t they have anything more substantial to take care of ? What is the development team running after, what is their credo, their aim, their philosophy of what a modern browser should be ? An igloo ?

  22. Daniel said on February 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    And here we go with the removal of options in Mozilla’s new philosophy for their new Chrome-alike Firefox design. I only hope this will be the end of it and not the start of a string of feature removals, or I might be better off with Chrome, a browser which feels faster and more responsive in its use.

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