How to hide Highlights in Firefox

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 16, 2017

Firefox 57 was released this week, and with it came changes to the browser's New Tab Page, and a new library icon in the browser's main toolbar.

Mozilla added a highlights section to the New Tab Page and the library icon menu of Firefox. While highlights is not the dominant change in Firefox 57, far from it, it is a highly visible change.

Highlights lists web pages that you have visited in the past. Mozilla describes it in the following way: "find your way back to interesting things you've recently visited or bookmarked".

In other words, Highlights makes web pages you visited or bookmarked in the past visible in the Firefox UI. I don't find arbitrary features that you have no control over that useful, and maybe you don't to.

Highlights is a feature that was tested in a Test Pilot experiment called Activity Stream which Mozilla launched in 2016. Based on that data, it was decided to integrate Activity Stream directly into the Firefox web browser.

How to hide Highlights in Firefox

firefox highlights

The screenshot above is from Firefox's New Tab page. The highlight section is displayed below the search field and the top sites section.

You can hover over any item there to display a menu. A click on the menu icon lists options to dismiss that highlight and to delete it from history. You can furthermore open it in a new window or new private window, or bookmark it or save it to Pocket.

It is easy to hide the Highlights section on the New Tab Page. Simply click on the cogwheel icon on the New Tab page, and remove the checkmark from Highlights there.

hide highlights

This takes care of Highlights on the New Tab page, but it won't interfere with the "recent highlights" of the library icon.

The library icon is quite useful, as it lists bookmarks, the browsing history, downloads and other things directly in its interface.

firefox library remove highlights

If you don't require the recent highlights listing there, you may hide it as well. There is no direct switch available however, so that you need to manipulate a parameter using Firefox's advanced configuration tool.

  1. Load about:config?filter=browser.library.activity-stream.enabled in the browser's address bar.
  2. Double-click on the entry to toggle its value.

A value of true means the feature is enabled, a value of false that recent highlights are hidden in the library menu. The change is immediate.

firefox recent highlights

You can undo both changes at any time using the methods described above.

Now You: What's your take on the Highlights, New Tab page and Library icon feature of Firefox?

How to hide Highlights in Firefox
Article Name
How to hide Highlights in Firefox
Find out how to hide the Highlights section on Firefox's New Tab page, and how to hide "recent highlights" when you click on the library icon.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. Roger said on March 15, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks a lot!

  2. jarvies said on March 20, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Click the cogwheel at the top right corner of the New Tab page.
    new tab cogwheel 57
    * Put a checkmark next to the settings you want to see:
    * Search: turns the search box on or off on the New Tab page.
    * Top Sites: shows sites you visit the most.
    * Put a check mark next to Show two rows if you’d like to see an additional row of Top Sites.
    * Recommended by Pocket to see stories that are popular among Pocket users.
    * Highlights to see pages you’ve visited or bookmarked recently.
    * Snippets to see stories from Mozilla.

  3. Ken said on March 2, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    Bless you a thousand times for a short and simple explanation (with screenshots no less). Got rid of those annoying highlights and crap in less time than it’s taking me to type this :D

  4. Phil said on December 24, 2017 at 12:32 am

    Great to get rid of hightlights, thanks for the tip. Really dissappointed with Firefox for doing highlights without the choice of having them or not.

  5. jon said on December 24, 2017 at 12:29 am

    Uh, yeah, this doesn’t help me with my phone’s firefox browser.

  6. Greg said on November 24, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Highlights shows some of my privately browsed websites.

    I usually use a private window to enter sites like or to avoid ads afterwards. Although Firefox didn’t save those websites in the history, it shows them in highlights as “visited”. I hope they fix this soon.

    1. Alex said on November 25, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Same here. Was really annoyed.

  7. Barry said on November 20, 2017 at 4:27 am

    Thank you for your help. I didn’t need people knowing about all the nasty shit i look at online :)

  8. Jonas said on November 17, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    I used to use the New Tab Pro add-on and it allowed me to drag the top site icons to change the order in which they appear. I have read some Mozilla support pages and they claim that you are supposed to be able to click and drag the icons, but it doesn’t work for me. When I try to drag the icon I see a circle with a slash through it and when I let go of the mouse the icon bounces back to where it was. I have changed the number of top sites to 24 and the number of rows to 4, which works great, but I can’t change the order in which they appear. Any ideas? Thanks.

  9. rusty said on November 16, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    I have a local html page set up as my home page for convenience and when I open a new tab, it shows the thumbnail in the ‘Top Sites’ page but the local file is not clickable, even though the local url shows up when hovering. Any way to have it clickable?

    1. hessam said on November 16, 2017 at 11:56 pm

      i disabled all this new feature
      however i know what you like
      but not working with new version of Firefox

  10. hessam said on November 16, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    how disable Firefox 57 to leeching my internet? anyone know how?
    ok let say i visit some site then close Firefox now i see in firewall in background without any open tab firefox connect to visited site and leech my internet
    so how lock this

    edit:it seems specially connect to site request that blocked with umatrix


  11. Rick A. said on November 16, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    i wish we could use the old Mozilla Firefox Start Page.

    Also, i keep getting magical returning cookies and it’s pissing me off. i always delete all cookies when i’m done with a site, i have an extension that places a button on the toolbar to make it easy. So after i delete all cookies, i can just leave my Laptop there on a New Tab Page and old cookies will be there when i check even after i deleted them all. This can happen as well when i clear all cookies and restart Firefox, i’ll check and, “How did those cookies get there?”.

    So far i unchecked Top Sites-(which i expected would cause this) and it was still happening but not as bad, so now i just unchecked Highlights also and will see if that does anything. Next i’ll try either unchecking Recommended by Pocket or just disabling everything with the Preference Martin Posted.

    it could even be an extension causing this as that has happened before. Magic Actions caused this before and maybe even another add-on.

    1. Rick A. said on November 18, 2017 at 7:44 am

      i don’t know what it is. i tried disabling everything in the activity stream, disabled Privacy Badger and it stills happens sometimes. i haven’t tried disabling uBlock Origin and won’t as i doubt that is the problem.

      1. Rick A. said on December 1, 2017 at 2:47 pm

        Changing Preference browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.enabled to False in about:config fixes the cookie problem. Just unchecking everything in the Activity Stream apparently isn’t enough. i expected this to be a problem. Hopefully Mozilla does something about this, But i expect this to be a lingering problem.

  12. Croatoan said on November 16, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    How to increase size of Top Sites icons?

    1. Richard Allen said on November 18, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      You can also change the zoom values in about:config so that you have 5% increments instead of the 10% and bigger that is the default.


    2. Martin Brinkmann said on November 18, 2017 at 7:28 am

      Zooming is an option, if you don’t mind it :)

      1. Croatoan said on November 22, 2017 at 8:44 pm

        I found another solution.
        Set “browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.enabled” to “false” and you get old “New Tab” page

      2. Croatoan said on November 18, 2017 at 11:27 am

        It works (Ctrl+). Thanks.

    3. Anonymous said on November 17, 2017 at 6:14 am

      i am looking for this too. the size is too small. i was able to make it 3-4 rows of top sites but trying to figure out how to make it bigger ;(

      1. Croatoan said on November 18, 2017 at 12:53 am

        Maybe Martin can help us.

  13. Romey said on November 16, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Hi. Anyone know of a way for firefox to change the color or fade out a link i have already clicked on. For example in Chrome, if i where to go to a reddit page and click on the different topics/links when i go back to the main page, the link is not bold anymore. It doent work in firefox like that, its like i never clicked it?

  14. streetfighter said on November 16, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I have the default new tab page disabled. I have it replaced with a new addon that has been ported from chrome recently. The author ported it because it’s easy now to port addons from chrome to firefox. I was using it when I was on chrome, I am very happy I can use it in firefox now. It’s called Humble New Tab Page, I love it.

    1. Belga said on November 16, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      Thanks for the tip ! There is also “New Tab Tools”

  15. kalmly said on November 16, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve switched to Pale Moon, but I still use FF version 56 occasionally. It has a truly gorgeous New Tab Page. Lots of folks don’t much care about how things look, but I do. I’ll be very glad when the trend to ugly passes. I also like convenience. I don’t suppose this fugly thing allows for one. My love affair with FF is over. Sigh.

    1. MdN said on November 16, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      Somehow Quantum FF manages to use 200 MB more RAM on my Linux machine than Opera or Chrome, on startup with three identical open tabs and the same extensions on each of them. And then it keeps growing and growing. It’s not faster either, looks like a really bad looking thing, and I lost my mouse gestures…
      And for a decade it was my default, and the lightest browser, and I’d argue with anyone who’d say otherwise.
      Posting this via Pale Moon with a Firefox 2 theme and feeling a bit better.

  16. Richard Allen said on November 16, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    WTH? Now you tell me! ;)

    I already had Pocket, Highlights and Snippets disabled on the NTP and wanted to leave “browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.enabled” true for awhile. I completely missed that “browser.library.activity-stream.enabled” was even there. Here I was patting myself on the back for coming up with some css to hide “Recent Highlights” which now reminds of the saying from back when…Buuuurn! LoL

    Thanks a lot Martin!

  17. Cloudman said on November 16, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I use Tabby Cat. *w*

  18. warming slowly to quantum said on November 16, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    I want to continue using a local html file as new tab page. Firefox Quantum removes the native option for that.

    The least bad option is New Tab Override add-on, .

    But with that add-on each new tab puts focus in the URL bar but *does not* select the URL text. So if a user on some occassion wants to create a new tab and type a new url there they have to first hit ctrl+A to select all URL bar text.

    Sören Henschel, if you’re reading, can an option be added to fix that problem?

    edit: found a bugzilla report by Sören about this very issue here

  19. grisfer said on November 16, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    If you want to turn off the ‘Activity Stream’ and return the old ‘New Tab’ page, switch browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.enabled in about:config to false.
    By the way, I created a collection with WebExtensions only . Maybe someone will be interested in this with the new release of Firefox.

  20. Marek said on November 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    My modyfications:

    # Hide top left FF logo
    browser.onboarding.enabled : false

    # Numbers of pages (thumbs) in newtab page
    browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.topSitesCount : 18

    # Numbers of rows in newtab page
    browser.newtabpage.rows : 3

    # Old school new tab placement
    browser.tabs.insertRelatedAfterCurrent : true

    # Never shutdown FF after close last tab

    # Always show full URL

    1. Jonas said on November 17, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks for these great tips. I now have 24 sites in 4 rows, which is excellent.

    2. Chris said on November 17, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      Many thanks, I have upped the number of thumbs on new tab to 24 and stopped it closing when closing last tab.

    3. exrelayman said on November 16, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Thanks. One thing I have done which I have not seen mentioned on ghacks is bookmark about:config so I don’t have to type it out every time I want to use it.

      1. Pants said on November 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm

        or about:about – so you can access all of them

  21. Zoran said on November 16, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Thank you very much for help!

  22. 424 said on November 16, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Thank you for the about:config tip. Exactly what I needed.

    1. Chuck said on November 24, 2017 at 11:01 pm

      Thank you for the tip. I wish when FF updates, especially a large change like this latest, they might put up a list of these changes with boxes that can be unchecked if we don’t want the change. For example, I used to be able to click my bookmarks, and down would pop all my bookmarks AND my bookmark folders. NOW, I have to keep a library tab open in the tray to access my bookmark folders. NOT an improvement, as well as incompatible add-ons and other things I’m finding slowly as I go forward.

    2. Jonas said on November 17, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      Me too. I still wish it didn’t require two clicks to access my bookmarks, but I’m happy to get rid of the highlights.

    3. Arcionquad said on November 16, 2017 at 4:28 pm


    4. Belga said on November 16, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Me too. Thank you.

  23. Jody Thornton said on September 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Am I the only one that finds it strange that Appster has been missing from these Mozilla related posts?

  24. John C. said on September 16, 2017 at 6:59 am

    I stopped updating Firefox on my computers. Will continue to use the older versions until I’m unable to or else until I find something which is acceptable. Firefox 55+ aren’t acceptable.

  25. tabtab said on September 14, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Is there still a built in option to set any local .html file as new tab page?

  26. Robert said on September 14, 2017 at 3:24 am

    If Mozilla is going to sell ads on the new tab page targeted towards the individual then the browser must be mining us for profit.

  27. Anonymous said on September 13, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    Question: Are these thumbnails and text making a web connection to the relevant websites, or are they stored on the computer ? If they are stored, do they survive a full cache clearing like bookmarks and their favicons do ?

    If so, happy.

  28. Caveman said on September 13, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    A bit OT question for those who already testing FF57 i’d like to know how light (or heavy) in resources, both in CPU & RAM usage, is in comparison with v55, i’m on a very old machine (P4, 2gb ram, 128mb GPU) and in my experience v55 feels a bit heavy. Chrome on the other hand although is more heavy on ram it feels faster even on this paleolithic machine.

    1. Pants said on September 14, 2017 at 1:11 am

      If you control JS and XSS as well, as well as adblocking etc (eg uBlock Origin, uMatrix, NS), this alone will speed up FF content (less to load) and save resources. Decentraleyes can also save some resources

      1. Anonymous said on September 14, 2017 at 10:47 am


        This is probably the one thing you need to do, regardless of browser. Block ads and tracking scripts, if possible third party scripts altogether, or even all scripts. (You would then have to manage a whitelist)

      2. said on September 14, 2017 at 3:30 am

        Mozilla is a non-profit organization.

      3. gh said on September 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm

        Batches of thumbs+text are periodically retrieved via https from (not from each relevant site). The cache datastore is completely separate from the content cache and, yes, “survives” (is unaffected by) a “full cache clearing”. AFAIK, we’re not offered a means to clear the newtab cache.

        If you type about:config in your addressbar, then in searchbox type “newtab” (noquotes), you can view/edit the settings related to the new tab page

        Although I don’t like (won’t use) about:newtab, I respect the attention to privacy evident in the mechanism used for populating the highlights. Last I checked, batch download content is generic (every browser client receives an identical set of data, analagous to an rss feed) ~~ then LOCALLY, based on keyword matching and/or browsing history, the “seemingly most relevant (and haven’t already been displayed nn times” items are displayed.

        Below, a comment mentions “mining us for profit” and (so) I want to point out that the “highlights” mechanism is supplemental to — separate from — the SponsoredTiles mechanism. Yes, IIRC the mozilla blog mentioned that “paid/promoted” items may be accepted for inclusion in the batched downloads… and that the “relevance” algo includes a filter to prevent more than 1 in 3 displayed highlights items being a “promoted” item. No privacy breach, and I can’t fault them for using this feature toward generating supplemental income.

    2. Anonymous said on September 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      It’s probably impossible to tell, only another caveman could reply. Firefox 57 is a lot faster but with a single core, you will miss out on Stylo’s parallel architecture, so the increase won’t be as steep. You will basically mostly gain from Quantum Flow and Quantum DOM (probably not for 57 though).

      I’m going to assume you are on a 32-bit computer so you don’t have to deal with RAM increase due to 64-bit, and you can disable E10S or reduce the amount of content processes it is allowed to run in Options if necessary. I would try not reducing this value though, maybe even increase it if RAM allows.

      So RAM can be kept in check, and speed should be a little faster than 55 for you, but then again it’s impossible to know without being a caveman.

      1. Anonymous said on September 14, 2017 at 10:43 am

        That’s what I meant yes, the parenthesis only applied to Quantum DOM. Quantum Flow indeed has has a lot of stuff in from Firefox 55 to 57 :)

      2. John said on September 14, 2017 at 12:13 am

        Actually, there are some improvements coming from Quantum Flow since v55, which is a “umbrella” of fixes performance-wise, not a component of Servo per se.

        Quantum DOM I’m not sure, if I remember correctly a little of it will be landed on 57. Stylo is coming to 57 however, and WebRender on 58 or 59.

        Even on a fast machine, I still feel that Firefox 55 is more heavy and takes longer to load pages in comparison to Chrome, but I still prefer it over Chrome for various reasons.

      3. Jody Thornton said on September 13, 2017 at 7:42 pm

        Actually I’m using dual Xeon (netburst-style) CPUs each at 3.68 GHz. I have been able to run multi-process, but even with e10s turned off, there is a significant performance improvement on Nightly 57.

        I’m using 7 GB of DDR2 memory

  29. said on September 26, 2017 at 3:48 am

    Probably because many people were complaining about his incessant whining all the time.

  30. Jody Thornton said on September 25, 2017 at 2:06 pm


    I tried to lose weight by eating thin air once :p

  31. Anonymous said on September 14, 2017 at 10:48 am
  32. moz said on September 14, 2017 at 6:25 am

    you can’t eat air to survive

  33. Anonymous said on September 14, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    Nice, thanks. Couple questions:

    ” Batches of thumbs+text are periodically retrieved via https from (not from each relevant site). ”

    Can this be disabled ?

    ” (every browser client receives an identical set of data, analagous to an rss feed) ”

    That probably only concerns the most popular sites. What about all other sites ? I’d rather have the download be exactly like bookmarks, which means acquiring the data directly from the site and not updating it unless I actively visit the site itself using the new tab page link.

    If you can’t explain because this is too long and detailed, I would be glad to have sources instead :)

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