Firefox 79 for Android tweaks and tips

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 29, 2020
Firefox, Google Android

Mozilla's new mobile browser for Android, Firefox 79, has been released. Users of the classic browser will be upgraded to the new version automatically over the coming weeks, and new users may install the new stable version of the browser soon from Google Play and other sources.

Firefox 79 is a redesigned version of Firefox for Android that shares many of the features of the classic version but not all of them. Migrations include important bits of data such as the bookmarks, open tabs, or saved passwords if no master password is set.

With any new browser release, it is a good idea to go through the settings at least once to make sure everything is set up correctly. The following tips and tricks help you make educated decisions about some of the features and settings of Firefox 79 for Android.

Tip 1: Search Engines

firefox 79 search

Custom search engines are not migrated when classic Firefox is upgraded to the new version. Users who have used non-standard search engines in Firefox, e.g. Startpage search, need to add these again to the browser.

A tap on Menu > Settings > Search opens the configuration. Select "add search engine" on the page that opens a selection of additional search engines and an option to add a custom search engine.

The process of adding a custom search engine is quite cumbersome as you need to supply the full search URL of the desired search engine plus the placeholder for the search query; this may work okay on desktop devices but is not user friendly at all on mobile devices.

Firefox does not appear to add search engines that you use to the list of engines that it displays automatically on that page.

Tip 2: Data Collection

firefox 79 android data collection

Firefox 79 collects data by default and also shares some of the data with the customer engagement platform Leanplum.

Tap on Menu > Settings and select Data Collection on the page that opens to control the options that Mozilla provides. All three available options were enabled by default:

  • Usage and technical data -- "shares performance, usage, hardware and customisation data about your browser with Mozilla to help us make Firefox better".
  • Marketing data -- "Shares data about what features you use in Firefox with Leanplum, our mobile marketing vendor".
  • Experiments -- "Allows Mozilla to install and collect data for experimental features".

The page offers no additional information and there is no link to Mozilla's or Leanplum's privacy policy. It is unclear which data is shared, e.g. what usage data under "usage and technical data" entails.

For an organization so focused on privacy, it is problematic if users are not even informed about these settings in first place.

Tip 3: Add-ons

firefox 79 addons

Firefox 79 supports nine add-ons at the time of writing that were handpicked by Mozilla. The organization promised that full add-on support will be introduced in a future version of Firefox for Android but for now, it is these nine extensions that Firefox for Android users may install.

The installation process is very straightforward as all of them are listed under Menu > Settings > Addons.

Each add-on is listed with its name, a short description, rating, and the current number of users (Android version only it appears).

To install an extension, tap on the plus icon, check the permissions that it requests, if any, and click on add to proceed. The extension is downloaded and installed, and you may enable it in private browsing mode as well.

The settings of extensions that we tested are identical to the desktop versions, and Mozilla picked several good ones including uBlock Origin, NoScript Security Suite, or Privacy Possum.

Nine is not a lot on the other hand, but it is definitely better than nothing.

Tip 4: Site Permissions

Autoplay blocking is enabled by default, which is good. If you don't care about notifications, you may want to turn them off instead of keeping them at the "ask" setting.

Select Menu > Settings > Site Permissions, and then Notification. Switch from "ask to allow" to "blocked" to prevent any notification permission request.

Tip 5: Customize

firefox android address bar top

The Customize settings page lists two of the new features of Firefox for Android. Use it to switch the theme to light or dark permanently, and to move the toolbar from the bottom to the top.

Other tips and information

  1. While on a site, tap Menu > Desktop site to request the desktop site.
  2. To use and configure installed add-ons, select Menu > Add-ons > Name of add-on, or Add-ons Manager.
  3. Select Menu > Add to top sites, to add the current site to the New Tab page's top sites listing.
  4. Firefox Stable for Android does not allow you to use about:config.
  5. You can manage font sizes under Menu > Settings > Accessibility.
  6. Enhanced Tracking Protection is set to default. You may change that to strict or custom in the Settings.

Now You: What would you like to see in the new Firefox for Android?

Firefox 79 for Android tweaks and tips
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Firefox 79 for Android tweaks and tips
Here is a collection of tips, tricks, information and suggestion that help you get the most out of Mozilla's new Android browser Firefox 79.
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  1. anonymous said on September 23, 2020 at 9:50 am

    thanks you saved my 1000 tabs :)

  2. Anonymous said on September 23, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Fantastic! Thank you! This worked like a charm. Had exactly the same issue in Firefox on a PC and this fixed it.

  3. J Smith said on September 23, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! Like you, I’d noticed that disabling/re-enabling the extension would work for that browser session, but I hadn’t tried anything yet to force a fix. I’m SO glad it was this easy!

    I sure hope the OneTab team issues an official fix ASAP, though. Now that it’s been a few days, they’re starting to get bad reviews, which is unfortunate.

    1. White said on September 23, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      Yes! I also tried the workaround. I also reported this bug to OneTab team on the first day I faced this issue.
      Thanks, Ashwin for the fix!

  4. Ken said on September 23, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    I was nearing desperation when I found your direction. It worked.

    Thank you so much.

  5. OneTab team said on September 23, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Hi, OneTab developer here. Sorry for this – it’s not clear why this bug is suddenly happening for some people, but we’re urgently investigating this with the Mozilla/Firefox team and will be providing a fix very shortly.

  6. TRS said on September 23, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this fix! You saved my tabs. The only note/point I would like to add is for Step 2.

    Perhaps put a note stating they should copy Step 3 and forward of your tutorial to Word. Once we close Firefox, we lose visibility to your tutorial. For me, I know I would not be able to remember the .bkp.

    Again, thank you!

  7. OneTab team said on September 23, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    Easy temporary fix: To make OneTab work again, type “about:addons” in your Firefox address bar. Then find OneTab in the list of extensions, and click the blue toggle button twice. This will disable and then re-enable OneTab, and cause it to work again.

    We’re working with Mozilla for a permanent fix. Sorry for the inconvenience, this is a very strange issue that is only affecting the Firefox version of OneTab.

  8. don backer said on September 23, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    I have found by disabling and then re-enable in the add on menu I get my tab back. Short term fix. Will try yours.

  9. Anonymous said on September 23, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you. I thought I had lost a month of digging. I’ll be a little more attentive about exporting the urls from the extension list now. It’s a great tool but Firefox doesn’t always play nice with its extensions.

  10. OneTab team said on September 23, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Good news – I’ve been working with Mozilla all morning to resolve this. Mozilla have confirmed it was due to a bug in Firefox (related to extension permissions downgrades).

    To fix OneTab, just go to “about:addons” in your Firefox address bar, click the ‘cog’ icon in the top right, and click ‘Check for updates’. This will upgrade you to OneTab v1.39, which fixes the issue.

  11. Anonymous said on September 24, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Darn, I tried everything here and I still can’t get my tabs back. I even did a full system restore to a point last week hoping that my saved tabs would be in the old .xpi file, but no luck.

    I’m pretty disappointed :(

  12. Anonymous said on September 26, 2020 at 6:22 am

    Probably I should’ve been more patient, but now I don’t know how to feel about this. I lost about 900 tabs in the recovery process (I reinstalled OneTab), which, incredible as it sounds, weren’t all just a messy dump I’m never going back to, but actually important stuff (yeah, I have a peculiar workflow).

    Trying to suppress the anger and reflecting on what happened, it seems I should blame myself for not having a backup. But surely I couldn’t back it up manually every time I save a tab, it would defy all purpose of having this addon in the first place. A couple of years ago data was stored at “~/.mozilla/firefox/%PROFILE%/jetpack/[email protected]/simple-storage”, and you could back it up with simple crontab. This is no longer the case, this folder is just empty. And since OneTab is closed-source black box, I couldn’t have done anything else as well.

    So the only reasonable lesson to be learned is that I actually must stop relying on OneTab, since sooner or later it will let me down again. Fuck it.

  13. ckjk said on September 26, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I just disable and re-enable. No tabs lost!

  14. bsdaddict said on September 29, 2020 at 10:21 am

    I switched from OneTab to Tab Stash ( months ago and haven’t looked back. I had never experienced any data loss with OneTab, although I was a bit concerned by some reports of data loss I read about. My main issue was with OneTabs performance, it’s a hog. I had been looking for a replacement and testing out a ton of addons for a couple of months when I finally discovered Tab Stash, and am damn glad I did. I really can’t recommend it strongly enough…

    1. Anonymous said on September 29, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks, bsdaddict. Never tried it, looks nice, but I’m a bit concerned by small number of stashed tabs on these screenshots, not sure if it’d be usable when stashing a lot of tabs. How many tabs do you usually have stashed?

  15. bsdaddict said on October 3, 2020 at 3:40 am

    Tab Stash is is a great alternative to One Tab, y’all… I made the switch months ago and am very happy with it.

  16. Nostradamus said on April 26, 2023 at 4:03 pm

    >DO THIS FIRST: Before trying the following fix, I recommend disabling OneTab and re-enabling it from the about:addons page, to access and regain your tabs.

    Worked for me! Many, many thanks!

  17. MartinS said on August 18, 2023 at 7:07 pm

    I know it’s late but ist there an option for chrome on android tablets aswell? My wife hates it that the search bar and Tab list will just come Up again when she Scrolls up

  18. JellyKid said on September 30, 2023 at 1:33 am

    You are truly a hero and a scholar, sir or madam. I salute you!

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