Firefox 91: download behavior when opening files with apps changes

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 28, 2021

Firefox users have two main options when it comes to file downloads on the Internet. They may download files to the local system or select an application that they want the file to be opened with. Files need to be downloaded in both cases, but how they are handled is different currently.

A torrent file can be linked to qBittorrent or another torrent application to load it directly in the program, a spreadsheet in Excel or LibreOffice Calc, or a video in a dedicated video player.

One issue that Firefox users may have experienced in the past is that files that are opened in applications directly are not put into the download folder. Instead, these files are placed in the temporary folder. The downloaded file gets removed automatically from the temp directory when the session is closed.

Means in worst case: users may run searches on their systems to find the downloaded file but won't find it. They need to redownload it before they may access it again.

firefox file downloads open applications

Firefox 91 will change that. The next major version of the Firefox web browser marks the beginning of a new ESR, Extended Support Release, of the Firefox web browser.

On Bugzilla, Mozilla Firefox's bug tracking site, bug 1710933 -- LaunchWithApplication download should be moved to the "Downloads" folder when finished -- confirms the change.

File downloads are placed in the downloads folder by Firefox starting with the release of Firefox 91; this is true for direct downloads, just like before, but also files that get launched in applications directly by the user.

The placed files won't be removed anymore either, when opened in applications, after the last session is closed.

Google's Chrome browser uses the same logic when it comes to file downloads and the opening of downloaded files in applications directly. All files are placed in the download folder regardless of whether they are direct downloads or configured to launch in applications.

Closing Words

Mozilla attempts to address the "where is the downloaded file" issue that some users of the browser experience when opening files in applications.

Downside to the change is that some users may clear downloaded files manually. Some files may not be needed anymore after they have been opened in an application. Torrent files may be a prime example of such file types.

Customization options could introduce a solution. Make the saving of files opened in applications the default, but give users options to disable the saving for individual files or file types; this way, users would get the best of both worlds.

Firefox 91 will be released on July 27, 2021.

Now You: download or open with application? How do you handle file downloads?

Firefox 91: download behavior when opening files with apps changes
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Firefox 91: download behavior when opening files with apps changes
Firefox will soon save file downloads to the downloads folder even if these files are configured to launch with an application after the download finishes.
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  1. Georg said on October 10, 2022 at 12:21 pm

    In about:config set the parameter “” to “true”.

  2. Georg said on August 31, 2022 at 9:29 am

    Is there a way to get to the old behaviour? I want to disable the direct download thing.
    My use case:
    I have to research a lot of datasheets of electrical components. Now there are two kinds of behaviour, and one of it annoys me a lot.
    1: opening the datasheet (PDF) on a meta-search engine directly downloads the PDF in my Downloads folder and opens it in firefox. After a day of research I have often 50 or more files, some of them are the same, downloaded twice or even three times. It sums up to over 250 MiBytes of data and my Downloads folder becomes a mess. I have to sort the files by date and then have to delete all the downloaded files manually. This sucks a lot!
    2: on some manufacturer sites when I click on the datasheet link the PDF it seems that the PDF is located at the temporary folder and opened in firefox as well. I like this much much more.

    However, I can’t set Firefox up to handle the PDFs completely the same way is in (2), the “old” way firefox used to be.
    Does have anyone an idea how I get there?

  3. pd said on July 6, 2021 at 10:20 am

    Extremely well overdue change. Congrats.

  4. slumbergod said on June 29, 2021 at 1:31 am

    Mozilla engineers really don’t care about their users. They pretend it matters what their users want but in the end they continue to make stupid decisions that go against the wishes of the majority of their userbase. That’s why Firefox has lost so much market share.

  5. Alex said on June 28, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    Mozilla continues their war on users.

  6. ULBoom said on June 28, 2021 at 4:59 pm

    This is minor but exhibits a common trend of ignoring the customer while implementing something the producer wants to head off future attacks. Our vision is “Just Make it Go Away.”

    Example. I bought a pedestal fan (just a fan on a stick) ‘cuz my old old one barely works. It has twelve speeds, the first 3 can barely be felt. It has a 30 min timer up to 12 hours, then it shuts off, can’t be disabled, means fan won’t stay always on. It beeps loudly if you change something (12 + 24 +…beeps, you get it.)

    As a fan, it’s excellent. Quiet, huge adjustabilty, oscillates, looks good.

    These and all like it are easy to find cheap on say ebay, “New, open box.” Guess why? Complaints:
    “Beeps awaken sleeping baby. Returned.”
    “WTF!!! Can’t make it not turn off!!! Returned.”
    “This is a fan, not a heater, timer is dumb! Returned.”
    “Half the speeds are useless. Returned.”
    “Beep, beep, beep, beep. Returned.”

    Manufacturer’s responses:
    “Slow speeds are for sleeping baby, right next to crib”
    “It’s a three speed fan with four speeds in each group”
    “Timer is energy saving. Safety feature in case of accident with baby”
    All of which is true but inane and almost guaranteed to elicit the attacks they hope to avoid.

  7. ULBoom said on June 28, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    Exactly what should happen currently. If the difference between view and download aren’t apparent, well…

    Didn’t realize Chromia did this new improved thing already, explains the pile of junk it collects regardless of what you tell it to delete on close.

    Next, FF will copy the bad-as-it-gets Chromia download process:
    “Are you sure you want to download?”
    “Are you sure you want to open?”
    “Are you sure you don’t want this stupid notification box to hog the bottom of your browser window?”
    “Are you sure you’re not totally F’ing stupid?”

    Well, if they do this in ESR, the collection of garbage businesses have to deal with will likely result in a simple Option to revert the behavior vs. about:config changes.

    Mozilla: Please don’t mess up ESR. Oh yeah, keep your Notifications Children away, really far away, from Tor Browser.

  8. Scott said on June 28, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    The current behavior is a major reason I prefer Firefox to Vivaldi. If they make it configurable, that’s fine. If they take it away entirely, I’ll be running out of use cases where I prefer FF.

  9. about:config said on June 28, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    about:config > false > true
    browser.helperApps.deleteTempFileOnExit > true > false > false
    privacy.clearOnShutdown.downloads > true (locked)

    1. Tom Hawack said on June 28, 2021 at 5:03 pm

      @about:config, same settings here, except with “” which was removed in Firefox 86 (FF89.0.1 here)

      1. about:config said on July 2, 2021 at 5:51 pm

        @Tom Hawack

        Ok, good to know what to expect. I now have Firefox 78 ESR.

  10. fucking mozilla said on June 28, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    How hard was it to add a third option, save and open? Why do they have to add the worst forced changes just before an ESR or in the ESR itself?

    I don’t know who manages mozilla but in the last few years they have taken huge amounts of my hate. Please go to hell.

  11. Mike said on June 28, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    That is indeed a stupid change. Temporary files should go in the temp folder.

  12. Jim said on June 28, 2021 at 11:25 am

    An unwanted and not needed “improvement”.

  13. anona said on June 28, 2021 at 11:23 am

    Thanks, I hate it.

    Temporary downloads used to be supported by all browsers: Internet Explorer, old Edge, Firefox, and old Opera. Now it seems that all of them will follow the Chrome logic of “you MUST save every file you just wanted to look at for one second”.

    But at least “mtigley (she/her)” thinks this is progress.

  14. John G. said on June 28, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Nice advance, also every application could be edited in some way, for example I have a lot of extensions to be opened by FF or other apps/software that I don’t know how to config to revert the method for opening them or even delete some of them. I hope I have explained it well. :[

  15. John C. said on June 28, 2021 at 10:04 am

    Plus one. I hope they make it an option.

  16. Loxia said on June 28, 2021 at 9:36 am

    I think it was perfectly as it was/is.

  17. Furryfox said on June 28, 2021 at 9:10 am

    This is dumb

  18. Amonymous said on June 28, 2021 at 9:05 am

    “One issue that Firefox users may have experienced in the past is that files that are opened in applications directly are not put into the download folder. Instead, these files are placed in the temporary folder. The downloaded file gets removed automatically from the temp directory when the session is closed.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I like this behavior at least when it comes to things like .torrent files. Needing to clear up tons of .torrent files when using Vivaldi kind of sucks..

    Still, a generally good change. I suppose it’s best if I just get used to the new flow.

  19. Sam Speer said on June 28, 2021 at 8:15 am

    I agree that this needs to be customizable. When I download a file, I want to keep the file. When I view a file, I don’t want to keep it.

    In my opinion, this wasn’t broken in Firefox and worked much better than in Chrome.

    Hopefully they will make it an option. Easy enough to support both ways of using Firefox.

    1. Tom Hawack said on June 28, 2021 at 9:52 am

      I agree. The “where is the downloaded file” is problematic only for users who don’t make the difference between viewing and downloading a file. File associations to applications can be set from Firefox’s options, including to none and to ‘ask’. Frankly I’m wondering if the developers’ cursor is not aligned on the idea that the average user is unqualified not only technically but in his very understanding of basic logic and semantic.

      1. ULBoom said on June 28, 2021 at 5:12 pm

        Chrome copied that silly download process from IE. Why either used it IDK, it’s awful. I can’t imagine how it contributes to data scraping, so it shouldn’t exist, right?

        That and IE’s dreadful font rendering are among the reasons I went to FF long ago.

        This is not a big deal, just an annoyance to about:config away but all this fear driven design junk is kinda scary. Not just Mozilla, it’s everywhere. Maybe a year spent raging back and forth through phones did it?

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