January 7, 2010

Making Firefox 3.x Look at Home in KDE4 (Part II)

Back a few mere months ago, we wrote about how to make Firefox 3.x look at home in KDE Software Compilation 4.X. To date, this has been the most-viewed article on The Blue Mint. The reason is clear: People like Firefox. Be it the extensions, familiarity, general responsiveness (that gets better with each release), or the cross-platform compatibility, Firefox is here to stay. And it remains the flagship web browser of choice within the GNU/Linux playing field.

Recent reports have Firefox continuing to gain ground on Internet Explorer. This trend I think will continue for the foreseeable future. This is not meant to be a debate on web browsers and their merits. I'll leave the "browser xxxxxxx is the greatest ever" discussions on your forum of choice. It's just a simple fact that Firefox is a force in the Linux community. And backed by a company with cash, Mozilla, who's goal it is to make Firefox the best browser it can be.

Most of us who use the KDE Plasma Desktop or Netbook use Firefox at least intermittently, if not daily. However it does not take using Firefox very long in KDE to realize that it's not a native KDE application. That's right, you read that here first! :) Seriously, though, as you know Firefox is an application that utilizes GTK as it's GUI-building tool. This of course looks right at home in Gnome and XFCE, but a little out of place in KDE-land.

In the first blog post in this series, we outlined a few steps to take to start to get Firefox behaving in a more "KDE-like" manner, as well as looking more at home in KDE. While this was successful, there have been changes already even in these two months since that original post that can help us with this mission even further. We will discuss those here.

One note here: some of these steps are alternatives or replacements for the recommended tweaks listed in the first article. The first one discussed here is one such replacement: replacing the "KDE4 Oxygen icons for Firefox" theme with "Oxygen KDE". The last two of the three, the openSUSE/KDE integration and allowing Firefox to utilize the KDE Plasma Notify system, are in addition to those steps outlined earlier. So I will provide a summary at the end so that everything needed to do today is wrapped up in one (hopefully) concise, updated article.

This just in: a new KDE SC 4 theme has arrived (to much fanfare)

In the first article, we recommended using the nice add-on from Ramón Antonio Parada, called "KDE4 Oxygen icons for Firefox". This was a great add-on for getting Firefox's main GUI to look a little more at home in KDE. On the downside, it was only an icon theme and therefore left the menu system and dialogue boxes alone. A few days ago, however, a new theme was released from user jimmy88 over at KDE-look.org. Entitled "Oxygen KDE", this add-on is actually an entire theme that fully integrates Oxygen's look and feel throughout the application. This includes all dialogue boxes and menu items, all the way down to the Help > About Mozilla Firefox screen. The author really nailed this one out of the park.

To install, simply download the theme, open Dolphin (or Konqueror) and drag the downloaded file into the Firefox Add-ons window. Take a look at the screen shots to see what you think.

Oxygen KDE can be found on kde-look.org





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Firefox with Oxygen/KDE theme installed

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Firefox's Oxygen File Menu

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Firefox's Oxygen About Menu - Stylin'!

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Oxygen KDE replaces the stock status icon with this nifty light - Looks great!

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Oxygen KDE replaces the stock Newtab "+" sign icon with this KDE Newtab icon

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To install, just drag the downloaded .xpi file onto the Firefox Add-ons window

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Then you'll see the familiar Add-on dialogue box invoked into action - restart Firefox and choose this theme

openSUSE 11.2 brings much needed under-the-hood tweaks to the stock Firefox installation

One of the benefits of open source is that something that benefits one group will surely benefit others as well. One such effort was made by the openSUSE community in the form of the KDE Integration Project. This brings many needed enhancements to the way Firefox behaves. Notably, setting proper protocols, file type handlers, and mimetypes to use the KDE-preferred ones as opposed to the defaults, which are built more for a Debian-based Ubuntu / GTK system. For example, if you use KMail, email links should open in KMail instead of just sitting there leaving you wonder what the point of clicking that mailto: link was for. These changes were made for openSUSE 11.2's KDE implementation.

Luckily, due to popular demand, these changes were also released to us in the form of a .deb PPA that we as Mint or Kubuntu users can add to our software sources to add this changes to our systems as well.
A full description of the changes made can be found on the openSUSE KDE/Firefox Integration page, including a nice table layout showing all of the enhancements made. And for the ones that were not, a reason why or a workaround. For example, as we discussed in part one of this topic, the Firefox add-on FlashGot already handles KGet file download integration as well as some other (potentially, depending on how you use your system) very useful functionality.

Just as an aside, many distributions, for whatever reason, do not include KGet by default. Of course it is easy to install using your package manager of choice. And recommended, since it brings many features to the table with added functionality regarding how, when. and where files should be downloaded from/to. A big improvement over Firefox's default "Save As" function. See the Features section on the KGet website over at UserBase for more information.

The page for openSUSE KDE/Firefox Integration is here,
and the Souces PPA information is over at Felix Geyer's Launchpad page

Installing the Plasma-Notify Firefox Plug-in

As we all know, Plasma is an important part of our desktop experience. One of the things that annoys me to no end with running GTK applications in KDE is that the system notifications would be this yellow-ish box that would pop up where normally a crisp, attractive Plasma notification should render. Luckily, there's a remedy to this (don't you just love the extensibility that a plug-in driven application brings?). It comes in the form of Andreas Demmer's Plasma Notify add-on. Basically, this plug-in simply replaces the GTK notification by making Firefox use the inherit KDE notification (a.k.a. Plasma) subsystem.
The Plama Notify Add-on is located on the Mozilla Add-ons page here.

Putting it all together for a unified Firefox-KDE experience

In summary, these are the new changes needed to integrate Firefox into the KDE Plasma Desktop. After installing these, to finish it all off, perform the final two tweaks to fully integrate Firefox into KDE. These below, listed in quotes, are taken from the earlier article and listed here for convenience and completeness sake.
Make Firefox a little more like Konqueror

If you are a long time KDE user, you might be used to using Konqueror as your web browser, as well as possible your file manager. If so, this Add-on will make your Firefox life a little easier by adding navigation and zoom buttons to your navigation bar. Sometimes, it's the little touches that make all the difference.

I did notice that when I installed this Add-on, I had to go to view > toolbars > customize... to add these buttons. But they do work, and come in handy. I especially find myself using the 'Clear location URL' button quite a bit. Beats holding the backspace button down for those long URL's.

Using KGet with Firefox to manage downloads

This is one I like a lot. In order to use KGet with Firefox you need to install the FlashGot Add-on. Not only do you get to use KDE's versatile download manager KGet to manage all of your downloads, but FlashGot adds several useful features on top of this functionality. In a word:

FlashGot is the free Mozilla / Firefox / Flock / Thunderbird extension, meant to handle single and massive ("all" and "selection") downloads with several external Download Managers.

As you can see, FlashGot brings a lot to the party. Peter Upfold has a nice article on using FlashGot with Firefox within KDE over at FOSSwire. Check his article out for more information. For me to add anything else on the matter would simply be redundant.

So there you have it, a full list of things you can do to make Firefox look all shiny and KDE-like. Many thanks go to all of the people who did their part to make this all happen. Hopefully you have found this article useful. If you have, share the love via the "Share This" icon below. What other Firefox/KDE tweaks or add-ons have you found useful? List them in the comments section below. I would like the discussion to be as all-inclusive as possible for anyone looking to make their experience in using Firefox within the KDE Plasma Desktop or Netbook as pleasant and productive as possible. As well as, of course, beautiful.

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