By Alex Walker

Firefox Bug: Status Bar Zaniness

By Alex Walker

Since this issue took me a little while to figure out, I think it’s worth documenting here for future Googlers. Apparently it’s a known bug but as far as I can tell, there seems to be little general awareness of it amongst web developers.

Last week I was working on a some floated buttons and needed them to wrap from a flat, horizontal layout to a vertically stacked layout whenever the window narrowed beyond a certain width. After finding they consistently preferred to prop my window open rather than wrap, I decided to break them out into a simplified test case.

Nothing changed. Although the buttons still had ample space to float in, at a certain point some invisible force was propping open the window — it was like a long, invisible pixel-shim GIF (remember them?) had been snuck into the layout. In fact, even when I broke the layout down to lonesome H1, I saw the same behavior. Were the elements inheriting CSS width from some other source? If so, where? I was stumped.

Firefox dynamic window resizing

Out of ideas, I sat there absentmindedly scaling the window in and out, in and out when I noticed the misbehaviour seemed to occur at exactly the time that the icons in my status bar ran out of space. I did some more testing and sure enough, removing a handful of icons from the status bar changed the page rendering behaviour inside my window.

Clearly decisions made at the browser chrome level shouldn’t be impacting page rendering.

Now there’s every reason to believe this has been an issue in Firefox since day one. The problem has been the increasing tendency over the last 18 months of extension authors to use the status bar. Although I must admit to being an extension junkie, even a basic web developers kit now often includes:

  • HTML Validator
  • Firebug
  • Screengrab
  • Dust Me Selectors
  • No Scripts

Throw in common browsing aids like Adblock, Stylish, Greasemonkey and Gmail Manager and this is becoming an issue that is we’ll likely see more of every day.

Hopefully this bug is moving up the Mozilla hit list, but until it’s fixed I do found a workaround. ‘AutoHideStausbar‘ allows you tuck the status bar away while you work on width sensitive layouts.

Somewhat ironically, it adds one more icon to your status bar, but at least gives you the ability to toggle your status bar issues away.

  • This seems to be the official bug report on this:

    Bug 204743 – main pane width tied to status bar width instead of window width; vertical scrollbar disappears

  • Do you really need an extension for the status bar? Wouldn’t it be just as easy to turn it off from the View menu?

  • Rick O

    If you only use one Gmail account, you can hide the account name in the Gmail Manager options. Better yet, make a Prism app for Gmail and eliminate Gmail from your status bar altogether. (If you need constant status, use the official Gmail notifier.)

    I’ve not used Screengrab, but PageSaver sounds like it does the same thing, but it puts its button up by the search bar instead of in the status bar. That should save a it more space.

  • wwb_99

    It definitely has been an issue for at least 18 months–I recall one of our users had the same problem, root cause was his weather extension was doing what your 92 extensions are doing in and of itself. That and a 1024×768 screen did not help.

  • Wolf_22

    Is it just me, or is Firefox (FF) becoming bloated software? Maybe I am doing something wrong on my computer (probably am), but to me, it seems like ever since FF preceeded beyond version ‘2’, it took longer to load. To me, this spells out disaster for Mozilla. The bugs have appeared to grow in numbers, and with that, functionality has began to break down. I cannot really say that this trully happened with Internet Explorer (IE) as IE was one of the first contemporary browsers on the market when websites became mainstream. …I’m speaking in a historically abstract perspective here (I am not holding up for IE; I love FF ten-times more)… Anyway, all I know is that I want a browser with simple browsing functionality and not 200+ extensions, mods, skins, enhancements, yadda, yadda, yadda… It’s overkill. That is probably why crap like the above happens all the time. …Maybe I am wrong in all of my ramble…

    I just do not understand how inconsistant companies like Microsoft / Mozilla et al can be by making things like add-ons for their products when the actual webpage translations still, to this very day, have yet to be consistant and standardized and display properly across all platforms. There is no excuse for this when the Internet of today has become a primary communication medium! Is this not the MAIN purpose of a browser anyway!?

    …Things need to get back to basics and the closet needs to be cleaned out before they start worrying about what toppings are on the sundae.

  • malikyte

    @Wolf: I think you’re missing the fact that, for the most part, Mozilla is not responsible for the plugins or add-ons. If you install any, it’s your own risk.Just like installing an unknown program in your Operating System, you are responsible for any undesirable effects.

    Wow Alex! Surely you don’t need all those extensions? Time for spring cleaning a little early? :) As far as what Rick said, I have also used ‘Page Saver’ for screenshots, and have recently been taking a look at FireShot, which also allows annotations to be placed in the image. This, like Page Saver, places the button to the direct right of the search engine text field (where your Skype button is). Good golly you have a lot of addons!

    Regardless of any and all suggestions, thanks for pointing out this bug, it’ll be useful to know in case other people report problems that I cannot reproduce!

  • Wolf_22

    The more equipment you have on the boat, the heavier it will be… Hehe. No, you are very right Malikyte. I got off topic a bit I suppose, but my post does not go without some truth…

  • RichardDavies

    I’ve noticed this odd behavior myself too. And like you, I’m an extension junkie. I’ve found that the Organize Status Bar extension is helpful in taking back control of your status bar. It allows you to reorder the icons in the status bar and hide any that you don’t want to see.

  • I’ve noticed this problem for quite a while now, but I mainly see it in popup windows. Take the Sitepoint ads on this site when you view articles as an example. Generally speaking what you end up with is the content of the page overflowing the width of the browser window, but you don’t get a horizontal scrollbar to compensate. Annoying as anything because you have to resize the window to see the rest of the content. Not such an issue for ad content granted, but if the window contains something important, that’s another story.

    A lot of the guys I work with have a lot of extensions enabled. In the end we just had to make a call that browser weirdness problems always required a retest with either extensions disabled, or at least a minimal set enabled. Reality is you don’t really need them all enabled all the time.

  • This is an issue that certainly becomes more obvious when you have a few extensions installed but is presumably still present if you don’t. In other words, if you were building a gallery with very small thumbnails, or a nested list nav with small font the issue would still present.

    Sure, we could all could get rid of a few extensions, but that’s not really the point. The fact remains that the behavior of the chrome shouldn’t in any way be able to influence the way any site/page renders. The rendering engine should be 100% insulated from what is happening at the browser interface level.

    Of the extensions I run:

    Gmail Managers steals the most space, but I run two Gmail accounts so minimizing it’s display makes it less useful.

    Adblock is great — personally I mostly use it to block those incessant animated avatars from forums — but it’s a waste of space in the status bar. I’d be happy to lose it from there if I could — or at least reduce it to a small icon.

    HTML Validator, Stylish, PasswordMaker, Greasemonkey, No Scripts, DustMe and Firebug are all used every week (if not every day) and to me are well worthy of my prime status bar real estate.

    On top of that, to write about this stuff here and in the newsletter, you really need to be playing with this stuff to find out what’s genuinely useful. For every five or ten you test, one might be worth writing about, but you have to find it.

  • I’ve found that the Organize Status Bar extension is helpful in taking back control of your status bar.

    Thanks for the tip, Richard. That’s slimmed my bar down a little.

  • colinmcc

    Wolf_22, I agree that FF is taking longer to load. I have become so aware of it that I have taken to opening pages in Opera if FF is not already open!

  • pd

    I’m not convinced you have the right bug here.

    I think the problem is that the XUL onresize event is a bit crappy but my knowledge is not specific enough to be sure of that.

    In short from a user’s perspective, resizing the Firefox window does not necessarily resize/force a re-render of the viewport. It is my understanding that this is why the Web Developer Toolbar has always had the “Resize the viewport” option under Resize > Resize Window…

    I’m not convinced this problem is directly related to a overloaded status bar at all.

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