How To Change The New Tab Behavior In Firefox 13

Change the default New Tab behavior in Firefox to avoid seeing thumbnails of most frequently visited sites. I reviewed the major changes in Firefox 13 earlier today – it introduces a new ‘New Tab’ page – when you open a new tab it displays up to 9 thumbnail pictures of your most frequently visited web pages – click a thumbnail to visit that site.

Some people will find it helpful – Chrome and Opera already offer a similar feature. However, others may have one of the following issues:

  • Invasion of privacy – you may not want your most frequently visited pages displayed whenever you open a new tab, especially if you share a computer.
  • Speed of page display – you may be concerned that displaying up to 9 thumbnails might slow down the New Tab page load speed (to be fair I don’t think that it does to any appreciable extent).
  • Choice – you may prefer a New Tab to open a different page e.g. a blank page or a specific website like Google.

An example of the new Firefox New Tab page is shown below:

new tab

Firefox New Tab page

If you would like to change this default New Tab behavior in Firefox, here are 3 possible alternatives to choose from.

1.  Hide the thumbnails

  • Click on the square icon (consisting of 9 little grey squares) at the top right of the New Tab page – this hides the thumbnail pictures and your choice is remembered even after you restart Firefox.
  • Note that the square icon remains displayed – if you click it again the thumbnail pictures will reappear on this (and all subsequent) New Tab pages.

[Geek’s corner – clicking the icon changes the ‘browser.newtabpage.enabled’ preference in about:config to True (default) or False]

2.  Hide the thumbnails and the square icon = Blank Page

You can do this by setting the New Tab page to just open a blank page instead:

  • Open Firefox and type about:config in the address bar and press Enter.
  • Click the “I’ll be careful I Promise” warning button (if it appears) – a long list of preferences used in Firefox is displayed.

Tip: You can scroll down the list of preferences but the quickest way to find the right one is to type part of the preference name into the Filter bar at the top of the config page e.g. type newtab to narrow down the list to only display preferences containing that text.

  • Double click the browser.newtab.url entry and change the String Value text to about:blank (default is about:newtab).
  • Close Firefox and reopen it – now, whenever you open a new tab it should just display a blank page.

3.  Change New Tab to open at a website of your choice

If you want a New Tab to always open a specific website e.g. Google:

  • Open Firefox and type about:config in the address bar and press Enter.
  • Click the “I’ll be careful I Promise” warning button (if it appears) – a long list of preferences used in Firefox is displayed.

Tip: You can scroll down the list of preferences but the quickest way to find the right one is to type part of the preference name into the Filter bar at the top of the config page e.g. type newtab to narrow down the list to only display preferences containing that text.

  • Double click the browser.newtab.url entry and change the String Value text to your chosen website address (URL) e.g. www.google.com (default is about:newtab).
  • Close Firefox and reopen it – now, whenever you open a New Tab it should display your chosen website.

Privacy Warning

The three methods above change the default behavior of the New Tab page which appears when you click on the ‘Open a New Tab’ + icon. However, they do not delete the thumbnails from the actual New Tab page itself – so anyone browsing directly to about:newtab will still see the thumbnails displayed (or be able to display them by clicking the square icon).

To delete the thumbnails completely you must clear your browsing history – this also clears the list of your most frequently visited sites (and therefore the thumbnails too):

  • 1.  Manually – via Firefox Menu \ History \ Clear Recent History. Note that the thumbnails will start rebuilding again as you visit more sites.
  • 2.  Automatically – via Firefox Menu \ Options \ Privacy \ Clear history when Firefox closes (in the History section). This will erase the existing thumbnails whenever you close Firefox

Ccleaner (and similar) tools can also be used to clear the Firefox History.

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56 Responses to: "How To Change The New Tab Behavior In Firefox 13"

  1. Richard says:

    The “Right click” option does not offer “Duplicate tab” (Firefox 23.0.1)

    I already had “NewTabUr.” installed but it didn’t work.

    However, reading the reviews I followed the instructions (below) from GGITech and it now works.

    Reviews
    Before you Say it does not work Read! Here is how to fix it. Rated 5 out of 5 stars
    by GGITech on July 9, 2013 · permalink
    I have written this before below. Don’t be an idiot and read 5 lines of text to fix your issue.
    Howto: Fixing NewTabURL
    by GGITech on September 23, 2012
    Remove NewTabURL
    If you have done any of the about:config / browser.newtaburl changes, then undo them.
    browser.newtab.url – should be blank
    browser.newtabpage.enabled – should be true
    Add NewTabURL.
    Now the Add-On works as expected, including the “URL from Clipboard”

    • Roy says:

      @Richard – glad that addon sorted it for you :-)

      If you ever need to duplicate a tab “together with its history” (i.e. so you can go back to previous pages from it if required) you can do this by holding down the CTRL key and dragging the tab to a new position on the tab bar.

      • Richard says:

        Hi Roy,

        I had been using the CTRL key and dragging option as a workaround. Although its only an extra key press its frustrating when I had what was a “perfect” system for me.
        Back to normal now.

        I think that the original author of NewTabUrl stopped supporting it a while ago.

  2. Richard says:

    I still want to open a new tab with the same website that I’m currently viewing.
    This is so that I can go further into the links without loosing the original website.
    If I need my home page instead I just click on the home button.

    This option used to be available in “NewTab URL” and I would like the option to still be available.

  3. Barbara Morris says:

    Thanks! That new tab behaviour was the reason I didn’t like Chrome. The main reason I don’t like it is that it’s distracting, and causes me to forget for a second why I opened the new tab.

  4. Dave says:

    This was so helpful thank you works like a charm, the next problem I am having is I accidentally shut off my thumbnail options, by clicking on the 9 square boxes top right of the screen, thinking it would let me in to arrange/edit my thumbnails, i shut them off the 9 boxes i used to turn it off are no longer there to turn it back on I have tried everything to retrieve the thumbnail option back on with no luck..

    • Roy says:

      @Dave – by default the boxes icon at top right just goes light grey if clicked but you can click it again to bring back the thumbnails. So perhaps you have changed the value of browser.newtab.url e.g. to point to a blank page, hence have no boxes icon?

      If so, just right click the browser.newtab.url entry in about:config and choose ‘Reset’ – this will change its value back to the default (about:newtab) which is the standard new tab page with the thumbnails on.

      • Dave says:

        @Roy thank you for the quick reply your advice was right on the money working great now thank you very much :-)

  5. ZenGeekDad says:

    Awesome post. Very helpful. I hated that annoying metro facial tick of Firefox. So happy to be rid of it. Many thanks!

  6. mara says:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Thank you for the tips. Unfortunately, my problem has not been solved.
    few weeks ago I downloaded a software and accidentally I accepted to download some toolbar. And of course there is no “uninstall” choice for that toolbar. Now I cannot get rid of it.
    Moreover, which is even a bigger problem, every time I open a new tab, it opens on the website of that toolbar. my new bar stuck on that website. I lost my thumbnails, I lost even the choice of letting the new tab opens to a blank page.
    I tried some of your suggestions above, but nothing is working.
    I want my new tab to be opened on either my home page, or, blank page, or, the thumbnails.
    Please help!

    • Roy says:

      You should really google for a way to uninstall the toolbar/program but if you can’t, go into Firefox Menu (or Tools) then Add-ons and, in the Extensions tab, Remove the toolbar addon.

      If Remove button is greyed out, at least Disable it – hopefully that will get rid of the toolbar and it may let you reset the new tab again – depends whether the program has other ‘features’.

    • Margit says:

      I experienced a similar situation, and the sequence from “open firefox, type in ‘about:config'” worked perfectly. I changed the string value in ‘browser.newpage.url’ to the default, which is ‘about:newtab’, and had my thumbnails back when I opened a new tab. Thanks, post author!

      • Paul Chapman G4IJL says:

        Gotcha, fixed the problem. I wanted the default behaviour. This works, simples when you know where. ;-)

  7. Adrick says:

    Thank you very much ..!!!

  8. Omer says:

    Thank you very much, exactly what I was looking for.

  9. Luiza says:

    After uninstalling BABYLON toolbar by about:config instructions from You Tube appear problem with New Tabs and Thanks to your instructions using about:config all appear normal ! Uff xxxxx

    Many thanks xxxxxxxx

  10. abdm says:

    I realise some people hate this ‘feature’ but I actually seem to use ‘ most frequent sites’ tab often. …as I find it useful. Only trouble is I’ve now accidently deleted the entire tab (which was next to ‘Popular’ tabs). Does anyone know how to get the ‘frequent tab’ back? Thanks in advance!

    • Roy says:

      Not sure what you mean – is the whole New Tab page now blank? If so, see method 1 and/or 2 in the article but do the reverse to get it back.

      If you cleared your history to remove the thumbnails, new ones should appear as you browse more sites – you can also drag a bookmark into the page to forcibly include it as 1 of the 9 pics

      • abdm says:

        Hi Roy, thanks for your reply, but don’t think its the same as what you’re talking. It was a tab ‘file’ located on far left, just under the forward and back arrows in firefox (same ‘line’ as bookmarks on the far right, but just opposite side) , next to the ‘Popular’ tab. Thanks again :-)

  11. kuldeep says:

    thanks,
    super..
    actually I search many pages but the best soultion found on techlogon.com page.
    really you are super.. .

  12. Cats says:

    Yes, thanks! Good job with this! I had a problem where I would accidentally press Back, interrupting any flash application on that page. Now a new tab is blank, and I can go to a website without worrying about accidentally pressing back. Thanks, this is very appreciated.

  13. Sharon says:

    Thanks so much for the tip. I found the thumbnail layout distracting. I keep my history for the occasional time when I want to get back to a page that I didn’t bookmark. But I find scrolling a text-based history list much faster than looking through thumbnails of a handful of pages of history. In the rare cases I’ve needed to go back, it’s been much further back than the websites represented by the thumbnails.

    I appreciate the time you’ve taken to share this information.