Love them or loathe them, animated GIFs are here to stay – transforming over the years from basic cartoon images to video quality animations on sites like Reddit and Imgur.
We’ll review how to stop GIFs, both temporary and permanent solutions, for all the major web browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Chrome – stop GIFs from playing or play once only
Pressing the ESC key doesn’t work in Chrome and there is no simple menu option to disable animations either…
The only option is to install an extension to try to workaround these limitations – but Chrome’s technical restrictions make it difficult for an extension to do a good job.
Several extensions available in the Chrome Web Store offer a workaround, with varying degrees of success:
Pressing ESC again or just clicking on the page restarts animations again.
One problem is that as soon as you scroll up/down the page the GIFs play once whilst a new screenshot is overlaid which is confusing. Another issue is that when you click on a link this only has the effect of starting the animations playing again – you have to click the link again in order to follow it to a new page.
It does work to some extent but I find these issues too annoying to recommend it.
Gif Jam – this works differently, by intercepting the Http request to GIF images and replacing it with a version containing only the first frame of the GIF image sequence. It adds an extension icon which you click to play GIFs (triangle) or stop them (square).
So far, so good. However, because of the way it intercepts Http requests, you have to refresh (F5) the current page, or even do a hard refresh (CTRL + F5) it, before you see any effect on the current page i.e. it doesn’t just pause GIFs that are currently playing so is not a good temporary solution.
It does work ok on pages that you haven’t visited yet so, if you want to stop GIFs playing on all pages permanently, it does a reasonable job.
Animation Policy (by Google) – this is Google’s own extension, part of their Accessibility extensions. Sad that they haven’t bothered to update it since 2015 but I guess if it ain’t broke…
It adds an extension icon which you click to access the options – allow all animated images, allow them to play but only once, or disable them completely.
It still isn’t a ‘Pause’ button though, you still have to refresh the current page if you see any change but, like Gif Jam, if you want to set it as a permanent or semi-permanent option it does a good job – the choice to ‘play only once’ is a welcome addition.
Conclusion – Stop Animations kind of works if you’re desperate but would be of no use to epileptics, for example, as it can still let GIFs animate when you click a link. GIF Jam is a reasonable permanent solution. However, both require the permission to ‘read and change all your data on the websites you visit’ which is not good for privacy and security.
So the only one I’d recommend is Google’s own Animation Policy – it’s more secure and private as it only requires permission to ‘read and change your accessibility settings’ and it adds the option to display GIFs just once.
However, none of them are as good as the Pause or Disable options available to users of IE and Firefox…
Internet Explorer – stop GIFs from playing or pause them
Pause animated GIFs on the current page only
- Just press the ESC key to pause them. You would need to refresh the page (press F5) if you want to restart the animations on the current page again.
Disable animated GIFs on all pages permanently
- Click the Tools ‘Cog’ in the top right corner (or select Tools from the menu bar) and select ‘Internet Options’.
- Select the ‘Advanced’ tab and scroll down to the ‘Multimedia’ section. Un-tick ‘Play animations in webpages’ as shown below:
Press ‘OK’ to close the Internet Options window.
Now close and restart Internet Explorer – animated GIFs will no longer play in any web pages.
Firefox – stop GIFs from playing or disable or play once only
There have been so many changes to Firefox in recent years that many of the previous methods have stopped working.
So we have written an article just for Firefox on how to do this – right up to date, as at April 2019.
It is straightforward to stop GIFs from playing in IE and relatively easy in Firefox. However, Chrome has no good alternative that works in a similar fashion – perhaps a result of the stripped down approach that makes Chrome fast, at the expense of missing out on some features.
If you know of a good alternative for Chrome that can temporarily pause GIFs that are running and toggle them on/off, do let us know in the comments.