13 December 2010

Firefox & Chrome Tip

After recently getting an Viewsonic G-Tablet for my early birthday/Christmas present, I was able to complete my Android trifecta: I now own the Google Nexus One, a Logitech Revue running GoogleTV, and the G-Tablet. And one of my favorite features of the browsers in the devices (excluding the Revue) is the ability to enable Flash plugins on websites on-demand.
If you are anything like me and use both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome as your primary browsers and you, like me, keep a fairly sizable number of tabs open while browsing, then this tip is for you. If not, trust me, you'll want to do it anyway.
When you close Firefox and save your tabs, starting the browser back up can sometimes take a very long time, and this can be especially painful if you have a bunch of tabs and each of them have pages with tons of Flash ads or videos. Normally, people would recommend that you either turn off plugins or install AdBlock, which is fine, but I personally like the ability to choose when a Flash animation would show, placing a placeholder in its spot allowing me to choose when and if I want that animation to load as you would on Android 2.2 and newer. Enter FlashBlock. This plugin, though around for what appears quite some time yet unbeknownst to me, is great insofar that it emulates the on-demand nature of Android's browser when launching Flash plugins. According to the plugin, it can also force on-demand to Silverlight plugins too.
Fortunately, Chrome has this feature built-in, although it is tucked neatly away since its currently an experimental feature of the browser. Follow these instructions to enable it (this information was tested to work on Chrome version 8.0.552.224):
  1. Open a tab and type "about:flags" into the address bar (without the quotes).
  2. Find the item in the list labeled "Click-To-Play" and click "Enable".
  3. Restart the browser.
  4. Once restarted, go to the Settings menu (the wrench icon), select Options.
  5. Go to the tab "Under the Hood", and click "Content settings..."
  6. Highlight "Plug-ins" in the list on the left side, then click on "Click to play", then click Close.
  7. Click Close.
  8. Restart the browser again.
  9. Voila! Done!
Now when you visit a site with Flash plugins, you will see a placeholder where the Flash plugin instead. When you want to enable the plugin in that location, click on the placeholder and Chrome will then load the plugin.
These little changes will, I believe, help make your browsing experience a lot faster, especially on less-powerful systems such as netbooks. Although it would be nice if Firefox had this feature built-in, and if Chrome did not have to use an Experimental feature to utilize this invaluable speed-boosting tool, but, as simple as it is, it is a relatively new idea to load plugins on-demand.

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