Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Firefox Files (Crap) on the Desktop on OSX

When you use Firefox and OSX, you will come to realise a VERY annoying feature / quirk of it's file management.

If I download a file, I can choose where it goes (change preferences to set this feature) and that is all good, however, if I click on, say a PDF, to view it (and say "Open with Preview") then the file is downloaded, wait .. on my desktop, and left there. After sometime, you will notice a heck load of files that you have viewed, Excel Spreadsheets, PDFs, word documents, mp3 etc. and they just make a mess of what is supposed to be a clean machine (clean lines, clean desktop :-).

So there are two solutions to this problem.

1. Changing the directory

Firefox saves these files based on the "setting" in Safari about where files get downloaded to.
So the quick fix here is to open up Safari (never used it, except for downloading firefox :-). Go to preferences, go to the General tab and change the download directory to somewhere other than the Desktop.

Now, I actually changed it to /tmp/ (I actually have a sym link in my home directory for tmp (always have done this) .. so firrefox now dumps all these "saved" files, to /tmp/ and /tmp gets purged every shutdown/reboot.. yay! No more mess.

You could of course, make a directory in ~/ called Downloads, and then you can peruse and remove at your leisure. Might be handy to do that when you needed to "review" a file you viewed whilst "online".

2. Tell Firefox to delete these files when it shuts down
In firefox about:config, you need to add a new config parameter that tells firefox to remove these files when it shuts down.
The key is app.helperApps.deleteTempFileOnExit and needs to be a boolean.

I haven't tried this way, but don't like it much because it means, if firefox crashes, or the mac crashes, firefox won't delete the files for that session. And also, my firefox is often open for weeks at a time, never closed, so the files will still grow in number.

Of course, you could combine the 2.


mason k said...

This didn't work for me. When I opened Safari, the preference was already set to ~/Downloads, but I am still getting the crap that I "Open with..." saved to my desktop.

The answer to this riddle is that Safari 3, which was installed on our computers as a system update, breaks this behavior of firefox.

Because, despite claims to the contrary made by the Firefox developers and others, the ONLY SENSIBLE BEHAVIOR of the View With... feature of firefox is to download the files to /tmp/, I wanted to post a solution, originally found here:


"I think found a way, but it is to downgrade Safari back to 2.0.4 under OS X 10.4.11. I never use Safari anyway, so now I'm happy with a clean Desktop and a fast Firefox 3 !

1/ First, download the self-contained Safari 2.0.4 here :

2/ Then try to uninstall the existing Safari 3.0.4 as cleanly as possible, using the free AppDelete for exemple (3.0.4 has been installed by the 10.4.11 system update):

3/ Then simply decompress the downloaded Safari 2.0.4 and put it in your Applications folder.

4/ Launch Safari, set the Download folder to any folder you want, let's say Desktop/Downloads/temp

5/ I quit Safari and Firefox, restarted my session to be sure, and now my Firefox temp downloads are in my temp folder.

Bye bye, messy desktop ! One problem with that is if there is new Safari updates in upcoming Tiger updates... I also don't know if this can work under Leopard. Hope it's usefull !"

If you follow the link to the Safari 2 download page, you can read that Leopard prevents these older Safaris from running.

Thus, no solution exists in Leopard.

mason k said...

Addendum. There is a workaround available in the form of an addon. OpenDownload saves the downloads that you make using its option to a temporary folder buried deep within the firefox folder in ~/.

Unfortunately, it cannot be set as a default option, but "down arrow -> enter" is less of a hassle than having to do manual maintenance of the desktop.

mason k said...

Second addendum. I eventually made this work by pulling out my old Tiger discs (10.4) that came with my system. I archived and installed my system and downgraded to 10.4, changed the setting in Safari 2, and then popped in my leopard disc and upgraded back to 10.5.

Archive & Install saves all applications, and User Migration saves the rest, so I didn't lose anything. And now I have a working FireFox in 10.5.

Ramon said...

Wow mason k, that is some effort you have gone to. Thanks for the tip I sure know where to go now when I have this issue (when I eventually upgrade).

aaron said...

I just downloaded Safari 2.0.4 from http://michelf.com/projects/multi-safari/ and changed the download location and then Firefox downloaded to the new folder.

mason k said...

That's nice, aaron. When I was working on this program, Safari 2 did not work in Leopard. I suppose it has since been patched to work.

Ralph said...

An easier way is to install Camino (http://caminobrowser.org/) instead of a deprecated Safari version and set the global temp files directory from there.

Source: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=311292.

By registering with mozilla's bug tracker and voting for this bug, you can help it gaining the dev team's attention! :-)

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