Monday, April 30, 2012

Firefox current release on Debian Wheezy.

As described in my previous post, Iceweasel in Debian Testing is tracking the Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release. As I'm interested in the "latest features, performance enhancements and technologies" in my browsing experience, and not in long term support, I decided to try the release versions of Firefox and Thunderbird on my Debian Testing installation.

Installing Firefox and Thunderbird only involves downloading the latest version, unpacking the folder and running the program. There is a question about where to put the folder: some recommend /opt, others /home: I'm going with the DeviceGuru guide which has served me well and uses usr/lib. Using /opt or usr/lib will necessitate running the programs as root in order to update, whereas updates to /home should be automatic, although there is the hypothetical risk of malware being able to infect program files in /home. (Create a simlink as described in the guide so Firefox can use existing browser plug-ins.)

To create menu items, create .desktop files in /usr/share/applications/ as described on the Debian forum, changing file locations if necessary. For example, here are my modified Firefox and Thunderbird .desktop files which conforms with the guide linked to above:

[Desktop Entry] 
Name=Mozilla Firefox 
Comment=Browse the World Wide Web 
Exec=/usr/bin/firefox %U 
Icon=/usr/lib/firefox/icons/mozicon128.png StartupNotify=true Categories=Network;WebBrowser;

[Desktop Entry] 
Name=Thunderbird Mail 
GenericName=Mail Client Comment=Manage your email and contacts Exec=thunderbird %u 
Icon=/usr/lib/thunderbird/chrome/icons/default/default256.png Terminal=false 
Type=Application Categories=Application;Network;Email; StartupNotify=true MimeType=text/calendar;text/x-vcard;text/directory;application/mbox;message/rfc822;x-scheme-handler/mailto;

An alternative method is to use Applications>System Tools>Main Menu (also known as Alacarte). A difference with this method is that .desktop files are created in ~/.local/share/applications, and are assigned a name by that program.

To see Firefox and Thunderbird as options in System Settings>System Info>Default Applications, it's necessary to edit /.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list as described in this bug report. Here's what my edited file looks like:

[Default Applications]

[Added Associations]

If you have used Alacarte to create menu entries, substitute the .desktop file names created by that program: for example, you may see alacarte.desktop instead of firefox.desktop.

The only problem using Firefox and Thunderbird under Gnome 3 in Debian Testing is that they do not integrate into Gnome 3's messaging system. This is a bit of a disappointment compared to Fedora where Firefox and Thunderbird do integrate nicely. I'll have to investigate how this is done and see if it is possible in Debian.


  1. Hello,

    The latest firefox is also in the official Debian repositories. Please take a look here:

  2. Yes, that does work, thanks!

    I was a bit wary about enabling the experimental repository because I thought maybe everything will get updated to experimental, but it didn't. I was able to install the latest version of Firefox from the repository.