Firefox Personal

A New Download Manager in Firefox 3 Brings a New UI

[I use a Mac, so all the images in this post are of the Mac user interface. The UI for other platforms will differ slightly. Click on pictures to view other sizes.]

Firefox 3 brings a brand new download manager to the scene. There were lots of issues that existed with the old download manager both in terms of the UI and in the code that made it work. So for Firefox 3, we redid the whole thing to provide a better experience all around. It’s one of my favorite features in Firefox 3, but then I’m a bit biased. This post discusses the new features of the UI.

Old Meets New – a UI Comparison


The Firefox 2 download manager (above) would display the download’s icon (but not on Linux), its name, its status, and two text links to open and remove the download. In contrast, the Firefox 3 download manager (below) displays the download’s icon (even on Linux now), it’s name, the time of the download, the download size, and where it was downloaded from. For an active download, the size of the download changes to the amount downloaded so far. The main goal was to provide more useful information to the user.


You might notice, however, that there is now primary UI to open or remove the download. The idea here was to provide a less cluttered UI. However, just like before with Firefox 2, you can open your download by selecting it and pressing enter, double clicking it, or selecting open from the context menu. In fact, the context menu has grown a lot too!


The middle two options provide functionality that was once available from the old properties dialog. That dialog was removed because it was out of place. One of the new features of the new download manager is the ability to select more than one download (as hinted to by the “Select All” entry in the context menu). You can select multiple downloads (below) to perform an action on them such as remove, pause, or resume.



The new download manager also adds the ability to search through your download history. Let’s say that you recently downloaded a bunch of pdf documentation from and want to open it. The folder where all your downloads go is hopelessly cluttered, so you open up the download manager, and search for “pdf threading”. In a matter of moments, you are presented with the documents you wanted so you can now open them, or if they were deleted, you can re-download them.


Status Bar Indication

Perhaps the most useful feature that has been added in Firefox 3 is a little status indicator that can be found at the bottom right of your browser window:


Firefox will now let you know how much time is left for your active downloads. When you click on the indicator, it will open up so you can see more detailed information about your active downloads.

That wraps up the changes to the UI. Stay tuned for a post about what new features have been added to the download manager in Firefox 3!

By Shawn Wilsher

The man behind the site.

44 replies on “A New Download Manager in Firefox 3 Brings a New UI”

One glaring omission from the new Downloads Manger is the “All files downloaded to: Desktop” button. That was really usefully and is Primary UI. (Please note that the context menu is Secondary UI because its hidden in a menu.)

Either than that, it is much better. Go Firefox 3!

It is a complete joke that you have removed the “remove” and “open” links. That’s just pathetic. It’s typical of crapintosh users to over-minimalise everything.

Right click a menu to do something simplistic is removing an item from a list is fundamentally user unfriendly.

Furthermore the continued lack of a delete (from system) link or button to delete the actual file from the system, rather than the entry in the download manager list, is just not helpful.

Firefox is supposed to be a better browser, this does not mean a dumbed down browser.


We removed it because it was essentially a lie. Downloads that were saved to a different target (save link as) or downloads that were opened (so they went to the OS temp directory) didn’t show up there, and those were quite common.


Those are not good enough reasons. Now I have 2 clicks instead of 1 to accomplish the same action.
There are many changes made in Firefox, which may make sense to the developers, but which are anti-intuitive or anti user-friendly. If you are going to do this, then please put the option in to disable the behaviour!

All the other things that I didn’t like about FF3, could pretty much be changed (skins, awesomebar, etc) back to FF2 style.

But the lack of the open and remove buttons really are a deal breaker for me. Especially in osx, where right clicking without a mouse is a bit more of a stretch.

Wouldn’t it be easy to add the code from FF2, and make it user selectable if they want to have the Open, and Remove buttons there?

Even if FF3 is meant for a broader audience, if it was buried away in some menu, or the config, I’d still be happy having the option of change it :s


All the other things that I didn’t like about FF3, could pretty much be changed (skins, awesomebar, etc) back to FF2 style.

But the lack of the open and remove buttons really are a deal breaker for me. Especially in osx, where right clicking without a mouse is a bit more of a stretch.

An add-on could just as easily add those back just like you can do with skins or modifying how the awesomebar works…

Wouldn’t it be easy to add the code from FF2, and make it user selectable if they want to have the Open, and Remove buttons there?


Even if FF3 is meant for a broader audience, if it was buried away in some menu, or the config, I’d still be happy having the option of change it :s

In the case of open you can just double click the download, and in the case of remove, you can select it and then press delete.

Yep, I know about the new ways of opening stuff, but just like Shawn said, its more clicks instead of just one, or keyboard presses.

Really, internet browsing, or computer software in general, is a really personal experience, and not everyone likes everything in new releases. And for me, I use the trackpad/mouse a lot, and having to go do stuff on the keyboard and such, is just something new to add to my workflow.

I guess as a dev, its your job to innovate, but it would be nice to have the option to go back to the older style of things.

Sorry Shawn, I read the new post, and I understand all of the problems and so forth involved with adding it in.

I was kind of ranting about it, but yea I would make an extension, or try to fix it. Although learning new coding languages, has never really worked out for me in the past, and I haven’t had much success with it.

I’ll probably just keeping using FF2 in OSX. Just to me the upgrade isn’t worth the headache for me(to try to figure out how to do it)

Does Firefox 3 have an addon to bring back the “All files downloaded to:” button that Chris mentioned. I feel the same way, I miss that button. I’m almost thinking about going back to FF2 just to get it back.

The most irritating part of downloading is the manoeuvering to get to the right download directory.
For me this is not the desktop, but the same dir the previous download went to, regardless of file type.
Is it possible to achieve this with ff3?

We are not communicating. Let me start saying that I use Linux.
I do not see any UI part I could apply “right click and select reveal” to.
What I mean is: it is easy to specify a constant download directory.
But I want a variable download directory, namely “same as for previous download”. (So that I can download fifty things there, of many different types, and then start a new project, with a new directory, and store all downloaded stuff there.) At present, several distinct directories are remembered by ff, one per filetype, which means that one has to specify a new download directory many times. Very annoying.

Those open / remove options really need to be put back, one click for either option V’s 2 clicks or a click and button press is a step backwards, i cant understand the thinking in removing them to start with.

I also really miss the open/remove buttons next to the finished download.
(And imo it makes it more complicated and less logical, not more user-friendly. 2 clicks in stead of 1 takes more time, and people who aren’t too computer savvy (aka: my mom) can get a bit confused. She just downloaded a file and went “NOW what do I do?”).

Does anyone know if there is an add-on that brings those options back? I searched but couldn’t find any.

I found this discussion because I was looking for the rationale to remove the button “delete” (downloaded file from the system). It was one of the most useful and very convenient features. Over time, there are always some downloaded files that are forgotten, no longer needed, and it was very convenient to remove them from download window. I usually save on the desktop to have it handy, and in those cases when I wanted to keep the file, I would copy it elsewhere for storage. Removing them directly from the desktop was less convenient because for each file, after a while, you are not sure what it is and is it OK to delete. Seeing that it was downloaded helped to make the decision to remove it. Removing this possibility was really bad idea. I actually don’t understand why removing anything at all – whoever might be uncomfortable with this function, probably wouldn’t be using it. Why removing it from those who did?

Hi Folks,

I had FF2 setup so that after a download I could right-click and “open containing folder”.
Why does this not work with FF3?
The settings I entered in about:config are still there but the file-manager specified no longer opens!
What do I need to do to restore this feature (or is it somewhere else)?
I am using Xandros Linux (advanced desktop) on an Eee PC.

Many thanks for any help, John.

I have been trying for several months to sole a download problem. No matter what preferences, what config settings or fixes I try, Firefox 3 download on both my laptop and desktop will not ask me where I want to save files. Some I can right click and pick a folder, but my download links don’t allow that and each time it automatically tries to download to my temp directory – and then fails. I am using Vista Ultimate. Have tried to select the Ask to save function, etc. This is annoyingly true with *.exe files. Forces me to use MSIE! Not good. Tried a number of chat and help pages, but still no one has suggested a fix.

I switched to FF3 from FF2 a few days ago and I’m missing the Remove link.

The new Remove from list isn’t as useful as the old Remove one because what I want to do is to remove the file without having to open its folder and removing it from the OS. Unfortunately I didn’t find any add on that adds back that functionality to FF3.

The lack of Open was a little puzzling. I almost instantaneously realized that I could open the downloaded file with a double click or with a right click menu, but that little time of puzzlement is a sign that something is wrong. Perplexing users can’t be the right thing to do.

This download manager is a step back in terms of UI but at least it seems to manage pause/resume correctly. I think that I appreciate functionality over presentation so this DM is an improvement, but it could have been designed better.

Yeh yeh, me too… I miss the open/remove links. I used to like being able to just run through the list of downloads and remove any ones that I no longer needed to hand… It’s not like it’s a pain in the rear to do now, but it’s certainly not a step forward.

I just had my less than tech-savvy sister on the phone, she’s only installed FF3 ten mins ago, and already on the phone to me asking where here open button had gone… I said ‘don’t fret, those wonderous people that make Firefox always hide something in the config files to let you set it back to how it was’ – As in the ‘close tab’ button, I’ve got mine reset to just one on the righthand side, rather than on every tab… But no, it seems the way forward has been chosen for us… Hello big corporation… time to start looking for a new browser that’s made by the people, for the people.


In case nobody has noticed!!!
I’m not here to criticise Firefox, just to get an answer to my problem, please!?

See above “Open Containing Folder” problem.

Many thanks, John.

I hate the new download window for the same reasons mentioned by others. Also, I am having a major problem with it. When I installed the newest Firefox, all my downloads (and I had a bunch) vanished! They continue to vanish. If I download a file, the next time I open the downloads window, that file is gone. Suggestions? I’ve used Firefox for a long time, and I’ve always liked it far better than IE, but this is really aggravating me.

“The middle two options provide functionality that was once available from the old properties dialog.”

I don’t agree.

The old properties dialog provided a quick way to see the original download URL and the local OS path to which the file was saved.

“Copy Download Link” provides access to the URL, but only if I actually paste it somewhere; it doesn’t actually *show* the address. Likewise, “Open Containing Folder” actually *opens* the folder in a secondary application (at least, on Linux and with the window manager I’m using). I don’t necessarily want to do that, I just want to see what the path is so I can paste it into the command line in a shell window!

Finally, the old properties download gave the full date and time of the download, while the new one shows only the month and day. How is this an improvement??

It will be great if they put the old properties dialog back in or at least has any other way to see the url easy than “Copy Download Link” and paste it somewhere else. may be like hover pop up or something.

I’m having a problem with the Firefox download manager. I am running Firefox 3.0.3 on MacOS X 10.5.5. The problem occurs whenever I open a PDF (or other file).

Firefox saves the file to my Desktop even though I changed the “Save Files To” preference to ~/Downloads. I’m not trying to delete the files, I just don’t want them piling up on my desktop.

Searching online has lead me to try a whole bunch of solutions, none of which has worked. A sampling of the failures: resetting about:conflg, setting the download directory in Safari, deleting a setting in

This has been driving me crazy for far too long now, so any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Why the hell was the Remove file option removed? How amazingly handy and yet unobtrusive it was. Very tempted to go back to FF2 or another browser.

Also, I upgraded to FF3 thinking it would release old memory better, but no, it still winds up at 450,000K after a bit of browsing. Discouraging indeed).

Isn’t it amazing how the developer is fiercely defending the solution NOT ONE user likes.

Way to go Shawn. Obviously you know better than all of us. Oh, and that: “users complained about quite frequently”. Must be some other users. This reminds me of Microsoft: open any msnews.* newsgroup and see what users write about, and then listen to Microsoft about “what users want”(TM) – and you are getting the firm impression that newsgroup folks must be some “invalid” users. Same feeling here.

An argument based on proof by assertion isn’t a logical argument. Just because there is a vocal group of people doesn’t mean that they are a majority. Take the new location bar in Firefox three. There is a very vocal group of people who oppose it, but most people prefer it over the old behavior.

I’d imagine that vocal people are exactly those who actually notice the difference and care to mention it. If the opposing camp does not have one vocal person in it, then how you know it even exists? those folks who “complained quite frequently”, why we don’t have even one of them here? could you show one such complaint?

Hi, Shawn. I’d like to second AhaA5’s comment — in the past I frequently used the “Properties” dialog to determine the URL a file was downloaded from. In FF3, there does not seem to be a convenient analog, short of the cumbersome step of selecting Copy Download Link from the context menu, and then either opening another app to paste it, or opening a new tab/window, pasting it into the location bar, and being very careful not to hit return.

It’s frustrating since the new download manager *almost* gets there –it displays the website of the source file, but not the full URL, nor [seemingly] an option to. Is there a trick I’m missing to get back this functionality? Would a preference to control the amount of URL displayed be reasonable?

Somewhat separately, I’m also a bit frustrated that I can’t find the path where Firefox has downloaded the file (also available in the old properties box). And I don’t even have the option of a cumbersome paste. I have to “Open Containing Folder,” which is often not what I want to do, if my goal is to go to another app and feed it a pathname.

FF2 also showed the download time (duration), which I found handy. Is that completely gone?


It is pretty strange to have a list of objects with no buttons on them at all. You have to know there’s a hidden menu to know you can do anything to them. I’m a computer programmer and I never even found that.

What really stuns me though is that the most basic info about the download — the path — isn’t available anywhere. I’ve a million times downloaded something with firefox and then gone to open it and realized I had no idea where firefox downloaded it to. Surely the download manager should display the file path of the file it’s listing.

Oh, and the URL the file was downloaded to. Equally fundamental.

There’s not much point in a “download manager” if it can’t tell you what you downloaded and where you downloaded it to…

Having to view in folder to delete it is an annoyance, as well as then having to remove from list. it atleast should have been an optional setting.. I agree with the person who said it’s not a good reason to remove it. sheesh.

I am very frustrated by the reduced functionality of the “Download Manager” (I hesitate to even call it “Download Manager” as it does so much less in version 3). The argument about the user downloading to a different location does not wash. Isn’t the function of a manager to track such information?

Please remember one of the fundamental rules of development: Make the easy stuff easy and provide mover advance users an interface to doing the hard stuff (although I don’t think deleting unneeded downloads even qualifies as hard).

I’m tired of having to go to START then MY COMPUTER then LOCAL DISK then PROGRAMS then scrolling to the bottom of the list to find the installer for my latest download, then clicking on it.

Firefox, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? (Or, were you?)

/Aggravated Mama

I thought i replied before but…maybe not..

bring back the delete from menu .. make it an option and hide it at
first if your’e so concerned. SHeesh. making something less powerful
is just stupid.

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