Firefox printer preferences: the novel (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 19 Mar 2010

Firefox printer preferences: the novel

I discovered recently that 1067 lines in my Firefox preferences file (out of 1438 total) were devoted to duplicating default printer settings.

I got a new printer recently. I needed to set up a preference in user.js so I can switch temporarily to landscape mode printing without having landscape mode become permanent. So I checked in on prefs.js to see what Firefox called my new printer -- and, well, eek!

For every printer I've ever used on this machine, I had a set of options that looked like this:

user_pref("print.printer_Epson.print_bgcolor", false);
user_pref("print.printer_Epson.print_bgimages", false);
user_pref("print.printer_Epson.print_colorspace", "default");
user_pref("print.printer_Epson.print_command", "lpr ${MOZ_PRINTER_NAME:+-P\"$MOZ_PRINTER_NAME\"}");
user_pref("print.printer_Epson.print_margin_bottom", "0.500000012107193");
user_pref("print.printer_Epson.print_margin_left", "0.500000012107193");
and so on -- 41 lines, in the case of print.printer_Epson. But some printers had multiple sets of preferences -- here's the list of printer names, each of which had those 41 lines, more or less:

In case you're curious, this encompasses three physical printers I've used with Firefox: my old Epson C86, my new HP F4280, and Dave's Brother HL 2070N. None of these values is anything I've ever set myself; they're all default values.

Why Firefox feels the need to store them for all eternity is anybody's guess.

But wait, you say ... 41 lines times 9 printers is a lot, but it doesn't come close to equalling 1067 lines. What else is there?

Well, there are another 43 lines that repeat all those same defaults again but don't specify any particular printer, like user_pref("print.print_footerleft", "&PT");.

And then, oh wait, what's this? All the preceding prefs are duplicated all over again, with "tmp" added, like this:

_change", true);
user_pref("print.tmp.printerfeatures.CUPS/Brother.orientation.count", 2);
and so on. 456 lines of that.

Unfortunately, I got a little over-zealous in deleting lines before I'd made a backup of the original file. So by the time it occurred to me to write this up, I'd destroyed some of the evidence and had to work from a backup, which "only" had 813 lines of print preferences. Part of that is that I didn't have the new printer yet (two entries times 41 lines times two) but that only gets me up to 977 lines. I'm not sure what the other 190 lines were.

How many printing preferences do you have? You can see them by going to about:config and typing print. Or on Linux, you can count them. First find your profile folder, where your prefs.js file lives, or search for prefs.js directly:

locate prefs.js | grep home

Then use wc on that prefs.js file to count your print preference lines:

grep print yourprofile/prefs.js | wc -l

As to why Firefox uses so many redundant lines in the preference file for settings that have never been changed from the defaults ... well, your guess is as good as mine.

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[ 19:59 Mar 19, 2010    More tech/web | permalink to this entry | ]

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