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Preferential    

resources:
Available Documentation
Preferential FAQ

This page tries to answer some of the commonly answered questions about Preferential. If you feel that something should be on this page that isn't, contact GuruJ@mbox.com.au and let me know your gripe.

Table of Contents

1. What does Preferential do?
2. Who is Preferential designed for?
3. Why are there several projects for editing preferences? Can't you get your act together?
4. How do I install Preferential?
5. How do I use Preferential?
6. How do I uninstall Preferential?
7. Preferential works as super-user, but not as a regular user under Linux?
8. [insert preference here] doesn't do what you say it does!
9. [insert feature here] doesn't work!
10. Which preferences have been documented?
11. Can I help?

Answers

1. What does Preferential do?
Preferential is an advanced preferences editing program for Mozilla. As Mozilla evolves and develops, many new preferences are created, some of which are never exposed to end-users using the native preference interface (accessed through Edit -> Preferences).

Until now, the only way to modify these preferences was to edit the prefs.js or user.js files by hand. Preferential aims to provide a middle ground for those power users who wish to access all of Mozilla's preferences, without the complexity and edit->run->test->quit cycles that are necessary for hand-editing of preferences.

An important secondary goal of Preferential is to document all 1000+ Mozilla preferences, particularly those that have an enumerated set of options (eg. Never=0, As needed=1, Always=2).

2. Who is Preferential designed for?
Preferential is designed for power users of the Mozilla browser and its derivatives, allowing them to 'tweak' settings to their heart's content very easily. A comparable toolkit would be the TweakUI toolkit for Windows 95/98.

3. Why are there several projects for editing preferences? Can't you get your act together?
One of the consequences of Open Source Software development is that you will often end up with multiple projects running along similar lines. For example, the QuickPrefs project aims to provide users with access to a far greater selection of preferences than 'standard' Mozilla builds.

However, the goals of Preferential and other preferences projects are quite different. In particular, we are aware of no other project that aims to provide access to all preferences, regardless of platform, build or version number. In addition, Preferential aims to document all known preferences (updating this information as new preferences become available).

By contrast QuickPrefs (and other preferences projects), aim to make a smaller percentage of preferences available, but through a more customized user interface.

4. How do I install Preferential?

  1. Go to the installation page.
  2. Click on the latest version of the Preferential package, "Preferential X.X.X".
  3. If you have XPI installation enabled, you will see a popup box explaining that the package will be installed. Click 'Install'.
  4. Once the package has been downloaded, click 'OK'.
  5. Close Mozilla (including Quick Launch). Restart Mozilla.
  6. If Preferential has been installed successfully, several new menu entries are inserted, depending on the Mozilla variant you are using:
    • Edit -> Advanced Preferences... (Mozilla/Netscape Browser)
    • Tools -> Advanced Preferences... (Mozilla/Netscape Mail)
    • Tools -> Advanced Preferences... (Mozilla Firebird)
    • Tools -> Advanced Preferences... (Mozilla Thunderbird)
For other distributions, you can access Preferential by directly typing its chrome URL into the Location Bar (chrome://preferential/content/preferential.xul). You can bookmark this URL like any other web page.

5. How do I use Preferential?
To edit a preference:

  1. Highlight the relevant preference. Click Preference -> Edit or press CTRL + ENTER.
  2. A description of what the preference does (if documented) will be in the lower half of the dialog box that appears. In addition, if this preference has an enumerated set of options, you will be able to click on the drop-down box to access a list of these values, and a description of what each value does.
  3. Type in or choose the appropriate value, then click OK.

To delete a preference:

  1. Highlight the relevant preference. Click Preference -> Delete or press the DELETE key.
  2. A description of what the preference does (if documented) will be in the lower half of the dialog box that appears. You will be given the option to either reset the preference to its default value, or to delete it altogether. If you delete the preference, and it has children, those children will be deleted as well.
  3. Click 'OK' to delete the preference, or 'Cancel' to return to the list without deleting.

To add a new preference:

  1. Click Preference -> New or press the INSERT key.
  2. Enter the preference ID, then select the type of preference (Text, Integer or Boolean).
  3. Enter the initial value for that preference.
  4. Click 'OK' to add the new preference.

6. How do I uninstall Preferential?
Hopefully, you won't want to ;-)

Unfortunately, Mozilla packaging is still a little immature, and does not come with a good method of uninstallation. The cleanest way to uninstall Preferential is to uninstall Mozilla, delete the 'chrome' directory if it remains, and reinstall Mozilla again.

If you don't do this, Mozilla may behave erratically, and produce strange errors. You have been warned!

7. Preferential works as super-user, but not as a regular user under Linux?
Thanks to Rick Alther for this solution.

This appears to be because the preferential.jar file is installed with read/write permissions ONLY for root, thus a normal user is unable to read the jar file. Change the file to mode 644 (chmod 644 preferential.jar), and it works correctly as a normal user.

FIX:
The preferential.jar file needs to be installed with mode 644 (rw-r--r--).

8. [insert preference here] doesn't do what you say it does!
Where no documentation can be found about the preference, we guess :-)

Seriously, although we do our best to get all preference descriptions accurate, we will sometimes get things wrong. Just drop me a line at GuruJ@mbox.com.au, and I'll update the description files.

9. [insert feature here] doesn't work!
Well, Preferential isn't complete yet (being pre-1.0), although it's pretty stable and does its basic tasks well. File a bug report about it, and we'll try to fix it for the next release.

10. Which preferences have been documented?
You can view the current status of the various preference trees here. Although I attempt to keep this list as up to date as possible, check the date at the top to see how current it is.

11. Can I help?
Yes, Preferential can always do with volunteers. One of the biggest jobs is simply documenting the various preferences found in Mozilla and associated products.

This doesn't require any programming skills, just the ability to use a text editor. If you would like to assist, please contact GuruJ@mbox.com.au and I'll assign you to a preference section.

The preferential project can be contacted through the mailing list or the member list.
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