Enable Smooth Scrolling in Firefox to Dramatically Improve Web Browsing

Apr 29, 2012 - 22 Comments

Enable Smooth Scrolling in Firefox for OS X

Firefox is a great web browser but it has a few quirks that make it a less than ideal browser for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion users. A major issue is scrolling performance, which can stutter or appear slow and clunky, it’s noticeable enough that certainly anyone who has used Firefox in Mac OS X has experienced it before. Here’s the strange part, it’s completely remedied with a preference setting that is buried away:

  • Open Preferences from the Firefox menu
  • Click on “Advanced” and under ‘General’ check the box next to “Use smooth scrolling”

Now try scrolling up or down in a lengthy browser window to experience the perfectly smooth scrolling that is standard in other web browsers, the difference is night and day.

The big question of course is this: why on earth isn’t this enabled by default in Firefox? With smooth scrolling enabled, Firefox does use slightly more CPU only when scrolling pages, but it’s certainly not egregious enough to warrant disabling by default except perhaps on the oldest of Macs with limited resources.

Anyway, enjoy your newly improved Firefox browser and don’t miss some other Firefox tips. Heads up to ZeroDistraction for pointing out this little fluke.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


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  1. zevrix says:

    I always turn smooth scrolling OFF in Firefox (and any other app), as well as in system preferences.

    In my view, it only slows down scrolling and is annoying and distracting. It generates additional unnecessary movement that catches my eye and I find it distracting.

    I know I’m not the only one… Many users were horrified to discover they can’t disable smooth scrolling in Mountain Lion system prefs anymore, but thankfully there’s a hidden option to do this.

  2. edem says:

    Currently Fx’s smooths scrolling is slow as hell with it has some annoying effects, like if you move a little your mouse-wheel, it scrolls even slower…

    IE 9 has the best scrolling. Not Fx nor Chrome can beat that. They aren’t even close to IE’s scrolling quality.

  3. I actually hate smooth scrolling, it reminds me of internet explorer. Thanks for letting me know where the option to disable it is :)

    • And as a lot of people have been saying in the comments, on Windows firefox has become very slow. Ever since version 5 it keeps freezing, flash is killing it and it overall works very slow.

      I moved to Chrome, I simply cannot accept a browser that’s slow on a dual core multi threading processor, with 6gb of ram and 1gb of GPU memory.

      And I cannot believe that 8 versions later the random freezing issues have still not been fixed. This happens to me on multiple systems and to all my friends. How can the mozilla team not notice?

  4. No Scroller says:

    Smooth scrolling used to be much slower than “just” scrolling. It got closer but when FF 13 enabled it by default I felt the page was not moving as it used to, so I disabled it.

  5. Harry says:

    This still does not erase the fact that Firefox is a slow browser. I’m better off with Google Chrome or Opera.

  6. Thom says:

    Thank’s guys, that’s a lot better now!

    Also I have a quick question, I created an app with Automator that opens 5 websites in tabs. How come my CPU goes to 100% with chrome making my MBP completely lag and to only about 60% with Firefox?

  7. Dukakis says:

    Just use Chrome, Firefox is bloated and Safaris auto refresh is unusable.

  8. Scholar says:


    You don’t know what you are babbling on about.

  9. Makka says:

    “Firefox is a great web browser…” What a great joke. :P

    In my opinion Firefox is the worst browser you can get for Mac OS X. It’s just a lousy port from the Windows-version. The developers do absolutely nothing to make Firefox feel like a real Mac-app. I’ll just give a few examples (although there are more way more reasons why Firefox completely sucks on a Mac).

    On Mac OS X the button to close a tab is on the left side. Apps developed by Apple, apps which are Mac-only or apps which come from a developer who sees the Mac as an important platform all have the close button on the left side of the tab. Firefox doesn’t care and just uses the layout Windows uses.
    Note: Google Chrome is as worse as Firefox in this, but Opera does it right and has the close button on the left.

    The Mac App Store is the future. Apple released the Mac App Store… when? About 15 months ago? Why don’t they use it? It’s ridiculous big names like Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and such don’t use the Mac App Store. The Mac App Store is the way to go. I don’t want all those apps to have their own update mechanism. I want to get all updates in one place: the Mac App Store.
    Note: Again, Opera does it right and was an early adopter of the Mac App Store.

    Firefox offers a seperate download for each language, which is ridiculous for a Mac-app. When you buy Windows, you buy only one language. So, you buy Windows in English or German or French or whatever language and you can only install it in the language you bought. Therefor it’s obvious to only download or install your software in one language. You either download or buy the software in the same language as your operating system or when the setup includes several languages you choose which language you wish to install. You don’t install software in several languages on Windows.

    This is completely different on a Mac. When you buy Mac OS X, you buy it in every language available. When you install Mac OS X, you choose the language you wish to use, but this doesn’t mean only this language will be installed. All languages in which Mac OS X is available will be installed on your Mac. When you want to change the language of Mac OS X after it’s been installed, you just go to Sytem Preferences and change the language from – for example – English to German. Mac OS X and all apps will now be in German. Of course this doesn’t work for Firefox, because it installs only one language, so you have to download it again in the language you want to use. Again, Firefox completely sucks on a Mac. It’s just a incredebly bad port of a Windows browser.
    Note: Google Chrome and Opera both do this the right way.

    Translations are not correct. I’m not completely sure, but I think in English both Windows and Mac OS X use the same words in their menu’s. I’m talking about words like: File, Edit, View, Preferences and such. In other languages Windows and Mac OS X use different translations. For example, these are translations in Dutch:
    – File is called “Bestand” on Windows, but “Archief” on a Mac;
    – Edit is called “Bewerken” on Windows, but “Wijzig” on a Mac;
    – View is called “Beeld” on Windows, but “Weergave” on a Mac;
    – Preferences is called “Instellingen” on Window, but “Voorkeuren” on a mac.

    As you can see, Mac OS X uses completely different translations than Windows. I don’t want to see those Windows translations. I’m working on a Mac, so give me the correct translation. How hard can it be to use the correct translation for each platform?
    Note: Again, Opera and Google Chrome do it right. Microsoft-apps (Messenger, Office for Mac) also use the Windows-translations.

    It takes ages for Mozilla to implement Lion-specific features. Windows is their primary platform and they just don’t care about Mac OS X. Opera does care. They spend a lot of time to develop a UI which fits the Mac. They are the first to implement new features when a new version of Mac OS X is released. They just spend a lot of time to create a real Mac experience for Mac users. Firefox gives me the impression I’m using a quick and lousy port of a Windows browser, but Opera gives me the impression I’m using a browser which was developed for Mac OS X and was developed indepently from the Windows browser.

    Note: I don’t work for Opera. I don’t even use it a lot. My primary browser is Safari. Safari has everything I need, so I don’t feel the need to use another browser, but I’m interested in the subject “How much Mac-love do multi-platform apps get from their developers?” My experience is Opera does a great job and gets a lot of Mac-love, Firefox is just completely useless on a Mac and Google Chrome is somewhere between Firefox and Opera, but closer to the Opera side than the Firefox side.

    • Saman says:

      They cant just use the Mac Store due to open source licensing restrictions from the mac store. Most of the other stuff you posted also appeared to be like a whining **** without any knowledge. That said, I’m using Safari.

    • zevrix says:

      I think that Firefox is much more of a Mac app than Safari. I hate Safari, never use it. To many distractions, animations and other weird and ynfriendly things.

  10. Forrest says:

    Another thing the Dev geeks of Firefox seem to completely IGNORE is the fact that CMD+Q and CMD+W are very close together on the Mac that it’s easy to mis-type, and Firefox just cheerfully exits. At least Chrome has an option to stall that.

    Ultimately, I see Firefox is a browser created for Windows that is PORTED to the Mac. Otherwise, more sensibility would have been put into it.

    • David says:

      This makes no sense. All Mac apps have cmd+Q and cmd+W to do exactly the same thing. Even Safari. Chrome in this sense is the odd case, creating something new on the platform.

      To the dutch complaining about the Mac App Store:
      not even Apple releases Safari updates through the Mac App Store. For everybody else, when it comes to browsers, security updates can’t wait for reviews, they need to pushed out as soon as possible.
      Plus, I’m sure it would be to much of a hassle to respect Apple’s rules for apps in the Mac App Store such as a big project like Firefox. Can’t blame them. I don’t think any browser vendor would go through the Mac App Store, with the exception of Opera that really, is a niche browser, and needs to attract users.
      And about translations, I know how they can be different… I stopped using the Italian localization of the whole system because too many apps get it wrong. And Firefox is an open source project. I even find it more pleasant to use OS X in English…

      As of the topic of this article… I notice no difference. I even tried hard to notice something… nope. The same visual performance.

    • Peter says:

      You can hardly blame the Firefox developers for the standard keyboard shortcuts Apple defined. Safari and pretty much every Mac app behaves like this.

    • Alvin Nguyen says:

      Unless you have only 1 tab, there is a way for you to set Firefox to confirm before exiting. And yes it’s for Cmd+Q.

  11. mrzo says:

    Why not enabled by default? Because it always was and still is a big performance issue on some pages…

  12. Sue Dunham says:

    Thanks, what a difference.

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