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Sessions in Firefox : session by navigation themes to split the history

lundi 28 décembre 2009 [22:04:06]

I propose to make browsing "sessions", each with its own history and bookmarks. That will reduce the size of the history, simplify his browsing, and allow to find without problem websites visited there some time on the same theme. The basic idea is similar to that of profiles, with a separation much thinner : we can changing of session in two clicks without changing window. In summary :

  • One session = one history
  • The change of session done in two clicks and does not need to open a new window
  • Bookmarks that are not in the current session are moved aside but available
  • Addons are shared, with the possibility to determine their presence or absence of each session.
  • Settings can be customized for each session
  • We can export and share sessions


The principe of sessions is to split navigation history in several parts according to the navigation topic, to the reasons of browsing. Because :

  • we go on Internet to complete tasks, objectives,
  • for each task, we visit a lot of websites,
  • we often makes tasks in several times,
  • we do the tasks one by one...
  • ...but we do a lot of tasks per day

In concrete terms, we have we have different "themes" navigation. For instance, I spend an hour to compare schools for my orientation, then I visit 50 links recovered via Twitter, then I make a search on a subject that I had not adress for several months, then I search pictures for a montage, then I read somes jokes. Firefox crash when I manage one history for more than a month as a simple list, so I don't think that a view in 3D or with pictures can completely be the solution (although I am impatient that these options are available). I think we must, in addition, split the history.

Cet article existe aussi en version française.


I navigate to read informations on my "default" session, when a friend sends me a link who interest me. I open it, and hit on a website that sells shoes and who seems interresting. But I want finish my article first. In the tab of e-commerce website that I just opened,I click on the session "web-purchase", which remove the website in the history of the "default" session. Then, I return to my article.

selection of a new session - mock-up in firefox

selection of a new session depuis form the navigation bar

Later, I decided to go look at this pair of shoes : I return on the corresponding tab and I begin to browsing. I open a new tab, it was in the "web-purchase" session. I have quickly many tabs in this session, I would separate them from other. I click on "move my session in a new window"

mock-up of the integration of the button in the firefox interface

button allowing to move the tabs of the session in a new window

Firefox transfer my tabs of the current session in a new window, who include its specific add-ons : in this example, it is add-ons who verify trust of the websites.

view of two different sessions

two sessions with different add-ons

I continue to prepare my purchase, when I remember that I have a project to finish. I "capture" my session : this save my tabs, and close it. Then, I start my "search" session. Precisely, during his last use, I captured a few tab that Firefox propose me to re-open. I make it, and I get back my session as I had left two day ago, and the history has not grown.


Addons will be shared (this is not the case with the actually profiles), no need to reinstall them on each session. But as there are addons specific to a site or to a task, I would like customize a session like a profile. For "web-purchase", I can add an addon who allows me to verify the trust level of the website, and disable Adblock. I can also have a "webmaster" session with my 500 development's addons without add toolbars on other sessions

the addon manager with button for session

The addon manager with the selection of the extent of these modules

In the addon manager, I can define their activation per session. Each one is everywhere by default, but I can choose to add/delete on the session by simply clicking on its icon before de addon in question. Addons and the theme peculiar to the session are active than when we open/deplace the session on its own particular window.

For the themes, I don't think it was useful to define their presence, but we will can choose a theme per session.

Change session

The session's mechanism must not perturb the browsing. No need to open a new Firefox window to change session, that must to be simple. It's not necessary to make the "files > launch a new profile > web-purchase > don't close the current profile" then slide alls the tab into. One or two clicks and it's done. If I have two session A and B and I want to work only with B :

  • I can "capture tabs of the A session" : that save and close its tabs. Later, when I re-open A, Firefox suggest me to reestablish the tabs previously captured.
  • Otherwise, a button allow me to transfer all the tabs of B on a new window, that allow to have the addons and theme specific to B.
  • I can also "hide tabs who are not in this session", but this is less useful : that hide the A's tabs without save them, and I don't have the addons specific to B.


If I want to bookmark a page, I just click on the star in the adress bar, that adds it on the bookmarks menu : not really necessary to search a title/folder/tag because we don't have a lot of bookmarks, and we bookmark less because the history is more relevant. Bookmarks of other sessions are in specific folders to allow to access it anytime, and to avoid to re-bookmark a page. They are moved aside but availables.

view of the bookmarks menu with differents folders

The bookmarks menu who inclue folder of the other session's bookmarks


The settings (tools > settings) of Firefox will also be shared by default. But, like for addons, it is possible to to make specificity for the sessions. For example : I'm on the "web-purchase" session and discovered that I can be inform when redirects. I set this option, and I have two choices for validate :

  • "only apply to this session" : changes only apply on "web-purchase".
  • "apply changes on every session" : changes apply on every session, but only the settings who are just set will take effet. That is to say if I click, I will be informed when redirects on every sessions, but the other settings specific to "web-purchase" will not be applied on other sessions.

Notation : addon's specific settings will be useful, but I don't see how to do...

Sharing and synchronization

I can export my session in a file to share it with a friend. On the occasion of a project, he can for example see websites I have already consults, and observe what queries yielded the best results.

With Weave, I can synchronize just some sessions, this allows me to don't let my history at work while accessing to an history and bookmarks concerning to my work.

Should we keep profiles ?

Should we keep profiles or allow sub-sessions ? For instance, for several users ? Profiles remain useful when we have two opposite browsing, eg one for work and one for leisure. I waiting for the thought about identity in the browser, who probably will impact my reflexion.

I actually use ProfileSwitcher who allow to have a default profile and a (budding) webdesigner, with all extensions and bookmarks who come with. This two profiles are distincts, but I often have to install an addon on the two profiles, or a theme, a bookmarks. Since they are separates, I have a highly level of customisation, but it's more complicated...

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