1. A VERY
unfortunate Mozilla "improvement"
2. filename vs title
3. Why saving by title is
4. Why saving by title is a
5. What should be done
about this: Make it a Prefence
6. Two workarounds
This is about a VERY unfortunate Mozilla "improvement" introduced in
version 18.0 of Firefox and also in version 2.15.1 of SeaMonkey - and I
am writing as I do to keep my language diplomatic.
1. A VERY unfortunate Mozilla "improvement"
There is a very
fine German word, which is a play on the German words for better and
worse, which are respectively "besser" and "schlimmer": Verschlimmbesserung:
Making something worse by trying to make it better.
This happened to the most recent versions of the two Mozilla browsers I
use, Firefox and SeaMonkey, at least on Linux, and
probably also on Windows, though I have not verified that:
I noticed this today,
and lost something like four hours - so far - to find out what it is
due to, for Mozilla seems to have said nothing up front. In the end, I
found out by searching and what I found is an item on the Mozilla
about it that is clear enough:
- The Save As
option no longer saves html-pages by their filenames but by
their html-titles, and also, which makes this much worse:
- There is no
option or preference or addon to do it the way it was, for many years,
that at least allows one to have a choice.
This is about SeaMonkey, that
I also regularly use, as I do Firefox, and it also lists in one of the
comments an Addon that is supposed to undo it, which I would not try
and did not try.
Why is this a bad change, especially as is, without any option
restore the old policy in both browsers, which was to store by
filename, not by title?
Let me first explain the difference, and also why naive users - the
great majority - have been asking for the change, that seems to be how
MS IE does it since years (which I don't know, for I have avoided that
awful product since years).
2. filename vs title
The filename is part of the protocol by which
computers store files. What the user gets to see as path+filename is
generally a combination of slashes and letters and numerals, which is
the human readable form of its hexadecimal or binary form that the
computer needs, and that specifies an address on a disk or drive,
normally with a directory prefix - the path - of which the filename is
the last item, that names the file in the directory the path specified.
To be allowed as a filename, its human readable form must meet certain
criterions. These criterions differ on different Operating Systems,
and also on the same (named) Operating System at different times.
Thus, experienced users may recall that 8*3 format on DOS and early
A filename of maximally eight characters or numerals with an extension
of maximally three characters or numerals, separated by a dot, and all
without certain forbidden characters, such as spaces and slashes and
stars and more.
Since then the criterions for filenames have been made a lot less
strict, and it is now quite possible to use long descriptive names,
such as "This-is-really-a-rather-long-name.html", which is the format
that e.g. The Guardian uses. (One can also use spaces these
days in filenames, but technically savvy people like to avoid this, for
various good reasons.)
This means that at present, at least on Linux and on Windows, and
probably also on Macs, one can have filenames that are as descriptive
as one likes, as maker of the file, or not, where the last option also
may have good reasons.
Thus, the filenames I use for Nederlog have
this general form: NLyrmodach.html, where yr is two
numerals for the year, mo two numerals for the month, da
two numerals for the day, and ch a character that allows
several files for the same day. The filename of the file this text
appears in, for example, is NL130131a.html. My reason to do this as
stated is to have all the Nederlog files of one year in one directory,
that are automatically sorted by date through their filenames.
The title of a html-file is not part of its
filename, properly speaking, but is simply something one can set (or
indeeed avoid to set, or forget to set) in a html file, and was
introduced as a special option in html long ago to have something more
informative and longer than filenames used to be.
Thus, the title of the present file is "VERY unfortunate
while its filename is "/../NL130131a.html", where the part
"/../" in fact abbreviates the directory-structure that specifies the
directory where my Nederlog files for 2013 are on my hard disk.
The title may contain virtually anything and any characters without any
formatting: All that seems to be fixed for it is that it is valid html.
Good browsers can show
both: The title followed by the filename in square brackets, for
It seems that naive users of Firefox have been asking for years to be
able to save their pages by title rather than filename, namely because
they claim that the titles "are more descriptive".
Now let me explain why this is not a good idea.
3. Why saving by title is not necessary
To start with why it is not necessary. There are two main
First, the maker of the file, or the one who uploads it for the
internet, can at present and since quite while introduce long
descriptive names as filenames. Indeed, that has become a rather common
practice, and - for one example - how The Guardian does it
Second, in Firefox there was at least one add-on
that allowed its users, if they wanted, to save files not by filename
but by title.
So naive users who wanted to save by title rather than by filename
could do this for quite a while: There is no need for it, as there was
a proviso for it.
Why saving by title is a bad idea
Again there are two main reasons.
First, the title may contain stuff that makes it unfit as a filename,
such as "*" or "?" (that are used as wildcards to search filenames);
and the title may be missing, crappy, stupid, misleading or very long -
which means that one's fileviewer with directories with many html files
are suddenly full of insanely long filenames that may be
descriptive, if one is lucky, but that certainly take a lot of time to
read, and a lot of space in one's fileviewer.
Second, and most importantly: It destroys the properties of the URI
and makes sites like mine a lot less useful.
The reason is that I have many files on my site, with many internal
links. I will not explain all of the story, but simply provide an
example, that explains my point, and indeed also how I found out.
Yesterday I mentioned an excellent Linux-resource:
This is organized as over 585
html-files in one directory, that are heavily crosslinked,
which is precisely what hypertext - html = hypertext markup
language - is all about: Linking files to each other by links that
provide URLs, so as to
link files that are somehow related in content in a meaningful and
Until version 18 of Firefox I could download all these files, put them
in one directory, and be certain that all the links worked also
if I was not on line - which is what I often like to be (for I
don't trust the internet, and like to keep my computer unhacked).
With version 18 of Firefox, and version 2.15.1 or SeaMonkey that is no
longer the case: ALL interconnections by links - that all
depend on filenames - are
completely destroyed because the files are saved by title
- and that title may not even be a proper filename, in which case the
browser must modify it to save it!
A site like mine could be saved in its entirety to another harddisk
with all internal links working on that other harddisk, wholly apart
from the internet, provided only that (1) the filenames were preserved
and (2) the directory-structure was preserved. Likewise it could be
saved in part, and links to files that were also saved would work on
that other hard disk if they met the above two provisos.
None of this is true if html-files are saved by their
these are no longer URIs - and besides, may be dangerous or useless as
filenames, and also tend to be insanely long, when used as filenames,
and unwieldy and unhandy in one's fileviewer.
5. What should be done about this: Make it a Prefence
Naive users may like it, but then naive people may like lots of things
that they would know is not good for them if only they knew a little
more than they do.
I want my links preserved; I want the original filenames; I do not
want insanely long filenames derived from arbitrarily long htm-titles;
I want properly formatted filenames; and I suspect also - precisely
because titles are not URLs - this introduces yet another safety risk. 
So the least Mozilla should do, and as fast as possible, is this, in
order of preference:
Note this is not asking much:
The code existed until version 18 of Firefox, so all the good people at
Mozilla need to do is add it as Preference, e.g. under General
- Downloads, as follows:
- Make the Save As
an option in the Preferences menu, where one can choose
between Save As by title or by filename and/or
- Provide an add-on to
enable savvy users to save by filename rather than by title, so as to
preserve links and/or to avoid insanely long and quite possibly
improperly formatted filenames derived from html-titles (that may be
virtually any string).
- by filename
where one can then set one's
preference. (Also, it woukd make sense to warn naive users that
htm-titles often make VERY long "filenames"!).
- by title
6. Two workarounds
There are two workarounds, at present, none pleasant:
This is kludgy because it
doesn't work anymore for files one has opened and that one considers
interesting enough to save because of what one has read in them.
- Workaround 1 - kludgy: Saving from an
URI (still) goes by filename: If one knows an URI for a file one wants
to save, one can save it from that URL.
In the case of such an opened file, one is condemned to do this, on a
modern computer, in the latest version of what is claimed to be the
Note that I will probably
anyway want to do that, because at present my html-directories have
many filenames of 10 to 20 words, which looks extra-ordinarily messy
and useless in my fileviewer, and does not help me one bit: If I want
useful filenames I could introduce them with the old policy in terms
that are meaningful to me, while also being proper filenames.
- Workaround 2 -
extremely kludgy: One can
manually copy the filename from the URL (it is the last part of the
full URI) with one's mouse, then press Save As, then manually remove
the offered title (that anyway may be a foot long or more), then paste
the copied filename in its place, and then, at looooong last, save the
file by its filename...
This "improvement" is a prime example of a Verschlimmbesserung! I hope Mozilla
VERY soon comes with the proposed real improvement: Make Save As
depend on a setting in Preferences.
Jul 10, 2013: I have sorted out some mistakes, and note four
versions onwards I have received no reply and seen no
 E.g. what happens if a title of 5 Kb or 1 MB is
offered? I have no idea, but I do know a trick involving overload of a
field has been much used to gain illegal access to computers in the
(that I prefer
to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which
is a disease I have since 1.1.1979: