Mozilla changed Firefox’s download behavior when it released version 97 of the browser, bypassing the prompt that allowed users to choose to open a file, save it, or cancel the action. When you click a download link, the file is saved to your Downloads folder.
Most other browsers have this behavior enabled by default, so Mozilla was following the trend. It’s not always a good idea. Since the browser downloads files by default, the Downloads directory could be cluttered with files you didn’t want to download, i.e. accidentally clicked on a link or clicked on the wrong link. It was not surprising to see that many users were unhappy with this change.
There are several ways to prevent files from downloading, the first is simply to change an option under Firefox Settings > General > Files and apps. Set it to “Always ask you where to save files”, and Firefox will pop up a File Explorer dialog prompting you to select the download folder, you can press the cancel button to skip the download. A better solution is to change a preference in the about:config page that restores the classic behavior, i.e. the prompt that has Open With and Save options. You can find how to enable the old behavior here.
Firefox 101 Beta Brings Back Download Prompt
After listening to user feedback, Mozilla added the download prompt to the Firefox beta channel. A reddit the user noticed that the latest version, Firefox 101.0b2, shows the old prompt, giving the user more control over how the download should be handled.
A support page on the Mozilla website explains the change. It also highlights a new option available in Firefox settings. Take a look at the two options under the “Applications” section.
The first radio button, when enabled, will save files by default. The other, “will ask whether to open or save files”. It’s essentially the same as changing the preference, but it’s a more user-friendly way to activate the old download prompt. Quickly opening a file, an easy way to undo a wrong click, and choosing where the file should be saved are all great options to have.
Mozilla plans to add an option to use the temporary folder to start downloads
Whether you clicked Open or Download (by clicking a link), the file is saved to the computer’s drive. The only difference between the two options is the folder in which Firefox saves the files. In previous versions of the browser, clicking the Open button saved the file to the Temporary folder, before opening it in the corresponding program. This option was particularly useful in certain scenarios, for example if you wanted to read a PDF once. But since Firefox 97 completely removed the download prompt, all files were dumped in the Downloads folder.
This caused some inconvenience to users, there is a long discussion about this on reddit and Bugzilla. The issue was brought to light by a Mozilla developer, who said a future Firefox update will add an option to re-enable using the Temp folder (via a subfolder) to start downloads. The new option will be an opt-in, i.e. it will not be enabled by default. The “use temporary folder” option will be a toggle under about:config and will also be available through a company policy.
Mozilla developers believe that a file saved in the temporary folder might cause it to be deleted, so users might lose an important file. There are also concerns about the performance of network shares. This is why users will have to decide whether they want to enable the option to use the temporary folder to start downloads or stick to the default download flow. I think they shouldn’t have played with those options in the first place.