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The Good (Firefox), The Bad (Aurora) & The Ugly (ESR)

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There are 3 major channels of Firefox

Default: This is what your distro usually ships. The release cycle for new versions is about every 6 weeks. Basically Firefox and Chromium are both rolling releases. Current version 16

Aurora: There is a beta version of Firefox but this isn’t something you will notice differences. Aurora is the pre-beta and future release of Firefox and usually is better from the default. However it isn’t recommended and security bugs could exist. Current version 18

ESR: The Extended Support Release of Firefox for use by organizations including schools, universities, businesses and others who need extended support for mass deployments. It is not recommended for personal use (as it lacks of new features), but if you fed up with the bugs of the current release you can use this. Its release cycle is 54(!) weeks -meanwhile it has security updates only. Current version 10

The goal of this tutorial is to run at the same time multiple Firefox versions


I assume you all have the default Firefox from your distro repos so I will bother only how to download the rest two releases. If you navigate to Mozilla page and you download Aurora and ESR (from the above links) Mozilla will give you the 32bit versions which won’t work if you run a 64bit system -as I do. If you don’t know your system architecture just give in terminal:

uname -a

I guess the output is explainable enough :)

To download the appropriated version:


Find the latest Aurora (Currently 18.0a2)

Direct Link to 64bit latest ESR for US


Find the latest ESR (Currently 10.0.9)

Direct Link to 64bit latest ESR for US

After you download these unzip them in your preferable directory. I used:

~/Apps/firefox-aurora && ~/Apps/firefox-esr

“~” symbolizes your HOME Folder.

Creating Profiles

Next you should create 3 different profiles for each version of Firefox. Profiles will affect Themes, Extensions and Accounts for each Firefox. Note that not all Extensions and Themes will work on the different Firefox-es so it is important to do that.

From command line (you can make it also from FF options) run:

firefox -P

That will launch the profile manager of Firefox. I made 3 profiles, default (for default), aurora (for aurora) and esr (for ESR). Firefox profiles are stored under:


Using profiles: To force Firefox to use a specific profile (ie “esr:) run:

firefox -P "esr"

Inside the folders you downloaded Aurora and ESR there are such “firefox” binaries that you can run similarly. For example as I said I have aurora under ~/Apps/firefox-aurora. To run it with aurora profile which I have already created:



 cd && ./Apps/firefox-aurora/firefox -P "aurora"

*cd changes directory to your home folder


If you already running the Default Firefox and you try to open Aurora as well, you’ll get a message that a Firefox is already running. That happens because the “firefox” process is already running (from default Firefox). To start a new second process that is invisible to the first will use the -no-remote command line option. So if you have a Default Firefox running you can start an Aurora by:

 cd && ./Apps/firefox-aurora/firefox -P "aurora" -no-remote

Almost Done: By now you know how to run multiple Firefox-es with private Profiles. Next step is to make the whole process more polishes without the need of the terminal

Add All Firefox-es to Gnome Shell Apps Overview

Now I will add these 2 new Firefox versions in the Gnome Shell App Launcher.

To do that I will use the Alacarte Application. We have a guide if you want to see (Alacarte in that post is a bit broken) but is a pretty straightforward anyway. Sorry, but I don’t have a clue how Unity (and other DE) users can add Apps to their launchers. I guess it will be something trivial.

Pay attention on the command I give to start the Aurora. You should do that for each of the three versions:


/home/alex/Apps/firefox-aurora/firefox -P "aurora" -no-remote


/home/alex/Apps/firefox-esr/firefox -P "esr" -no-remote


firefox -P "default" -no-remote

*Of course that applies to my directory structure, replace the paths to fit yours!

The Reason for all these

You can try all 3 versions and decide which works better for you. In my opinion the last 1.5 years Firefox and Chrome/Chromium have become really bad Web-Browsers (at least in Linux DE), with huge demands in CPU and RAM, many bugs and many crashes. Anyway, if you want to keep ESR as your default you should copy it in a folder like /opt and link the /usr/bin/firefox to that.

Lazy to test but it should work ..I guess

sudo cp -R /home/alex/Apps/firefox-esr/ /opt/ (move directory)
sudo mv /usr/bin/firefox /usr/bin/firefox-old (just backup old firefox)
sudo ln -s /opt/firefox-esr/firefox /usr/bin/firefox (make a symbolic link)

For the story RHEL 7 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) will ship Firefox ESR (also Mageia 3) and Gnome 3.6!

Contest Question

There is a bug on this tutorial. Gnome Shell Dash can’t understand how to handle the 3 Firefox instances.

How can we fix that? First correct answer will win a small (undefined yet!) prize :)

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (The Movie)

Normally I steal Futurama’s but this time I got classic with Clint Eastwood. So he deserves a small tribute. Just the trailer of the movie by Director, Sergio Leone, produce 1966.

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (original title) in IMDB

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  • poncho

    Contest Question
    You need to assigne different window classes:

    firefox -P “default” -no-remote –class foobar

    • alex285

      I didn’t know the answer, but that worked. But that doesn’t work for ESR and Default, GS handles them as same App. But I guess there is something with the systemwide installation of default Firefox.

      We can send you Gnome Stickers when we printed them (we haven’t yet), if you want to send us your home address (in our email!)

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