HOWTO: Install IceWeasel in Ubuntu

I wrote a quick howto for installing IceWeasel for the forums (it’s here). IceWeasel replaces Firefox for legal and trademark reasons. If you want to know more about it, try the Wikipedia entry for IceWeasel, the GNUzilla/IceWeasel home page and the original “bug report” at Debian describing the issue. I won’t get into the dirt here, but as I understand it, Firefox is technically free, but the logo and branding aren’t — and that disqualifies it for redistribution under Debian. There’s a very good capsule of the issue here.

Installing it is a breeze. In fact, the hardest part is configuring your desktop to point at the new browser, instead of Firefox. I’ve done this under Dapper and Edgy on Xubuntu and Openbox rigs, and I can’t imagine it being any more difficult under earlier versions or other desktop environments.

1. Download the IceWeasel package from any GNU mirror. I found a working one here; it seems some of the mirrors haven’t got the Gnuzilla folder. Perhaps it’s still too new. Make sure you get the ~8Mb i386 package.

2. Extract the package with XArchiver, or alternatively, open a terminal, navigate to the directory holding the IceWeasel package, and decompress it with tar -xvf iceweasel*. You can add -C directory-where-you-want-iceweasel-to-go if you don’t want it right there. Remember to add sudo to that command if you want extract it outside your home directory.

3. Inside the extracted folder (which you can rename at this point, if you want) is a shell script called iceweasel. If you double-click on that, IceWeasel will start.

4. Now point your Preferred Applications at the iceweasel shell script. In Xubuntu, it’s under Applications > Settings > Preferred Applications. In Gnome it’s under System > Preferences > Preferred Applications. I’m not sure about KDE. Openbox users can just edit their ~/.config/openbox/menu.xml file, or run obmenu and reconfigure. However you do it, make sure your Preferred Applications menu knows where to go.

5. Finally, check any desktop icons you might have, to see if they’re hard-wired to jump to Firefox. If they are, make sure you change them to the iceweasel shell script.

That’s it, really. You’re on your own for extensions, themes and bookmarks. Personally, I use the Fasterfox, Tab Mix Plus, DownThemAll and Ubuntu Forums extensions, and all of them work fine.

Edited, 10/7: A couple of touch-up points:

First, if sites block your access and tell you you’re “not using Firefox,” try this:

1. Open “about:config” in IceWeasel’s address bar.
2. In the “Filter” box, type general.useragent.extra.firefox.
3. Where you see the word “Iceweasel”, right-click and pick “Modify”
4. Then replace the word “Iceweasel” with “Firefox”.
5. Close the page (or the tab).

All you’re doing here is telling Iceweasel to identify itself to Web sites as Firefox. It shouldn’t affect your browsing other than that.

Second, a big thanks to stateq2 for reminding me about plugins. Make a symbolic link for your Mozilla plugin directory to Iceweasel with

ln -s /path/to/mozilla/plugins ~/.gnuzilla/

If you have Firefox installed, it will look like this:

ln -s /usr/lib/firefox/plugins ~/.gnuzilla/

Again, thanks to stateq2 for reminding me about that. It should have been part of the original post.


2 thoughts on “HOWTO: Install IceWeasel in Ubuntu

  1. Pingback: Fresh Ubuntu » Ubuntu and WINE

  2. Pingback: Debian Iceweasel Identity « The vortex

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