Greasemonkey User Scripts

I have recently been playing around with Greasemonkey, a great Firefox add-on that gives users a lot of control over how a website is displayed. It works by having the user providing a bit of Javascript that runs when a website is rendered. The user doesn't actually have to write the script, but can find them in various script repositories.

When I looked around, I couldn't find scripts to do some things I wanted, so I started writing my own. Now that I have started that habit I see uses for user scripts all over the place. Suddenly I can fix anything I find annoying on the web. It's very empowering.

Of course, Firefox add-ons can do anything a user script can do. But Greasemonkey user scripts are lightweight, more secure (due to being less powerful), easier to write, and don't require a browser restart to install and uninstall.

I posted my scripts on so that people could find them easily, but I always like to host these things locally, too. You can find it under /userscripts here. Don't forget to review the source before you install it! That is, unless you automatically trust me and my website's security. I, or an infiltrator, could slip something sneaky in there.

I actually first used Greasemonkey back in 2005, but they had some very serious security issues back in those days. It was bad enough that I just uninstalled it, which was actually recommended by the Greasemonkey people themselves. So, four years later I am back to check it out.

The first user script I wrote was in response to a "feature" on TV Tropes. In addition to the overall cruddiness of the website, they started adding "folders" to the information on long pages. It folds up all of the information behind little clickable widgets. It uses CSS to hide the information and Javascript to reveal it by adjusting those styles on the fly. If you have a browser with CSS support but not Javascript (or have it disabled like I did), you won't ever be able to see the information in the browser. As of this writing the Jumping the Shark article uses this. Take a look.

This is an awful idea! It critically breaks the usability of the page. And what's the point? We already have a vertical scrollbar to control the display. Unfortunately, a lot of clueless people seem to like this sort of behavior — because it's flashy — so we will probably only see more of it on the web in the future.

My TV Tropes user script is simple: it scrapes off some of the CSS. Specifically, the "folder" CSS. That's it! Someone who already knows how to make user scripts could probably put this together in less than 15 minutes.

If you want to tackle web annoyances, learn Greasemonkey!

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Chris Wellons (PGP)
~skeeto/ (view)