With each update, Facebook has become more cluttered, perplexing and ornery, yet it's still a tool few of us can live without. Here's how to fix some of its biggest annoyances in a matter of minutes, and with only one new addition to your browser.
We've talked about Social Fixer before, back when it was called Better Facebook -- heck, it was even one of our readers' favorite Facebook customisers. However, if you've ever installed it, you probably got overwhelmed pretty quickly, and dropped it for something else (or just continued to deal with Facebook's ever-inflating annoyances).
After sifting through all of its options, we discovered it's actually very simple for Social Fixer to make Facebook tons better, without turning it into a more confusing beast. Whether you want to make the font more readable, get rid of that pesky ticker, see who's unfriended you, and much more, here's how to make Facebook infinitely better with just one browser extension.
Step One: Install Social Fixer
To get started, head over to Social Fixer's homepage and install it for your browser. It's available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, or as a Greasemonkey userscript. Once it's installed, open up Facebook, and you should notice a few different things right off the bat.
Social Fixer looks pretty cluttered at first glance, adding tabs to your news feed, extra columns to the side of the page, and more. These features can be pretty cool, but it's a lot to deal with at first, and a lot of these features aren't things you need, so to start out, we're going to disable everything and begin with a clean slate. Then we'll walk through fixing Facebook's biggest annoyances, enabling one feature at a time as we need it. I do recommend browsing these extra features later on, but for now, we're going to keep it simple.
If you're greeted with the setup wizard after installing the extension, choose the Minimalist Installation. If you don't see the setup wizard (I personally could never get it to display), click on the new Wrench icon in Facebook's blue bar, go to Social Fixer Options, and start unchecking boxes. It's better to start off with a clean slate than with the default options, so I recommend unchecking everything and saving before continuing.
Step Two: Comb Through Social Fixer's Options
Now that you've got a minimal installation of Social Fixer, it's time to fix some of those Facebook annoyances you've come to know and hate. Again, I recommend looking through all of the options Social Fixer has to offer at some point, but to kickstart your efforts, here's a rundown of our favourite tweaks that improve Facebook's interface and functionality. We'll go through the settings in the order they appear under in Social Fixer's options, so just navigate through using the tabs on the left hand side to follow along.
The Popular Tab
Disable Lightbox: This disable's Facebook's new photo viewer that overlays itself over the page you were viewing. We actually think this is a pretty great feature, but if you'd rather have the old school image viewer that displayed each image on a new page, you can check this option to get it back.
Change Font Size: Facebook made its font size smaller a while back, and if it's still barely readable to you, this option can help. You can change the font size of posts and comments separately, to help distinguish between them. Facebook's default font size for each is 11. You can increase the readability of any page by using your browser's zoom feature (Ctrl+Plus Sign and Ctrl+Minus Sign), but this option gives you a bit more control.
Force the News Feed to switch to "Recent Stories First": By default, Facebook only shows you the top stories rather than every post made by your friends. If you prefer seeing all your friends' posts, this option will make your News Feed default to Recent instead of Top Stories.
Hide the Ticker: If that new ticker annoys the crap out of you, you can turn it off with this option. You can technically hide it already with Facebook, but that will still leave the bar at the top of the page. This will remove that entire section of your home page altogether and just make it a bit cleaner.
The Layout Tab
Auto-Expand Left Panel Sections: This will automatically show the sub-sections of your Messages, Events, Photos, Apps and more. I highly recommend auto-expanding the Messages section to avoid the whole second inbox problem -- that way, no messages will ever go unnoticed.
Friend Tracker: This adds a handy little box in the right hand sidebar that lets you know who has unfriended you on Facebook. It won't show you who's unfriended you in the past, only who has unfriended you since you installed Social Fixer, but it's pretty handy to have there just in case.
The Posts Tab
Fix the Missing Cursor Problem and Fix the Line Wrap Problem: These are just a few tiny bugs in Facebook's interface when you make posts. If you've noticed them before, check these boxes; otherwise there's no harm in leaving them blank.
Disable Facebook's Auto-Loading of Posts: As you scroll down, Facebook automatically loads more posts for you. Some find this useful, but others find it annoying. I have no problem with clicking "Show Posts" to see more, so I've checked this box to avoid unnecessary page loading.
When Clicking a Link in an Application Post, Open in a New Browser Tab/Window: Does exactly what it says. This makes sure links don't lead you away from Facebook; instead, they open up in a new tab or window (depending on the default setting you have in your browser).
Auto-Expand "See More" Links in Posts: When people write particularly long posts, Facebook will condense it to the first few lines of text and add a "See More" box so you can expand it. It also does this with long strings of comments. This option automatically expands long posts, which I like since it doesn't make my News Feed that much longer. You can click the auto-expand collapsed comment threads on posts by pages above, but I don't recommend this, since it will make your News Feed very, very long.
The Display Tab
There isn't a lot here that I like to tweak, though it's worth looking through. If you have a problem with that "Please update your email address" box, you can hide it with an option here, as well as avoid that somewhat annoying popup box that shows up when you hover over a person's username.
The Timeline Tab
If you can't stand Facebook's new Timeline interface, this tab provides a few options that clean it up. We've talked about this once before, so I won't go into too much detail here, but the options do help if you want to make tweaks. They won't get rid of Timeline altogether, and it won't change how other people see your profile, but it will at least give the Timeline a nicer, one-column view for you when you view it from your Social Fixer-enabled browser.
The Hidden Items Tab
From the main Facebook interface, you can hide certain sections by clicking the "x" that appears in the upper right hand corner of the box. There doesn't seem to be a lot of sections that allow for this any more, but you can hide Facebook's ads, which is nice if you aren't using an ad blocker already. This section of Social Fixer's options will show you which sections you've hidden, and let you un-hide them.
The Chat Tab
Whether you use Facebook Chat religiously or sparingly, this section is a good one to visit. You can:
Turn off the chat bar: This gets rid of that unsightly chat bar that shows up when the page is maximised, and brings back the chat popup at the bottom of the window.
Show all online friends in chat list: If you want to see all of your online friends, and not just the one Facebook has deemed chat-worthy, check this box.
Group friends by status: This puts available people together at the top of the list, and idle people together at the bottom, just to keep it all better organised.
Use compact chat list: This is nice if you're showing all your online friends and don't want the chat box to get unweildy.
Hide the chat dock entirely: This won't log you out of chat, but it's great if you use Facebook chat in an external IM program and don't want the chat dock cluttering up your Facebook.
The Theme Tab
This seems to be deprecated, as it doesn't load for me -- but that's OK, because this tab was essentially for turning Facebook into MySpace with themes.
The Filtering Tab
This is where things get really interesting. One of Facebook's biggest annoyances isn't, sadly, Facebook itself -- it's all the annoying things people say. Even your closest friends occasionally stand on a soapbox that can get on your nerves. Whether your friends are annoyingly political, overly emo, or just a little too in love with their cats, Social Fixer's filters can help you filter those posts out. Of course you could always hide those people from your news feed (or unfriend them, if you're really fed up), but sometimes you still want to hear from your friends -- you just don't want to hear them rant about [insert political figure here] again.
To create a new filter, go through the 5 columns and choose the filter's characteristics. Let's start with a very simple example. I'm pretty nervous about hearing Mass Effect 3 spoilers, since I play video games pretty slowly, so I want to hide any posts containing the words "Mass Effect" or "Mass Effect 3" -- no matter who they're from or what type of post they are. All you'd need to do to create this filter is head to the "Other" column, add the words "Mass Effect" (without quotes) to the text box, and then check "Hide" under the Action column. This will automatically hide any post in which someone mentions Mass Effect. For extra security, you can use regular expressions to search for multiple strings of text -- for example, adding
/Mass Effect|ME3/ to that box will hide posts containing either "Mass Effect" or "ME3". If you don't know regular expressions, you can always just create multiple filters instead. When you're done, click the "Add New Filter at the Top" buttton above the filter columns to add the filter.
Now let's try something a bit more complicated. Say you have one or two friends who get a little too political on Facebook from time to time, and like to rant about Bob Katter. You don't want to block all posts about Bob Katter, just ones from your political freak friends that like to rag on him. Select those friends from the "Author" column, using the Ctrl key to select multiple people. Leave the Type field blank to include all post types in the filter, then add "Bob Katter" (without quotes) to the Other column (alternatively, use
/Bob Katter|Katter/ to include posts which mention just his last name), and check the Hide box under Action. Then, click the Add New Filter button again to finalise everything.
You can do a lot more with filters, such as hide specific post types, posts from applications, or apply advanced CSS to highlight certain posts, but we won't go too deeply into that here. Check out Social Fixer's Filter Documentation for more on how to use the Filter feature. And be sure to check the regular Facebook interface before you run to Social Fixer -- it can already do a lot to hide specific post types and applications all on its own. Just click the arrow that shows up when you hover over a post in the news feed.
The Advanced Tab
This section mostly provides preferences for Social Fixer itself. From here, you can turn off many of Social Fixer's popups, warnings, and help messages, plus change how often it checks for updates, and more. There isn't anything here that I'd recommend turning off immediately, but if you find that Social Fixer is affecting your page in a negative way, this is the first place I'd head to troubleshoot it.
Step Three: Enjoy Facebook
That's actually all it takes. A few checkboxes here, a few there, and you've got yourself a much better Facebook. If you use Social Fixer on multiple computers, you can head to the User Prefereces section of its options and export your options for importing on another machine, which is nice. Other than that, just keep Social Fixer installed and keep on using Facebook. The developer is pretty good about updating it when Facebook's layout changes, so you shouldn't have too many compatibility issues down the road -- and he's sure to fix any new annoyances that are introduced.
If you've been a longtime user of Social Fixer and you have a favourite preference we didn't mention, share it with us in the comments.