Firefox Horizontal Trackpad Scrolling

UPDATE: Smoothwheel’s developer took the time to write a thoughtful comment; please find it below the post.

I’ve spent so, so long trying to figure out how to get horizontal trackpad scrolling working in my installation of Firefox (on a Mac, running 10.3 – 10.5 while the problem persisted). I finally got it, and tracked it down to a problem extension: Smoothwheel.

For me, scrolling horizontally on the trackpad had scrolled the window vertically, for as long as I could remember. All the hints I saw indicated that a slight change to the preferences in about:config would resolve the issue, that the defaults in Firefox were for horizontal scrolling to move forward and backward in the history.

But those hints were from 2005, and I don’t think the forward/backward behavior has been the default for at least a year. So I started looking through my add-ons for potential problems.

The only one I had that should’ve been affecting scrolling behavior was Smoothwheel, which has options for compatibility mode and disabling. Sadly, neither fixed the problem. I tried disabling Smoothwheel at the Firefox level. No dice. Then I tried uninstalling it. Still no fix.

At this point, I thought, it couldn’t be Smoothwheel, so I went back to endless combinations of mousewheel and mousewheel.horizscroll settings in about:config. But nothing helped.

In the end, I took a wild shot and decided to delete [Profile Directory]/chrome/smoothwheel/ entirely to fix the problem. Very strange behavior for an add-on, residing in the chrome folder and not respecting disabling and uninstalling…

Based on the number of problems listed on Smoothwheel’s mozdev page, I can’t imagine I’m the only one having problems here.

2 thoughts on “Firefox Horizontal Trackpad Scrolling

  1. avih January 12, 2008 / 3:23 am

    Hi There,

    As the author of SmoothWheel I can assure you that the extension is identical to any other normal extension with regards to disabling or uninstalling and as respectful of the rules as much as I’m aware. You may as well have a look at the code of your installed extension, as it does nothing to persist or to mess with the installation. More than that, checking the “quick disable” box in its configuration panel completely overrides SmoothWheel’s code even while enabled in Firefox.

    The horizontal issue itself is a known one, and I still haven’t found a good fix for it, however, disabling the extension either through Firefox or through SmoothWheel’s configuration panel should restore your horizontal and disable SmoothWheel as expected.

    I do believe your description, and my guess is that you’ve bumped into a Firefox bug regarding uninstalling an extension. If you could reproduce the issue I would be very thankful if you send me the exact steps leading to this bug, including the details of your installation and other installed extensions. I can be reached at avihpit at yahoo period com.

    Cheers and sorry the trouble smoothwheel might have caused,



    • devan January 13, 2008 / 8:21 pm

      Hi, Avih,

      Thanks very much for the reply. I would happily send the details, but it’s been so much trial and error over so long that I’m not sure I’d be able to produce them accurately—too many variables.

      I can say that the Quick Disable feature also didn’t remedy the problem though.

      Also, once I suspected this problem I looked for similar issues with other extensions (both around the Web and in personal experimentation), and found nothing.

      Finally, again, based on the lengthy (and too heated) feedback on Smoothwheel’s mozdev page, I do think it seems likely there’s something peculiar to this particular extension.

      Still, you may well be right that it’s a Firefox bug; I’m probably not savvy enough to look at the extension’s code and figure it out as you suggest.

      Once again, I do appreciate your thoughtful response, very much. I’ll update the post to encourage people to read your comment.


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