Using Pre-release Firefox on Linux

Every committed Mozillian and many enthusiastic end-users will use a pre-release version of Firefox.

In Mac and Windows this is pretty straightforward, you simply download the Firefox Nightly/Aurora/Beta dmg or setup tool, and get going. When it is installed it is a proper desktop application, you could make it your default browser, and life goes on.

In Linux, we rely much more on packagers to prepare an application for the distribution before we could use it. This usually works really well, but sometimes you really just want to use an upstream app without any gatekeepers.

The pre-release versions of Firefox for Linux comes in tarballs. You unpack them, and could run them out of the unpacked directory. But it doesn’t run well. You can’t set them as your default browser, the icon is a generic square, and opening links from other apps is a headache. In short, it’s a less than polished experience.

So here is a small script I wrote, it does a few things:

  1. It downloads the latest Firefox from the channel of your choosing.
  2. It unpacks it into a hidden directory in your $HOME
  3. It adds a symbolic link to the main executable in ~/.local/bin .
  4. It adds symbolic links for the icon’s various sizes into your icon theme in ~/.local/share/icons.
  5. It adds a desktop file to ~/.local/share/applications.

It doesn’t require root privileges, and is contained to your home directory so it won’t conflict with the system Firefox installation or touch the system libxul. Typically, you only need to run the script once per channel. After a channel is installed, they will get automatic updates through the actual app.

Nightly running in Fedora 22
See the nice icon?

So, here are some commands you could copy to your terminal and have pre-release Firefox installed:


curl  | python - nightly


curl  | python - aurora


curl  | python - beta


curl  | python - release

Using Pre-release Firefox on Linux

8 thoughts on “Using Pre-release Firefox on Linux

  1. alexanderbrowne says:

    Thanks from some who’s transition to Linux. This saves a lot of manual work!

  2. You can’t make a pre-release the default browser in Linux? I have in all of my Linux versions currently Kubuntu 14.10 with Firefox betas.

    I just select System Settings > Default Applications from the KDE Menu, click Web Browser, select “in the following browser” navigate to my Applications > fxbeta folder where I installed it, select the firefox executable and click OK.

    Edit > Preferences > General indicates the Firefox is currently my default browser.

    I’m astonished to hear I’ve been doing it wrong all this time! I only rely on packagers for the release versions, which I only use for supporting users with problems.

    1. Eitan says:

      I was wrong on that front. Looks like setting it as the default browser is as easy as confirming a dialog on startup. Anyway, this script still helps with icons/desktop entry/startup notification/etc.

  3. Since this post is appearing on, would you please change “Linux” to “GNU/Linux” when talking about the operating system? Thanks!

  4. Many thanks! Thoughts for future generations:

    • If GNOME Shell is not showing the launcher, check that ~/.local/bin is in PATH for the gnome-shell process…
    • Shame that the highest-res icon shipped in these tarballs is 128×128. I manually added a higher-res icon from
    • Also a shame that Developer Edition has the same WM_CLASS as the release channel – I think this is what stops GNOME Shell telling running instances of both apart.

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