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Share Mozilla settings between user profiles Web Browsers
This tip is primarily for those Mozilla users who switch between different profiles. I use my PowerBook at home and work, but work has a proxy server and home doesn't. So when I first started using Mozilla as my primary browser, I needed to access my preferences each time I launched to configure the proxy settings (it's unfortunate Mozilla doesn't use the System proxy settings, I could just change Location and be done). I was using this method because I didn't want to have 2 separate bookmarks, cookies and mime types files, etc.

Well, I kept forgetting to access preferences and would end up getting a failure accessing a web page so I decided to figure out if it was possible to share these settings between different profile users and found that it was. Read the rest of this article to find out how...

First you need to locate your profile directories (mine somehow ended up in completely different locations, probably from earlier Netscape use when I kept my profiles in my Documents folder). Using the Profile Manager, or just clicking the Manage button when launching the browser, you can select a profile and click Delete. This brings up a warning window with the path to the profile listed. Use care not to accidentally delete your profile, just click cancel to get back. Do this for each of the profiles you want to share files between.

Next you'll need to open different Finder windows to those locations for easy file and alias management. Oh, you'll also need a Terminal window :) - pick one profile to be the master.

To share your bookmarks file, delete the bookmarks.html file you don't want to save (merge the contents first if there are unique bookmarks in there), then cmd-opt-drag the master bookmarks.html file into the other profile folder. This will also work for the two cookie files (cookies.txt and cookperm.txt), history.dat, localstore.rdf, mimeTypes.rdf, panels.rdf, search.rdf, and XUL FastLoad File.

I left the prefs.js file alone since this is where the proxy settings are stored. The down side (benefit?) to this is, you have to specify many of the settings manually to make them match.

Finally, the Terminal part. In order to share the Security files, aliases didn't work, I'd get errors any time I tried accessing a SSL server. I discovered that hard links were the answer (I don't remember if I tried symbolic links, so if you want, you can try that first). What I did was create hard links to the three security files (Certificates7, Key Database3, and Security Modules) from the master profile. To do this, type:
ln /path/to/master/profile/Security/filename /path/to/slave/profile/Security
replacing 'filename' with the actual name of one of the files. Do this for each file. One note here, the newly created (linked) files did not show in the Finder until I logged out and back in again.

If you want to share cache directories, just change the location of your cache directory in preferences.

Now, I have a shared setup and the only thing I need to do when I launch Mozilla is select the proper profile!

Note, you can't share everything between users and I didn't try all the files in the profile directories. For example, I couldn't figure out how to share the password and form data files. These files (ending with .s and .w extensions) appear to have unique names for each profile. And, it appears that only those services you use will show preference files in the profile directory. One of my profiles had AIM set up, the other didn't, so there were a couple of files the one profile had that the other didn't. Same goes for things like Mail. I also only tried to share those files that I cared about. So it may be possible to share these other files as well, but since I don't use those features in Mozilla, I didn't try. But using these techniques, you should be able to share any of the files that are sharable.

[Editor's note: I have not tried this tip myself.]
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update, and not fool proof
Authored by: soob on Mar 01, '02 12:25:34PM

First, I've decided against using aliases for any of the shared files. I was having display problems with the sidebar items until I made hard links instead of aliases for those files.

Second, I can't seem to get some functionality to work properly. Specifically, I'm unable to save form data (on a page, preferences works fine) or login info for a page in the profile that is using the linked files. The profile that has the original files doesn't have this problem. Sites that already had saved data before I started sharing the files still work.

If anyone has any ideas, send them along. In the meantime, I'll be trying different things to see if I can get it to work.

All of this seems rather strange given the nature of hard links. I'd expect there to be no problem since there isn't any chance of the files getting used by both profiles at the same time.

I'll keep updating... Jim



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