ff3 sets downloaded files as readonly when using the ‘open with’ feature

Firefox 3 has a new ‘feature’ where downloaded files are marked readonly when they are opened on the fly with the ‘open with’ feature.

The reasoning behind this is that there were many people who lost information because they didn’t realize Firefox deletes those temporary downloaded files when it closes. So Firefox 3 was patched to save the temporary files as readonly, thus forcing the applications to prompt the user to store the document somewhere permanent if any changes are attempted.

Of course this causes all sorts of unexpected breakage. I have an application where users download an Openoffice document that’s generated on the fly, and need to make some local edits. They now get the document in read-only, and need to hit ‘save’ before they can start editing it. That’s annoying in their workflow.

The workaround is to create a new boolean attribute called


in about:config, and set it to false. Obviously this will lead to information leakage, but if you are on a GNU/Linux system it won’t be too bad. The files will end up in /tmp/, which will be wiped on your next boot.

All in all I think this change in behavior makes sense, but it is annoying for people who know what they are doing. Maybe Openoffice could be modified to deal with readonly files in a smarter way when it is called from Firefox. In that case, perhaps Openoffice could move the file elsewhere and mark it read-write while opening the document, without user intervention. Seems like that would be a nice (optional?) feature. No local changes would be lost ever, and power users would not be inconvenienced.

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One Response to ff3 sets downloaded files as readonly when using the ‘open with’ feature

  1. matt says:

    Thanks for this post — Firefox’s read-only saving of temporary files was interacting terribly with my Vista limited user account and prevented me from doing anything with temporary files (like PDFs, WMVs etc.)

    The about:config change solved it.


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