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Downloads auto-save when I don't want them to

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Every time I come across a file and click the link to either open or save the file, Firefox just downloads the file -- THEN it asks me if I want to open it or save it..? It's bugged and an obscene security threat if the browser is so easily willing to download files against my intention.

Before I'm asked, I have gone through the settings multiple times to ensure 'Always ask you where to save files' and 'Ask whether to open or save files" are checked. Behavior does not change according to settings.

Example 1. Click link for a PDF with the intention to open, read, and forget 2. Firefox automatically downloads the file to my download folder 3. Firefox prompts me if I want to save the file or open it

If I click 'open', the file stays in the saved location even though I don't want it to exist.

Every time I come across a file and click the link to either open or save the file, Firefox just downloads the file -- THEN it asks me if I want to open it or save it..? It's bugged and an obscene security threat if the browser is so easily willing to download files against my intention. Before I'm asked, I have gone through the settings multiple times to ensure 'Always ask you where to save files' and 'Ask whether to open or save files" are checked. Behavior does not change according to settings. Example 1. Click link for a PDF with the intention to open, read, and forget 2. Firefox automatically downloads the file to my download folder 3. Firefox prompts me if I want to save the file or open it If I click 'open', the file stays in the saved location even though I don't want it to exist.

Chosen solution

Yes, for many years now, Firefox starts downloading a file even while displaying the Download dialog. It needs to request the file to obtain information used to set up the dialog (for example, what kind of file is it). And I guess maybe it can't cancel the request at that point because a new request might not return the identical information?? But whatever the reason, what changed recently (in Firefox 98) is that instead of using the Windows Temp folder to start the download, it uses your "Save files to" folder. There is a way to switch this back to the Temp folder, and for PDFs, there is a way to treat them as web content so they don't go to an external folder at all. Allow me to give you way more information than you wanted to know...

Selecting your PDF handling preference

By default, Firefox comes with the action for "Portable Document File (PDF)" set to "Open in Firefox". You can change this preference to "Always ask" or "Use Adobe Acrobat" or "Save File" depending on your preferred workflow. That part is covered in this article: View PDF files in Firefox or choose another viewer. But it's only the first factor...

The Open in Firefox option and inline vs. attachment disposition

If web servers don't specify how Firefox should handle a PDF, or if they specify "inline" handling, then then Firefox loads the PDF as web content with its original URL in the address bar. The PDFs are saved with other cached web content, not in your download folder. This is good.

But web servers can try to force a download by setting Content-Disposition: attachment if they don't want browsers to show the files in a tab. Firefox changed what it does in this case:

Before Firefox 98: Firefox always showed a download dialog, even though you had already told Firefox what you wanted to do, even when you checked the box to always do this in the future. It was kind of infuriating.

Firefox 98+: Firefox downloads the file automatically and then opens it. Because these are saved to disk the URLs start with file:///. By default, they are saved in your "Save files to" folder on the Settings page.

New options for saving downloads

In response to user suggestions/complaints, Mozilla added some options to modify the above:

(1) Just for PDFs, override "attachment" disposition to "inline"

When your handling action is "Open in Firefox", all PDFs can now be opened as web content and saved in the cache instead of a regular folder. Here's how you set this up:

(a) In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return. Click the button accepting the risk.

More info on about:config: Configuration Editor for Firefox. The moderators would like us to remind you that changes made through this back door aren't fully supported and aren't guaranteed to continue working in the future. I'm using this so I feel comfortable mentioning it.

(b) In the search box in the page, type or paste browser.download.open_pdf_attachments_inline and pause while the list is filtered -- requires Firefox 103 or later

(c) Double-click the preference to switch the value from false to true

(2) For all the downloads Firefox saves to disk and opens automatically, change from the "Save files to" folder to the Windows Temp folder (if you made the change in #1, this will affect other kinds of files rather than PDFs)

Here's how you access it:

(a) In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return. Click the button accepting the risk.

More info on about:config: Configuration Editor for Firefox. The moderators would like us to remind you that changes made through this back door aren't fully supported and aren't guaranteed to continue working in the future.

(b) In the search box in the page, type or paste browser.download.start_downloads_in_tmp_dir and pause while the list is filtered -- requires Firefox 102 or later

(c) Double-click the preference to switch the value from false to true

This would not affect files opened with inline disposition; those will still be in the web content cache.

Hopefully some of that gets Firefox working the way you want.

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Chosen Solution

Yes, for many years now, Firefox starts downloading a file even while displaying the Download dialog. It needs to request the file to obtain information used to set up the dialog (for example, what kind of file is it). And I guess maybe it can't cancel the request at that point because a new request might not return the identical information?? But whatever the reason, what changed recently (in Firefox 98) is that instead of using the Windows Temp folder to start the download, it uses your "Save files to" folder. There is a way to switch this back to the Temp folder, and for PDFs, there is a way to treat them as web content so they don't go to an external folder at all. Allow me to give you way more information than you wanted to know...

Selecting your PDF handling preference

By default, Firefox comes with the action for "Portable Document File (PDF)" set to "Open in Firefox". You can change this preference to "Always ask" or "Use Adobe Acrobat" or "Save File" depending on your preferred workflow. That part is covered in this article: View PDF files in Firefox or choose another viewer. But it's only the first factor...

The Open in Firefox option and inline vs. attachment disposition

If web servers don't specify how Firefox should handle a PDF, or if they specify "inline" handling, then then Firefox loads the PDF as web content with its original URL in the address bar. The PDFs are saved with other cached web content, not in your download folder. This is good.

But web servers can try to force a download by setting Content-Disposition: attachment if they don't want browsers to show the files in a tab. Firefox changed what it does in this case:

Before Firefox 98: Firefox always showed a download dialog, even though you had already told Firefox what you wanted to do, even when you checked the box to always do this in the future. It was kind of infuriating.

Firefox 98+: Firefox downloads the file automatically and then opens it. Because these are saved to disk the URLs start with file:///. By default, they are saved in your "Save files to" folder on the Settings page.

New options for saving downloads

In response to user suggestions/complaints, Mozilla added some options to modify the above:

(1) Just for PDFs, override "attachment" disposition to "inline"

When your handling action is "Open in Firefox", all PDFs can now be opened as web content and saved in the cache instead of a regular folder. Here's how you set this up:

(a) In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return. Click the button accepting the risk.

More info on about:config: Configuration Editor for Firefox. The moderators would like us to remind you that changes made through this back door aren't fully supported and aren't guaranteed to continue working in the future. I'm using this so I feel comfortable mentioning it.

(b) In the search box in the page, type or paste browser.download.open_pdf_attachments_inline and pause while the list is filtered -- requires Firefox 103 or later

(c) Double-click the preference to switch the value from false to true

(2) For all the downloads Firefox saves to disk and opens automatically, change from the "Save files to" folder to the Windows Temp folder (if you made the change in #1, this will affect other kinds of files rather than PDFs)

Here's how you access it:

(a) In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return. Click the button accepting the risk.

More info on about:config: Configuration Editor for Firefox. The moderators would like us to remind you that changes made through this back door aren't fully supported and aren't guaranteed to continue working in the future.

(b) In the search box in the page, type or paste browser.download.start_downloads_in_tmp_dir and pause while the list is filtered -- requires Firefox 102 or later

(c) Double-click the preference to switch the value from false to true

This would not affect files opened with inline disposition; those will still be in the web content cache.

Hopefully some of that gets Firefox working the way you want.

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More info than I wanted to know? This is exactly the kind of stuff I like, thanks for the thorough response!!