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Learn How to Activate View Background Images on Firefox

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/27/2011

Mozilla Firefox is a popular web browser that offers users the ability to customize many aspects of the user experience. However, desired features in Firefox can sometimes appear hidden or deactivated. Here is how to activate "View Background Images" on Firefox.

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    Firefox View Background Images Menu Item

    Firefox is a top web browser and supports most common web standards. These standards allow web developers to design a complete user experience for visitors to the website.

    One common design element is an image that displays as the background of a web page. Text and images appear over the top of the background image much the same as they would in on a printed page. Such a background image can improve the look and feel of a website. However, because other elements appear over the top of the background, viewing or printing such an image can be tricky.

    Another issue is that if certain Firefox options are configured in a certain way, the background image might not show up at all in the display of the web page within the Firefox browser. In some cases this is nothing more than a cosmetic effect, but occasionally, the website design depends on the background image being properly displayed along with the rest of the content.

    view-background-images-firefox To view a background image on its own, Firefox provides a context menu item called "View Background Images." Right-click on any web page with a background image. The pop-up menu will display a list of items including one that says, "View Background Images." Select it, and the image will load on its own in the browser.

    Sometimes, the menu item will appear grayed out. That is, although the text View Background Image is listed in the menu, it cannot be selected. Most commonly, this is because there is no background image to view. If that is not the case, then it may be necessary to learn how to activate view background images on Firefox.

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    Activate View Background Images Menu Item

    There are a variety of reasons that Firefox may not allow a background image to be displayed.

    One reason is that despite whatever appears on the screen when viewed by human eyes, the image in question may not actually be a background image. There are many ways to display elements on a web page using everything from tables and forms to cascading style sheets (CSS), and more. Depending on how those elements are defined, the image that looks like a background image might actually be coded as just a regular image. In these cases, no change to Firefox will result in the ability to display the image using the View Background Image function.

    Background images may also not display if Firefox has been configured to not display the images. Under the Tools -> Options menu, select the Content tab. By default, Firefox is set to Load images automatically from all websites. Unchecking that box on this screen will result in no images, including background images, being displayed. However, such a configuration is not subtle as no websites will display any images at all.

    What is less obvious is the Exceptions button to the right. Web addresses can be listed here and set to either have images blocked or allowed. If the website you are trying to view is in this list as BLOCKED, then no background image will be visible. Where this gets tricky is when background images are served from a location other than the main domain name displayed in the browser. For example, if the website is a somewebsite.com site and has a background image that loads from somegraphicswebsite.com, then the background image may not display even if somewebsite.com is allowed. As long as somegraphicswebsite.com is listed as BLOCKED the image will not display and the menu choice to view background images will remain grayed out.

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    Troubleshoot Background Image Problems on Firefox

    Continuing on with how to activate View Background images on Firefox, determining if there is a problem with Firefox displaying background images, or if something else is happening is pretty straightforward. Navigate to the website you want to see the background image on. Once it loads, right-click and choose View Page Info from the context menu that pops-up. Select the Media icon at the top. The address of loaded media, including background images, appears here.

    firefox-background-images-page-info If the image you are trying to observe is listed, but does not say "Background" as the image type, that means that as the website has defined it, the image is NOT technically a background image, no matter how it appears on the screen.

    firefox-background-image-view If the image is not listed at all, look at the Block Images from website.com checkbox. If it is checked, then Firefox is blocking images from the site due to its configuration. You can easily change this by unchecking the box, or by selecting the Permissions icon and allowing the images there. Obviously, if you were blocking all of the website's images, it would be pretty apparent. However, this screen will also show the web address of images served from somewhere else. This should give you a clue to why the image is blocked in Firefox.

    Problems With Displaying Background Images in Firefox

    To determine if there is a problem with Firefox causing all background images to be unviewable, use a known good website with a background image. Microsoft's search website Bing.com has a dynamic background image as a way to help distinguish it from its Google search cousin. Assuming Bing.com is not blocked from displaying images, a background image should appear with the search box when Bing.com is loaded. If the image appears, then Firefox itself is not having an issues displaying background images. Furthermore, the View Background Image context menu item should be working.

    If Firefox functions correctly on a known good website, then there must be a different issue causing the problem. The most common culprits are Firefox add-ons and extensions. Disable or uninstall any recently installed add-ons and see if the problem goes away. If so, there is a good chance the add-on is causing the issue.

    The most common add-ons to cause blocked background images or other elements are also some of the most popular Firefox extensions available. NoScript is a popular Firefox add-on that blocks JavaScript and other scripting elements from executing. If the developer is using one of these programming methods to display images, NoScript may be blocking them. If it is a trusted website, consider adding it to your NoScript whitelist, or temporarily allowing JavaScript on that page.

    Another common culprit are ad-blocking add-ons. AdBlock Plus is one of the most popular Firefox add-ons. While designed to block Internet advertising, AdBlock Plus functions by means of a pattern matching filter that blocks all elements that match one of the forbidden patterns. Sometimes, an image may be unintentionally blocked. Since AdBlock offers advertising filters that are automatically updated, it is possible that a background image that appeared without problem yesterday, is being blocked today after a filter updated happened in the background. Try disabling your ad blocker, or add the site or element to your whitelist.

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    Image Credits

    Personal screenshots courtesy of Brian Nelson with ArcticLlama Freelance Writing