Open Source

How do I... Install plugins for Firefox in Linux?

For many, one of the biggest obstacles in Linux is installing applications. Because the computing world has grown so accustomed to click and install, the idea of having to manually install something is very foreign. Installing plugins for the Linux version of Firefox isn't that difficult once you know what you are doing. Jack Wallen shows you how.

For many, one of the biggest obstacles in Linux is installing applications. Because the computing world has grown so accustomed to click and install, the idea of having to manually install something is very foreign. And that is one of the reasons Firefox and Linux sometimes make for a deadly combination. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Installing plugins for the Linux version of Firefox isn't that difficult...once you know what you are doing.

We'll start with the most difficult plugin first.

This blog post is also available in PDF form as a TechRepublic download.


Java is a plugin that, unfortunately, requires an entire runtime language to be installed on your machine. To do this you need to install either Sun's or IBM's Java Runtime Engine (JRE)

(NOTE: There is also a Blackdown version of JRE, but at the time of this writing, its site was down so no link could be provided.)

Let's go with the SUN version (because you don't have to register on its site to get it). You will be able to download either a self-extracting file or an rpm in self-extracting format. Which form you choose to download will depend upon what distribution of Linux you use. I am running Fedora, so I will download the rpm format.

Once you download the file, you will first have to open up a terminal window (yes you are going to have to run a few simple commands) and su to root. Once you are the root user, you will issue the following commands from within the directory where you saved the self-extracting file:

chmod u+x  jre-XXX-rpm.bin


rpm -ivh jre-XXX.rpm

where XXX is the release number and architecture.

You should not get any errors. Once you have done the above, it's time to help Firefox to work with the new runtime environment you just installed. You're going to have to create a symbolic link to a specific file within the JRE environment. The symbolic link will be created inside your browser's plugin directory.

You can do this two ways: globally or per-user. If you are the only user on the machine, it's best to do it in your ~/ directory. Let's do it that way. As your normal user, issue the command cd in the terminal window. That command will change you to your home directory. Next, issue the command cd .mozilla/plugins. Now you are in the correct directory to make your symbolic link. You need to first find the file on your machine. To find that, run the command:


When I run the command I get the results:


Your results may vary. So now that I know where the file is, I issue the command that will make a soft link to the correct file.

ln -s /usr/java/jre1.6.0_02/plugin/i386/ns7/
Now, open up Firefox and in the URL location bar, enter about:plugins. You should see a listing similar to that shown in Figure A.

Figure A

No matter how many applet versions you have listed, Java is now properly installed.

And that's that for Java -- now on to easier plugins.


The Flash plugin is simple. All you need to do is download the correct file for your machine, install the file, and then copy to your ~/.mozilla/plugins directory. Let's stick with the rpm-type file.

Download the flash-plugin-XXX.i386.rpm file (Where XXX is the release number) and then issue (as root) the command rpm -ivh flash-plugin-XXX.rpm (again, where XXX is the release number) to install flash-plugin.

As before, you are going to have to locate the correct file in order to copy it to the plugins directory. Issue the command locate You should see this in your results:


Change to the ~/.mozilla/plugins directory and run (as root):

cp /usr/lib/flash-plugin/ /home/USERNAME/.mozilla/pugins (where USERNAME is the actual username).

Now, you need to change ownership of the file so it can be used by a non-root user. Do this with the command (run as root from within the /home/USERNAME/.mozilla/plugins directory -- where USERNAME is the actual name of the standard user):

Restart Firefox and run the command about:plugins and you should see a listing as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Both Futuresplash and Shockwave will be installed with this single plugin installation.

That's it.


The mplayerplug-in uses the mplayer application to play movies opened by your browser. Before you install the plugin, you have to have mplayer successfully installed. There are two simple ways to install mplayer (both run as root from the terminal window):

yum install mplayer


apt-get install mplayer

Once you have mplayer installed you can then install the mplayerplug-in. To do this, download the file that corresponds to your system from the mplayerplug-in site. We'll continue with our Fedora example. Once you have that file, install it with the command (run as root):

rpm -ivh mplayerplug-in-XXX-.i386.rpm (Where XXX is the release number)

Now you have to locate the file Locate this file with the command locate You should see a listing similar to /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/

Copy that file and change ownership of it. You have to copy the file in the same way you did the file above. So as root, issue the command:

cp /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/ /home/USERNAME/.mozilla/plugins (where USERNAME is the standard user)

And then run the command to change ownership to the standard user:

chown USERNAME.USERNAME (Where USERNAME is the name of the standard user)
Restart Firefox and check about:plugins to see a listing for mplayerplug-in. This time, however, you will not see a listing for mplayerplug-in. You will see that video (in various formats) is supported (as shown in Figure C).

Figure C

A listing for video support will indicate that the mplayerplug-in is properly installed.

That's it.

Final thoughts

You now have the most useful plugins installed for Firefox. Naturally, there are tons more plugins available. Fortunately, they are all installed in a similar manner. So hopefully, you now see that installing plugins for Linux Firefox isn't nearly as difficult as you thought.

Happy browsing (in Linux!)


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


Great instructions! Thanks! For the plugin installation, one thing that stuck me for a while was that I was using the 32-bit version of When I switched to a 64-bit version of, installed it into the ~/.mozilla/plugins/ directory, then everything worked fine. I downloaded the 64-bit libflashplayer sometime in March 2010, and had it on another computer. When I went to download it from Adobe now (July 2010), it was not obvious where to get it, or even if Adobe was still distributing it. So I just used the earlier version that I had resident on another machine. I am running Ubuntu 10.04, and Firefox 3.6.3. Thanks again! Jeff


i am not able to understand that how can i install flash plugins in linux i have tried a lot for this


I am running Suse and I have been trying to do what you said to do to install flashplayer and it won't work. That is always the way it is with Linux. I want to use linux all the time but can't do it. I have downloaded a program to my desktop and have been trying to install it so I can use it and I have never had it working yet. I have tried different distributions of linux and they are no better. They better do something with linux so the average person can use it or else we will all stay with windows. Grandpapop


In response to Alfa11's comment.....not true. Fedora and Debian-based distros have a fairly dependable installer. Slackware does not and Mandriva may or may not work with a .deb file. (I run Fedora 7...not an issue, Ubuntu 7.10...install problems, but fixable, Puppy 3.01...totally manual and PCLinux...some issues) For don't want basic end-users to be able to install anything. Not being arrogant, but that's the object of a standard image. Most distros have an iso builder. Best bet is to build an image with all of the plugins and burn an iso. For Jack....don't forget the rest of the Gecko-based animal farm. SeaMonkey, IceWeasel and IceApe all function basically the same way except SeaMonkey has a tendency to not play well with installers. My best advice is to remember to reboot the machine and use the apps test site (especially for Flash). Depending on the base distro, additional trouble-shooting may be required.


Interesting! But is there a way for a non-root user to do the same installations (locally? may be)? . Many times administrators are reluctant to put you on the sudo list :-( Thanks!


Except the Java and Mplayer plugins the others are easy, for example, for Flash you don't need to do that, just browse to a Flash website and Firefox will ask you to download and install automatically the plugin. The good thing about Firefox is that the others plugins, like Tb Mix Plus, DownThemAll and etc are installed the same way as Windows, just go to Mozilla plugin site and you can install them from the website.


Why not just use the distro's jre from the repository? Fire up the old package manager and search the installable software for jre or java, you will get sun's jre. or, use gjc, the gnu java compiler for gcc, which gives you a functional java environment.


Virtually all general (as in not purpose specific) Linux distributions have a package manager. Why not use it?! Mandriva (the one I use), Fedora, SUSE, Caixa Magica, etc, all have package manager that can install flash plugin, java JRE and plugin, media player and plugin, video drivers and opengl libraries, games, office programs, servers, communication programs, IDEs, development libraries and many many other packages. Run the package manager, select what you want to install, click install (or equivalent) and continue with your work, play games, go to lunch, do anything else (except pulling the plug :) ) while your system is installing what you requested. It is, by far, the best way to install software! Some distributions, due to policy, exclude proprietary software from their repositories so if you want repositories with nVidia/ATI drivers, adobe flash players, proprietary video/audio codecs, google earth, etc, you may have to find "Non Free" repositories (e.g. Penguin Liberation Front) for your distribution or choose a distribution with a "Non Free" friendlier policy. Does it always work? Most of the time but not always. I can't remember the last time I tried to install a package and the package manager failed to do it's work (excluding when offline or when one of the repositories was offline). Does it have all software? Obviously not but it has a lot. I can count by the fingers in one hand the software I had to install "by hand" in this computer (TeamSpeak and LimeWire). Everything else was installed using the package manager. Can it be used for non free(dom) software (e.g commercial, freeware, shareware)? Yes it can and it is used (e.g. opera, google earth, nvidia drivers). It can even be used for private or internal repositories. I have created several private repositories for use internally in companies and it simplifies the administrators job immensely. The administrator does some quality tests on the new packages/updates and if the new packages/updates pass the tests they are placed in the internal/private repositories. All other system then get the updates from the private/internal repositories and automagically update them selfs.


You are right, untill everything installs without the use of the command line linux is not for everyone, Ubuntu derivatives are getting that way. Ubuntu Mint is exceptional it even as access to windows via LAN but alas not the other way.even installing plugins, samba etc it still does not work and as for Ubunt itself, forget the LAN side. The other thing I would like to mention is this, very shortely all these problems should be illiminated by VM thats Virtual Machines or VPs virtual Programs, these should run on any OS virtually and fix the problem.


there are some instances where the distros jre doesn't work so well...i have tried that many times and find that mozilla's reaction to a Ubuntu jre is different than a Fedora jre. so i always just install in the manner described.

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