Enable JavaScript: How to turn on the script language in your browser

An important feature of modern web applications are interactive elements – from dialogue windows and pop-up menus to auto-complete functions. The more interactive a page is, the more intensively it can communicate with the web server to provide the user with the maximum amount of custom content. This way, users can easily browse through the website without having to reload the current page every time a new action is performed.

Scripts that are run on the client side – directly in the browser – are key for implementing these types of solutions. The first to mention here is JavaScript, a script language that is supported by all popular browsers. But even though it’s a basic part of all modern web projects, JavaScript isn’t always seen in a positive light and is sometimes blocked by individual applications or, more and more often, even by the user. We’ll give you a quick glimpse at its background as well as detailed instructions for how to enable or disable JavaScript in your browser.

What’s behind JavaScript?

Back in 1995, the American company Netscape developed the JavaScript script language for their in-house browser Netscape Navigator. The language, originally christened “LiveScript”, extended the limited static arsenal of web developers of HTML and CSS with the addition of dynamic components. This made it so that scripts could be built into the source code to change, reload, or generate content in real time as well as evaluate user interactions. The name change to “JavaScript” took place as part of a cooperation with Sun Microsystems. Their so-called Java applets (applications that could be executed in the browser), which also appeared in 1995 written in Java, could be integrated into Netscape using LiveScript.

Note

The name switch from “LiveScript” to “JavaScript” is by no means because the script language is similar to Java. Netscape simply wanted to capitalise on the popularity of Java, and used the name to better market their own product.

JavaScript quickly developed into one of the most important client-side web languages, and remains as such today. These days, though, it’s also in demand on the server side – for example, in connection with the Node.js framework. There are also games and simple user programs that are based on JavaScript: Since the language core only contains a few objects, the interpreter required for execution can be kept very small, which ensures good performance of these applications. In addition, the database MongoDB, for example, and various microcontrollers rely on the possibilities of JavaScript.

Why do some users disable JavaScript in their browser?

JavaScript is a powerful language for creating interactive, user-friendly elements. The possibilities of the script language are also used on a large scale for website components that offer no added value to the visitor, and often even have a negative influence on the user experience. The most well-known form of this misuse of JavaScript is pop-ups with advertising content that suddenly appear in the browser interface and have to be manually closed in order to continue enjoying the content of the website. While ad-blockers have been developed for this problem, there are various other annoying and even unsafe JavaScript codes:

  • Dialogue windows (sometimes multiple appearing consecutively) that only disappear after an action by the user
  • Hidden codes that close the browser or change the size of the window when executed
  • Tracking codes that collect data about visitors and their behavior and can recognise them with each new visit (Google Analytics, Piwik, etc.)
  • Scripts that conceal links to unsecure sites (e.g. in the form of normal buttons) and redirect the user against their will
  • Actual user-friendly JavaScript applications into which malicious code has been introduced via DOM-based cross-site scripting (XSS)

Since all these “misappropriations” of JavaScript assume that the script in question will be executed, more and more users are deciding to disable the programming language in their browsers. The aspect of privacy being endangered by JavaScript-based tracking procedures is probably the main motive here, especially since in most cases it is true.

Browser use without JavaScript – not without issues

Those who would like to disable JavaScript in their browser usually rely on extensions like NoScript or Ghostery. By default, these block-all scripts are written in the programming language. However, those who maintain this basic configuration will soon realise that it considerably limits the usability of many websites. Lots of pages don’t function without JavaScript, so the security plugins can be optionally instructed to execute the scripts on selected sites with the use of exception lists (whitelists). But this requires that the user is well-versed in the internet and has good judgment when it comes to evaluating the trustworthiness of a project.

JavaScript can also be deactivated manually or by browser extensions. But regardless of how the interactive scripts were blocked, you should know how to undo the block if a certain page can’t be displayed. In most cases, it’s sufficient to deactivate the corresponding plugin, but sometimes the only solution is to enable JavaScript yourself.

Enabling JavaScript in the browser - how it works

The option to enable (or disable) JavaScript in a browser is usually found in the standard settings of the application in question – in most cases, under “Privacy and Security”. In Firefox, for example, enabling JavaScript takes place via the hidden configuration menu. The general procedure also varies slightly from browser to browser. The following step-by-step instructions show you how to enable JavaScript in popular browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and others.

How to enable JavaScript in Chrome

To enable JavaScript in Chrome, first open the browser settings by clicking on the three-dot symbol and selecting “Settings” from the menu that pops up.

Click the “Advanced” button to expand the initially hidden options, which include the “Privacy and security” section. Click on the “Content settings” entry:

In the last step, select the programming language from the list of content types and move the switch to “Allowed (recommended)” on the right. Since Chrome automatically implements changes, you’ve now successfully enabled JavaScript.

How to enable JavaScript in Safari

If Safari is your browser of choice, for example, for surfing on a Mac or iPhone, then you have the option to manually switch JavaScript on or off. To do this, click on “Safari” in the macOS menu bar (assuming that the browser has already been started) and select the “Settings” section.

Under the “Security” section, which is easily recognisable with a clear key symbol, you’ll find the settings for web content. To activate JavaScript in Safari, simply check the corresponding box.

Enable JavaScript in Firefox

To enable JavaScript in Firefox, you have to access the hidden configuration menu in the internet browser. Apart from the default customization options, there are also several partially experimental options that the normal browser user doesn’t have to fuss with. Accessing this extra menu can be done by typing “about:config” into the address bar. If you’re starting the menu for the first time, Firefox will register a warning message that disappears once you’ve clicked “I accept the risk!”.

The “about:config” section has its own search function (directly under the address bar) that will help you in the next step to find the entry for JavaScript. To do this, enter the following search term:

javascript.enabled

Firefox lists out the entry with the same name, and the value “false” if the programming language is disabled. Double-click on the entry if you want to enable JavaScript in Firefox again. Instead of “false”, the value should now show “true”.

How JavaScript activation works in Opera

In Opera, too, JavaScript is enabled by default. If the programming language should be switched off for any reason, then reverse this as follows: open the menu via the Opera icon and click on the “Settings” button. On the left side, find the menu section “Websites” and click to select it. Then search for the entry labeled “JavaScript”, and change the selection to “Allow all sites to run JavaScript (recommended)”.

How to enable JavaScript in Internet Explorer

If you use a version of Internet Explorer for browsing the internet, then you have the option to switch JavaScript on or off. The corresponding setting is found under “Internet options”, which you access by clicking on the gear symbol.

Go to the “Security” tab and select “Internet” as the zone to be edited, then click on the “Custom level” button:

Search for the “Active Scripting” entry (under the “Scripting” category) and click the bubble next to “Enable” to enable JavaScript in Internet Explorer. When you confirm the changes with the “OK” button, a window to check that you actually want to change the settings will pop up, and you must accept.

Note

Most versions of Internet Explorer are no longer updated by Microsoft since January 12, 2016. Only Internet Explorer 11 still receives support from the American company in the form of small security updates. To avoid unnecessarily endangering the security of your browser and data, you should consider switching to its successor Edge or to another browser.

Enable JavaScript in Microsoft Edge

Users of Windows 10 and its standard browser Microsoft Edge enable or disable JavaScript in the same way, but with two peculiarities: One the one hand, owners of home and starter editions have no way to disable scripts in the programming language in the latest Microsoft browser. On the other hand, configuration for all other users functions exclusively via the system settings (group policy management) and not through the browser itself. This requires the following steps:

  1. Use the search function and enter the search term “Group Policy”.
  2. Start the suggested editor for group policy management by double-clicking.
  3. Select the “Administrative Templates” section, then click on “Windows Components”.
  4. Search for the Microsoft Edge folder and open it.
  5. Double-click on “Enable script execution, e.g. JavaScript
  6. Select “Enable” and confirm by clicking “OK”.