Unleash the Fox!

If you’re one of the sensible people using Firefox, then I’ve got some tips and tricks to further enhance your browsing experience.

Settings, shortcuts and extensions all work for you to make browsing easier and faster, and can wrap extra tasks and apps right into the browser. With a few tweaks and add-ons you too can unleash Firefox and turn it into a powerful ally for using the internet.

Here’s what I’ve found useful…

BASIC PROGRAM OPTIONS

The nuts and bolts of how the program will function. These will be different for most people, but here’s a couple you might find useful.

New Tabs not Windows
By default you can have links that open new windows instead open in new tabs. Set via “Tools” > “Options” > “Tabs” then tick “Force links that open…” and check “a new tab”. Here you can also set links from other apps to open in “a new tab in the most recent window”.

Multiple Start Pages
If you’ve got a bunch of pages you always browse to on startup you can open them all in a series of tabs automatically. Setup your favourite sites in multiple tabs then goto “Tools” > “Options” > “General” and click “Use Current Pages” under the “Home Page” section.

Smarter Searching
Firefox has a very nifty trick for bookmarking search boxes to make future searches much faster. Simply browse to your faviourite site with a search box (eg Dick Smith at http://www.dse.co.nz) and right click on the search box. In the popup menu select “Add a Keyword for this Search” and the “Add Bookmark” dialogue box opens. Give your bookmark a name (eg “Search Dick Smith”) and a short keyword (eg “dse”) then select where to save the bookmark and click “OK”. Now you can rapidly search Dick Smith from anywhere on the internet – simply type your keyword followed by the search term in the browsers address box (eg “dse laptop”) and you’ll automatically be taken directly to the search results page.

KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS

Avoid using the mouse and get familiar with faster keyboard shortcuts. Lots are common to other programs or browsers (such as Ctrl-S for save and F5 for refresh) but here’s some more specific shortcuts for Firefox that I use commonly.

New tab = [Ctrl][T]
Close current tab = [Ctrl][W]
Next tab = [Ctrl][Tab]
Previous tab = [Ctrl][Shift][Tab]
Jump to tab number 3 = [Ctrl][3] …and so on…
Open link in new tab = [Ctrl] left-click-link
Go back one page = [Backspace] or [Alt][leftarrow]
Go forward one page = [Shift][Backspace] or [Alt][rightarrow]
Go to your homepage = [Alt][Home]
Stop loading = [Esc]
View page source = [Ctrl][U]
Clear private data = [Ctrl][Shift][Delete]
Go to bottom of page = [End]
Go to top of page = [Home]
Increase text size = [Ctrl][+] or [Ctrl] mouse-wheel-scroll-down
Decrease text size = [Ctrl][-] or [Ctrl] mouse-wheel-scroll-up

EXTENSIONS

Here’s where you can get a little more advanced and very fancy! The true power of Firefox is in the ability of the user to add-on new task-specific functionality on demand. Extensions are written by the community and there’s lots of them. Here’s what I think are “must-haves” for everyone and some better suited to developers.

The “must-haves”:

Adblock
Banish ads for good. This extension lets you blacklist images or domains via wildcards to permanently remove ad banners/images.
Flashblock
Prevents flash animations playing automatically. Instead, you get a play button that lets you pick and choose the flash content you want.
Google Toolbar
Get the power of Google right in Firefox. More than just a search box, the toolbar lets you search web/images/news/groups/maps, it can suggest popular queries as you type, provides safe browsing, fast access buttons and lots more…
IE View Lite
Sadly there are some pages that rely on Internet Explorer to display correctly. This extension provides a link to view the current page in IE.

Useful extras:

imagepref
Great for browsing news websites, this extension puts a little checkbox in the status bar to turn images on/off.
Mozilla Calendar
Pretty self explanetory.
ChatZilla
A clean and simple IRC (internet relay chat) client.
del.icio.us
An addon for Firefox to let you add any page to your del.icio.us account. del.icio.us is a social bookmarking site where you can save and discover websites via tagging.

Essentials for developers:

MeasureIt
Lets you draw a ruler on any page to measure content size in pixels.
ColorZilla
Gives you an Eyedropper to find what the exact colour is on any part of a webpage. Also provides a ColorPicker, Page Zoomer and more.
LinkChecker
Checks the validity of all links on a webpage, highlighting them based on whether they’re alive and working or not.
FireFTP
A free, secure, FTP client that runs inside a Firefox tab.
Pearl Crescent Page Saver
Saves the current view or whole webpage to a PNG file.

So, there you have it. My suggestions for enhancing and using Firefox. Enjoy!

Get Firefox!

About Chris
A self confessed geek, meteorologist (aka weather forecaster), father & proud kiwi mainlander living, working & playing in Wellington, New Zealand.

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