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The Best Tips and Tweaks for Getting the Most Out of Firefox

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Firefox is one of the more popular web browsers that runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Firefox has a lot of built-in, useful features and you can install many extensions to expand its functionality.

We’ve covered a lot of functionality in Firefox and have included links to articles below that cover features and extensions that can help you make the most out of Firefox and improve your web browsing experience.


Tabs

Firefox’s tab bar is very useful on its own, and it can be enhanced with many extensions. The following articles show you how to hide and show the tab bar, and how to close a tab using a shortcut key, and tips for removing the close button from tabs. You can also learn the difference between protecting a tab and locking a tab. Customize and enhance your tab bar using one of two very useful extensions, Tab Mix Plus and Tab Kit.

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Bookmarks, Toolbars, and Menus

The following articles show you different ways to enhance and customize the bookmarks feature in Firefox as well as the toolbars and menus. You can easily access your unsorted bookmarks, always open bookmarks on new tabs, and add specialized buttons to the toolbars. The Bookmarks toolbar can be reduced to a single toolbar button and also automatically hidden to save space. There is also an extension that allows you to customize your menus so you can only display options that you use.

NOTE: Accessing the Library is different that mentioned in the article about accessing unsorted bookmarks below (“Access Your Unsorted Bookmarks the Easy Way”). To access the Library, select Show All Bookmarks from the Bookmarks menu, or from the Bookmarks button on the Bookmarks toolbar. You can also press Ctrl + Shift + B.

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Links and URLs

Do you copy links and URLs often in Firefox? There are several extensions that make it easier to copy links and URLs in different formats and save links and URLs as files. You can also easily preview links and webpages before actually clicking the links, and view URLs as tooltips instead of the URL displaying in the status bar.

We also listed an extension below that allows you to easily create shortened URLs for emailing to friends or posting in forums or on social networking sites and one that extends shortened URLs so you can see to where links actually link and avoid clicking on potentially harmful, malicious links.

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Forms

We all fill out forms on the web to sign up for forums, buy things, etc. If something goes wrong while you are filling out a form, you may have to fill out the form all over again. One of the articles listed below shows you to use an extension for Firefox that allows you to recover lost form data and automatically paste it back into the form.

There is also a link to an article about a Firefox extension that allows you to store a library of clipped text that you use often in forms and easily insert the text clippings into forms using a Firefox extension.

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Appearance

If you like to customize the appearance of Firefox, there are articles listed below that help you with User Styles, which allow you to change the way websites look, and Personas, which are free, easy-to-install “skins” for Firefox. There is also an article that shows you a quick tip about how to disable favicons that display on the address bar in Firefox.

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Customization

There are many ways to customize Firefox. The following articles show you some way such as using Firefox’s About: pages, setting Firefox to be on top of all other windows on your desktop, preventing the Downloads window from displaying every time you download a file, and combining the address and search bars. If you decide you want to go back to Firefox’s default settings, the “Restore the Default Settings in Firefox Without Uninstalling It” article shows you how to do this without having to reinstall Firefox.

NOTE: If you are using Firefox Portable and want to restore the default settings without reinstalling the program as discussed in the “Restore the Default Settings in Firefox Without Uninstalling It” article below, there is a way to start Firefox Portable in Safe Mode.

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Cache

A web cache is a place for the temporary storage of web documents, such as HTML pages and images. The cache can reduce bandwidth usage and server load. It also helps if you lose your connection and you want to view a web page. The following articles show you how to access Firefox’s cache and how to clear the cache with one click.

NOTE: The toolbar button for the Empty Cache Button extension is now called Empty Cache, and looks like the button under the cursor in the image below.

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Security and Privacy

Security is very important when browsing the web and Firefox has some useful built-in security and privacy features, as well as support for many extensions that add other security functionality. The following articles show you how to view and delete password you store in Firefox, easily disable JavaScript, manage and clear your cookies and web history, and easily switch to and from Private Browsing Mode.

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Profiles, Backups, and Syncing

After setting options in Firefox and installing extensions to get the browser just the way you want it, it’s a good idea to backup your profile, which contains all these options and extensions. Below is a link to an article about a free tool called MozBackup that will backup your entire Firefox profile, as well as other Mozilla software, including portable applications. There is also a link below to an article about syncing your Firefox data with Firefox on other computers and devices. We even show you a stupid geek trick that allows you to hack the Firefox profile data storage and change information in your profile using an SQL database editor.

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Speed and Performance

Does Firefox seem slow and sluggish? Firefox can use quite a bit of system memory during normal use. There are different ways of speeding up Firefox and improving its performance. One of the articles listed below discusses whether Firefox memory cleaners actually work. We have also reviewed four free tools that allow you to benchmark your web browser, two of which work with Firefox.

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Downloads

A big part of surfing the web is downloading all kinds of things like programs, images, music, movies, etc. Firefox has its own downloads manager, but you can add advanced download capabilities to Firefox with the DownThemAll extension. If you want a different default location for downloads, you can easily change download file location in Firefox by changing a setting.

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Searches

Searching the web is something most of us do daily. Below are some links to articles about Firefox features and extensions that improve and enhance the search capabilities of Firefox. You can easily choose to open the results of searches in a new tab, organize your search engines into folders, search directly from Firefox’s address bar, and add search forms from websites to the Firefox search bar.

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Other Useful Extensions

There are many extensions available to enhance the functionality of Firefox, too many to name here. We have listed below some of the extensions we have covered on How-To Geek that can improve and enhance your web browsing experience with Firefox.

NOTE: The ReloadEvery extension talked about in the “Set Up Automatic Timed Page Reloading on Your Webpages in Firefox” article below is also integrated into the Tab Mix Plus extension mentioned in the Tabs section at the beginning of this article.

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Extension Compatibility

We have also covered a Firefox extension that allows you to keep tabs on whether your extensions will work with upcoming versions of Firefox. There is also an extension that allows you to report problems with extensions back to the developer directly from within the Add-ons Manager.

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We wish you safe and happy web browsing in Firefox!

Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 04/21/12

Comments (10)

  1. stuart

    There are two things I’d like to know that I did not see:

    I don’t use a tab plugin like showcase, I use the built in feature that is much like expose, however when I use it and I have many times (I am a power power tab use) it shows them all in a spiral stack of images. How would one flip through that?
    Basically most times I want to quickly jump to the top or a specific stop in my tab window list, I know I can type ctrl+1 and get to tabs 1-9 but thats just the top row. Searching is good but sometimes I know what it looks like, not what it says.

    The second is there a fix for the issue with the new menu and full windows? Not full screen F11, but a maximized window. When you do this in XP the tabs go up into the title bar, this means that windows no longer considers the tab bar as its own area and shortcuts like middle clicking, doubleclicking, etc etc, on the tab bar no longer works. In Windows 7 using this mode means the tab bar is considered the title bar all the time.

  2. oktboer

    And the best tip is to tweak as little as possible. =]

  3. rizzoli

    This is far and away the best ‘tweaking Firefox’ article I’ve read. I leaned a lot even though I already have many of these tricks in play. Kudos.

  4. Dark Reality

    Another tip is to use Waterfox or Pale Moon. Use Waterfox if you have a 64-bit Windows operating system. It’s just basic Firefox compiled for 64-bit, nothing fancy. Use Pale Moon if you want Firefox customized at build for Windows. It’s available in 32-bit and 64-bit, as well as a 32-bit portable app. Obviously Pale Moon x64 is the best choice for 64-bit Windows, but there are a couple features it removes. So you would go down to Waterfox for that if you think 64-bit is important. I say there’s no reason not to.

    Thanks for the info on protect vs. lock tabs. I did not know that. I wish I could do it without the icon overlay, I like to see the favicon. Maybe the tab could be highlighted one color for lock, another for protect, and a third for both.

  5. akbozo

    want some fun and the latest rendition? try nightly builds. it doesn’t allow some of the extensions , but is extremely good without any of the tweaking. screams on 64bit.

  6. gyffes

    I deleted FF from my Mac, entirely: for several weeks, now, it’s been grinding my machine (i7 iMac w/8gb of RAM) to a halt as soon as it fired up. One morning, I woke to find that Shockwave was holding over 3gb of RAM through FF.

    I like no browser better, but their schedule of Rapid Release has ruined what had been a wonderful browser.

  7. cam2644

    Really good assembly of tips for a really good browser. Thanks

  8. Marc

    What about Adblock

  9. franamadeus

    @stuart i think if you resize the small window containing the tabs in panorama mode it will display the thumbnails instead of the spiral of images.

  10. Brandon

    Do the extensions one would install on Firefox slow it down any? Is the difference in speed negligable?

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