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A few handy Firefox tips

Most of you have probably already downloaded the latest version of Firefox. We're on 3.5 now. Firefox has become the favorite browser of many, mainly due to the ability to customize through extensions. There are a couple of ways to improve your browsing experience that are a lot simpler- some little tiny tricks that will really make a difference at the end of the day.

The power of the middle mouse button.

You know you can use your middle mouse button or mouse wheel to scroll up and down on a web page, but did you know you can use it to quickly open links in new background tabs? Just click the mouse wheel on a link, and it will appear in a new tab without taking focus away from your current page. This is very handy when you have a list of links you want to view or a gallery of thumbnails that you want to see in full mode.

You can also use your middle mouse button to close tabs. You don't need to aim for the little 'x' as you would normally- just middle-click anywhere on a tab to close it.

Another handy middle mouse button trick I use often, is middle-clicking on the 'home' icon. I have my home page set with a lot of quick access links (see: myHome), so by middle-clicking on the 'home' icon, I can quickly access all those links in a new tab.

The power of the navigation bar.

The navigation bar has been dubbed "the awesome bar" for exactly the reason what the name means. You can start typing and you'll be presented with matches from your history and favorites. It's very quick, and if you tackle it smartly, it will save you a lot of time.

Whether you want to go to a page in your history or a favorite bookmark, you just need 2 key words that are unique to that page- the URL or the title. You can even add 'tags' to bookmarked items to make this easier. One way I use this a lot is with my local websites. Before I launch any websites, I have them running on localhost. If I wanted to get to ralphvandenberg.com on localhost I can simply type 'ralph local' and Firefox correctly figures out what I want. If I wanted to go deeper that wouldn't be a problem either. I'd type 'ralph local fish' and probably end up with the rambling "how to drown a fish".

Speaking of bookmarking; to bookmark a page you are currently viewing just click that little star in the right corner of the navigation bar. It will be under unsorted bookmarks, which you can organize later by going to bookmarks - organize bookmarks.

The power of the keyboard shortcuts.

Keyboard shortcuts are not reserved only for tech-savvy users. Sometimes your hands are on the keyboard and it's a waste of precious resources to move one hand off to the mouse to perform a task, and then move it back. Try to get used to these shortcuts if you want to work faster:
CTRL + T - opens a new tab (T for Tab)
CTRL + L - focus on the address bar (L for Location)
CTRL + K - focus on the search bar (I'll explain later why you don't need this one.)
CTRL + W - close current tab, close window with last tab
CTRL + F - find on the current page
CTRL + TAB - switch to next tab
CTRL + SHIFT + TAB - switch to previous tab

Now I said you don't really need that search box up there, it's because the awesome bar is so awesome. In the search box, click on the little down arrow next to your search engine's logo, and choose "Manage Search Engines". Here you can set keywords for your search engines. I set the letter 'g' to google search. Now all I need to do is type in the address bar 'g tips for firefox' and it will search google for 'tips for firefox'. In the same way I can type 'wiki metallica' to get wikipedia's Metallica page.

The power of deleting.

I actually have a lot more tips and tricks up my sleeve, but I would like to end with this final one and leave the rest for a later post. If you're getting pretty smooth with the awesome bar, you might occasionally run into suggestions that you don't ever want to see. Just use your down arrow on your keyboard to move your selection to it and hit delete. It's that simple. If you do this to a bookmarked item, you'll remove the bookmark, so be a little careful.

Another place this is useful is when you've once shared your computer, and your friend's email address in now part of that list of accounts when you want to log into facebook or something. It's not like his password is saved in there, but it used to be only your email address which meant that you could just hit 'log in' without having to select from a drop down list. Just like before, you can use your keyboard arrow to move the focus to the entry you want to get rid of and press delete. There's no confirmation, so don't rush this too much.

Okay, that's about enough for today. I hope these tricks will increase your productivity and just make your online experience a tiny bit better. If you know some other cool tricks or shortcuts, please post them in the comments.

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Comment by Ralph van den Berg

Posted on 6 July, 2009
It's a bit ironic that all the ads on this page are about Google Chrome when I'm writing about Firefox...

Comment by Antonius L. Zubeck

Posted on 6 July, 2009
Something I find useful is Control Shift T which will restore that last tab you [accidentally] closed

Comment by Kendall Meade

Posted on 15 September, 2009
Don't forget: type "about:config" in the address bar, and then when you're in the control panel, type 'pipe', set all the boolean values to "true" and change the integer value from "4" to something like "400".

Comment by Ralph van den Berg

Posted on 18 September, 2009
Over the past couple of days I've been using Opera's latest browser, version 10. There are quite a few nice features that made me like it, but some things on Firefox are unbeatable (e.g. Greasemonkey, DownloadHelper, Ubiquity, etc). Check out www.mousegestures.org to get mouse gestures (great Opera feature) in Firefox with amazing customization. To cut a long story short: any features you like in other browsers are available as addons for Firefox and sometimes do a better job too.

Comment by Marion Jude

Posted on 31 October, 2009
If you experience firefox to be slow you should check some of your extensions. for example, skype extension in firefox slows it down quite much, because it searches every page you load for phone numbers or skype contacts. disable or uninstall it is my advice.

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