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Firefox tips for happier browsing

Updated on February 17, 2008

In this post I will list and explain the uses of some of my favorite Firefox features. These features are some of the reasons, besides security, that I will probably never switch back to using Internet Explorer.

Since I last used internet Explorer I am sure they have implemented some similar features, but for me it was a little too little and a little too late.

Now, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite Firefox features.

Bookmarks Toolbar

The Bookmarks Toolbar Folder is something I did not at first like but have grown to love. Basically this feature allows you to Bookmark websites to your toolbar, creating a custom toolbar of your favorite and most used links. All you need to do to use this feature is bookmark favorite pages to the "Bookmarks Toolbar Folder" in your bookmarks. As you can see in the picture below I have mine set up with GMail, Fark, Yahoo and 3 subfolders, each of which contain 4 or more bookmarks of slightly less used sites which allows me quick access to these links without cluttering the toolbar.

The default Bookmarks Toolbar Folder setting will have the toolbar show up under the Navigation toolbar but I moved mine to give myself more viewable screen room. To move the Bookmark Toolbar Folder so that it appears on the Navigation toolbar go into the "View" menu, "Toolbars" then to "Customize" this will open a window and allow you to left click on the Bookmarks Toolbar and drag and drop it up to whereever you want it on the Navigation Toolbar. Next click "Done" on the Customize window. Finally go back to the "View" menu, "Toolbars", and uncheck the "Bookmarks Toolbar" option.

This feature makes often visited sites easier to access without using any of your viewable browser window and therefore is definately one of my favorites.

a screenshot showing how I have my bookmarks toolbar set up.
a screenshot showing how I have my bookmarks toolbar set up.

Center mouse clicking

Probably one of the most useful features I have found in Firefox is the center clicking (yes this means clicking with the scroll wheel) to open and close a tab.

When surfing I often want to follow a link but want to keep the page I am on open and active. The easiest way I have found to do this is to center click on the link using my mouse wheel causing the link to open in a new tab. I can then switch to that tab to view the link, leaving the page I was on open in the other tab. When done with the tab I just point to that tab and center click again to close it. Once you become used to using this feature you will wonder how you were ever able to browse without it.

History

Now another usefull feature is the "History" option on your menu. When using the above method for opening and closing tabs I have from time to time closed the wrong tab. This can be very frustrating, but there is a way to get back there.

If you have recently closed a tab and would like to reopen it here's what to do. Go to "History" on your menu. Look down the list and at or near the bottom will be something called "Recently Closed Tabs", pause there for a second and a submenu will open displaying all of your recently closed tabs. To reopen any of these tabs you can center click and a new tab will appear with the recently closed page on it.

Opening a blank tab

If you point to any empty space up on your tab bar and double left click it will open a new blank tab. This one doesn't seem so special to most people. I can center click a link, my history or a bookmark to open a new tab why would I care about opening a blank tab?

Oddly enough I often use this feature. When I get a call from someone asking for a little tech support I sometimes am asked to go to a specific URL and I don't want to leave the pages I currently have open, when I want to make a change in my "about:config" page, or if someone wants me to just look at some random page that they think I can not live without and they start rattling off a URL I just use this handy trick to quickly open a blank tab and type in whatever URL, without interrupting my normal browsing.

Drag and drop bookmarking

This one is pretty straightforward. Say you have a tab open and would like to bookmark it. Click on the icon on the tab and drag and drop it into your bookmarks. When dragging the icon just stop for a second and hover over "Bookmarks" on the menu, the "Bookmarks" menu will expand allowing you to drop the icon anywhere in the folder. Also this feature will allow you to drag and drop the icon right onto your bookmarks toolbar.

This trick also works with a link embedded in a page, just click and drag and drop the link. I find this to be quite a time saver when bookmarking many pages into many different bookmark folders.

Multiple homepages

This is another one of Firefox's features, that I have become so used to, I am not sure I could live without.

To set multiple homepages, first open tabs for all the pages you want included as a homepage, I use Gmail and Yahoo. Now you just have to go into your preferences (windows has that under tools menu and linux has it under edit menu), select "Main", click the "Use Current Pages" button, now just click the "Close" button. The next time you open Firefox it will open as many tabs as needed for the homepages you have set and will even open them in the same order you had them when you set the homepages.

Quick and easy font resizing

If you are getting olde, like me, or maybe just have a little problem with your eyes and don't want glasses yet this is a nifty little trick.

Just hold down your CTRL button and using the scroll wheel on your mouse scroll forward to make the font size smaller or backward to make it bigger. That's right no more making nose prints on your monitor trying to read type that is just too small!

Well that's a quick roundup of my favorite Firefox features that not everyone seems to know about. I hope you found this helpful.

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