If Chrome is the Starbucks of Internet browsers, then Firefox is the hip independent cafe – a little less popular but with a better reputation because of its open-source nature and less dubious privacy policies. Like Chrome, Firefox has a lot going on under the hood that you can play around with, tailoring your browsing experience to your personal tastes. Here are five of my favorite tips for Firefox that you may not know about.
1. Thumbnails for your tabs
Tabs in web browsers used to be a novelty for those rare instances where we actually had more than a couple of web pages open at once. But with Internet speeds being what they are today, our browsers can become flooded with so many tabs that we can’t even see what’s contained in each one. The solution? Great big thumbnails that you can access at the press of a keyboard shortcut!
about:config into the URL bar in Firefox, ignore the “Here be dragons!” message (You’re safe with us.) and click the “I’ll be careful” button.
browser.ctrlTab.previews into the search bar on the new page, then double-click the result so its value changes to “true.”
3. From now on you’ll be able to scroll through thumbnails of your open tabs using Ctrl+Tab.
2. Customize the Firefox control panel
You know all those icons in the top right corner of Firefox and all the features you see when you click the three-line menu icon at the top right? All of this is customizable. To rejig everything in this area, click the menu icon then “Customize.”
Here you can drag and drop features in and out of your Firefox Control Panel, and you’ll see that there’s a whole bunch of “Additional Tools and Features” that you can swap in for your default features. “Forget,” for example, is an instant way to clear your browsing history, while “Pocket” lets you quickly save articles and web pages for offline reading.
Also note that in the Customize window you can also swap features in and out of that small space to the left of the menu icon.
3. Speed up Firefox
Firefox is pretty zippy by default, but strangely some of its settings are designed for Internet connections probably much slower than yours. If you have a fast broadband, you can enable pipelining which allows the loading of multiple items on a page simultaneously, speeding up the browsing process.
about:config in the Firefox URL bar (ignore the Dragons etc.).
2. Once you’re in there, find
network.http.proxy.pipelining, then double-click both of them so their values are “true.”
3. Restart Firefox, then take a moment to appreciate your fancy new browsing speeds.
4. Lock Firefox with a password
There are a thousand reasons you may want to keep your browsing history hidden away from other people using your computer, so keep your reasons and your browsing history to yourself by setting up a password for Firefox.
1. Click the three-line menu icon at the top right and select “Add-ons,” then type
master password into the add-ons search bar.
2. Install “Master Password+” and restart Firefox.
3. Open Firefox, click the menu icon at the top right-> Options -> Security, then tick the “Use a master password” box.
4. Click Master Password+ from the control panel, enter the password you’d like to use for Firefox, click the “Startup” tab, then tick the “Ask for password on startup” box and click OK.
5. Your Special Unicorn Friend
Want to know something that serves no practical purpose apart from giving you a good chuckle?
Go to the screen where you customize the Firefox control panel (see second tip), then drag and drop all the features out of the control panel and into the “Additional Tools and Features” window (make sure to also remove the Zoom and Edit bars at the top of the control panel). Click “Exit Customize,” then click the menu icon at the top right, and you’ll see a unicorn bouncing around the control panel window. Hover over it, and it’ll turn colorful for you! It’s about a minute’s work for about ten seconds of fun but totally worth it.
As with Chrome, there is a lot of tweaking fun to be had with the Firefox browser, and it’d be fair to say that what you just read is the tip of the iceberg (sorry) of things you can do with this robust browser. Go ahead, play around with it, and don’t be scared of those dragons in
about:config. The worst case scenario is that you’ll need to reinstall Firefox, and you might learn some interesting things along the way.
Image credit: Channy Yun