Sunday, May 08, 2005

Firefox Tips and Tricks

General Firefox How-To

Download
  • You can get the latest Firefox here: Get Firefox!www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/
  • If you have a Windows machine, you may want to get the version that is compiled for your CPU from Moox (http://www.moox.ws/tech/mozilla/).
  • Note: The Moox builds should only be used if you are computer savvy. Otherwise, stick to the standard installs provided by Mozilla. You are less apt to break something that way.
Other helpful websites
  • Firefox Switch (http://www.switch2firefox.com/questions/): Excellent Guide. Answers the questions: 'Why switch to Mozilla Firefox?', 'Questions about switching' and 'How do I make the switch?'
  • Firefox tips & tricks from Mozilla (http://www.mozilla.org/support/firefox/tips): You'll find tips on making your button bars more XP like or Windows Classic like. And things like speeding page rendering and even running Firefox for removable media like a USB drive.
  • Introduction to Mozilla Firefox (http://www.nidelven-it.no/articles/introduction_to_firefox): Includes screenshots of how to set up Firefox and info on tabbed browsing and so forth. 8 good pages packed with information.
  • Switching from Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox (http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/switch.html):Mozilla's site for getting IE users up to speed.
  • From IE to Firefox (http://jamie.typepad.com/ontheverge/2003/08/from_internet_e.html): Has some great set up tips.
  • Secrets of Firefox 1.0 (http://windowssecrets.com/041202/#top1): Windows Secrets newsletter posting include quite a bit of what you will find here and goes into a bit more detail.
  • Mozillazine's Firefox FAQ (http://kb.mozillazine.org/index.phtml?title=Firefox_:_FAQs)
  • Wikipedia's Firefox entry has tons of ever increasing information on all things Firefox.
  • HowStuffWorks has a comprehensive article (http://computer.howstuffworks.com/firefox.htm/printable) that has tons of info including history, extensions, open source software, etc. Lots of detail there.
  • Check out what the tagged web on Technorati is saying about Firefox (http://technorati.com/tag/Firefox)

Under the Hood

Speed up load time
  • Firefox is slow to load initially on Windows XP. You can speed this up a bit by using XP's built in prefetcher. Simply right-click on the Firefox icon you use to start the browser. Add the text /Prefetch:1 to the end of the line in the target field.

  • The whole line should look something like the following:
    "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" /Prefetch:1
about:config
  • You get to the main configuration screen by putting about:config in the URL address input box
  • Mozillazine's about:config tips and screenshots here (http://mozillazine.org/misc/about:config/).
Proxy Exclusions
  • These are found in Tools - Options - General tab - Connection Settings button.
  • Sometimes you need to put in addresses to exclude in your Firefox proxy settings. For example, if you want to exclude the address for Google Desktop Search you would put in 127.0.0.1:4664. Now, if you have more than 1 of these types of addresses, you need to separate them with a comma. I stress this because IE uses semicolons to separate it's addresses. So be very careful if you are copying your addresses from one browser to another.

Speed up Firefox by creating your own user.js
  • To really speed up Firefox, you should create your own user.js file with some recommended settings. The user.js is just a text file in your profile folder. Where is your profile folder you ask? Well, that depends on your operating system (OS). Go here to find out where yours is.

  • In Windows XP, it is located in
    C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\default.###
  • I spent quite a bit of time combing Mozillazine to determine some accurate settings. I put together a user.js and commented it with sources of the information. You can see it here (http://users.tns.net/~skingery/weblog/user.js).
  • The thread on Mozillazine about fine tuning Firefox is here (http://tinyurl.com/3dpxo).
Control where links from other applicatons open
Here's nifty feature of Firefox. You can control where new links are opened from other applications. For example, you are browsing a page with Firefox and you flip over to your email program because you get alerted to a new mail. In the mail, you get a link to a page your friend told you to check out. When you can click it, based on these settings, it will open in a new window, a new tab or the most recent tab/window. The "most recent" entry is like IE's default. Which is hugely annoying to me. I don't want those email links disturbing my work.

Try this:
Tools - Options - Advanced
Tabbed Browsing
"Open links from other applications in:"
  • a new window
  • a new tab in the most recent window
  • the most recent tab/window

Managing your Firefox Profile

User Interface

Make some more screen space
  • Make your icons small. Go to View - Toolbars - Customize and check the "Use small icons" box.
Tabbed Browsing
At first glance tabbed browsing doesn't seem userful but you'll soon be using it everywhere. My favorite is when browsing through the main page of a news site I can click on story titles and have them load in tabs to be read. Makes reading news much faster. Especially on a slow connection because the pages load in the background while you read the front page.
  • Open a new tab by pressing CTRL+T
  • Automatically open a link in a new tab by pressing your middle mouse button if you have one OR press your mouse wheel! This took a little getting used to because I don't think there are too many Windows applications that use the mouse wheel as a button but it's a great feature in Firefox.
  • Make the active tab easier to distinguish with this tip.
  • Mozilla's Tabbed Browsing tips here (http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/tabbed-browsing.html).
How to not save your form information in Firefox
As you browse, Firefox keeps the history you enter in fields like search forms and other forms you fill out. If you don't want it to do this:
  • In Firefox, go to the Tools menu, then click options
  • Click the Privacy icon on the left.
  • Go to the Saved Form Information and deselect the box that says "Save information I enter in web page forms and the Search bar"
Smart Keywords
The scenerio: you use Google, Internet Movie Database, or even your corporate phone book to find things. Wouldn't it be handy if you could just open your browser and use a short cut to search? Try this:
  • Go to the page that has the search box on it, right click in the search box and choose "Add a Keyword for this Search..."
  • In the "Add Bookmark" dialog that appears enter a name and a short "keyword" and save the Bookmark...
  • So, for Merriam-Webseter Online (www.m-w.com) you'd right click in the search box, enter a keyword you'll remember like mw and save the bookmark.
    Now you can type "mw frogs" in the URL field of your browser and you'll be taken to the Merriam-Webster site to see the results of your search. You won't want to live with out it!
    Note: This works with Google Desktop Search too! I have a shortcut called GDS that I use for a quick search of my desktop.
  • Screenshots to help explain this here (http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/smart-keywords.html).
Firefox Search Box
You'll find a handy search box in the top right corner of your Firefox window.
  • Clicking the little drop down arrow lets you select from several different search engines. Click the one you want then enter your search text in the box.
  • Here is how to add more search engines to your list http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/central.html#central-engines.
  • If you use Google Desktop Search, you'll want this plugin (http://www.amwmedia.com/?nId=17) to allow you to add GDS as one of the search engines. Additionally, this little plugin will help you get around the current 10 results per page that GDS imposes on you.
How to remove search engines from the Firefox search box (this tip is for Windows users. Others should be able to find similar files in their program directory):
  • Go to C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins
  • Each search engine has two files; a .src and either a .png or a .gif file. All you have to do is delete the two files for the search engine you wish to remove (for example google.src and google.gif) and restart Firefox.
Keyboard Shotcuts
Note: Mac users substitute Open Apple for ALT, and Command Key for CTRL.
  • If you hold down the CTRL key when clicking a link, it will be opened in a new tab in background.
  • If you hold down the SHIFT key when clicking a link, it will be opened in a new browser window.
  • Hold down the CTRL+D to bookmark the current page
Bookmarks
Turn off Address Bar Auto-Complete
    If for some reason you don't like the auto-complete feature in the address bar you can disable it.
  • Create a userChrome.css file in the Chrome subfolder of your profile.
  • Visit http://www.mozilla.org/support/firefox/edit#css for additional information about the userChrome.css file.
  • Include the following blue lines:

  • /* Hide auto-complete in address bar */
    #PopupAutoComplete, .autocomplete-tree { visibility: hidden !important;
    display: none !important; }

    /* Remove arrow from Address bar */
    .autocomplete-history-dropmarker { display: none !important; }
  • Start up Firefox
Getting firefox to remember your GMail Password
  • I like the feature of Firefox for remembering passwords. The problem is, it doesn't work in Gmail or Yahoo. I found the Gmail Wiki has the solution. It's easy and you can read it herehttp://www.gmailwiki.com/index.php/Tips_and_Tricks#Solution_to_the_problem:_Firefox_doesn.27t_remember_Gmail_Password.
  • Note, steps 3 and 4 in the wiki speak of right clicking and selecting This Frame, etc. I tried that but there aren't frames. Just skip those steps.
Adobe Acrobat Reader

Useful Plugins

Like other browsers, Firefox requires plugins to present certain multimedia content.

Extensions

Ad Block
  • With Ad Block (https://addons.update.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&id=10&vid=664) installed you can stop all kinds annoying ads on web pages. Blocking them speeds up your browsing as well.
  • By default, Ad Block doesn't block anything. You add filters as you browse by clicking the Ad Block link that gets installed in the lower right corner of your browser or pressing Ctrl+Shift+A or going into Tools - Ad Block - Preferences.
  • More great tips are available from Mozilla for Ad Blocking: http://www.mozilla.org/support/firefox/adblock.
BetterSearch
  • BetterSearch uses the wonderfulness of Firefox to enhance search engines. You get a thumbnail picture link to the site and you can choose an inline preview. Try out the BetterSearch extension (http://bettersearch.g-blog.net/).
  • It enhances Google (all international versions, too), MSN Search, Yahoo Search, A9, AllTheWeb, del.icio.us and Simpy.com.
  • I've put to gether a screen shot of how a Google results page is enhanced. Have a look here: Better Search Screenshot
FoxyVoice
    This is pretty cool. If you have poor vision or just don't feel like reading, check out FoxyVoice: http://foxyvoice.kenche.info/. It is a text-to-speech extension for Firefox. It gives you a little icon at the bottom of your browser window that you can click on and have it read the page. Or, the method I like, you can select a portion of the page and then right-click and select 'read aloud' from the context menu.
    Sorry gang, this is Windows XP only deal. I uses the MS Speech API.

    NOTE: At this writing it appears to not work under Firefox 1.0.3 but I am investigating.
ForecastFox
    Nifty little Firefox extension for putting the weather forcast in the status bar of your browser. Very cool because it doesn't take up any more screen real estate. Check out ForecastFox: http://forecastfox.mozdev.org/.

Google Bar
  • Get the Google Tool Bar (http://googlebar.mozdev.org/installation.html) for Firefox. It's just like the one you loved in Internet Explorer.
  • You also may want to look into how to use smart keywords
  • Unrelated to Firefox: If you are a Google fan, you need Google for your desktop. It indexes everything on your hard drive so you can find it. No more waiting for the stupid XP dog! Get it here: http://desktop.google.com/.
  • If you get this, be sure to install the Slogger extension (see below ).
  • And read my GDS Tips as well.
Google Maps Plugin
  • This is really cool if you like Google Maps(http://maps.google.com/). Go to this site (http://dream.sims.berkeley.edu/%7Ejantin/wordpress/index.php?p=60) and follow the instructions for installing Google Maps as one of the search options in Firefox: Google Maps: Firefox Searchbar
Greasemonkey
  • Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension which lets you add bits of code to any webpage to change it's behavior.
  • For a Javascript programmer this is very powerful. For the average user, don't let that scare you because you can download a whole host of scripts that make your browsing experience more fun. I'll list a few here but you need to go install Greasemonkey (http://greasemonkey.mozdev.org/) first.
  • You can find these and many more scripts at the Greasemonkey Script Repository: http://dunck.us/collab/GreaseMonkeyUserScripts
  • Here are a few of the scripts I currently have installed to give you an idea fo the kinds of things that Greasemonkey can do:
  • Linkify: Turn all URLs on a page into hyperlinks
  • Yahoo Groups: Ad skipper: Jump over ad pages
  • About.com clean-up: removes some useless stuff on about.com sites.
  • Blogger: Technorati Tags: Changes the "Edit Post" Blogger form to include a tags field. This one saves a ton of time when I blog.
  • Friend of Print-Friendly v1.2: makes various popular news sites read better, easier and ad-free. Supported: CNN, NYTimes, LATimes, Guardian.co.uk, The Register, Yahoo News, Wired and more.
  • Lickr: If you brows the popular image sharing site, Flickr, you need this! Lickr takes out the slooow flash component of Flickr and gives you a nice clean html and javascript replacement. This thing is like a plug-in itself! Stop reading and go get it.
IE View
  • Every once in a while you'll come across a page that just doesn't work in Firefox. Thankfully this isn't too often but it happens for pages that need ActiveX. For these times you'll need IE View (http://ieview.mozdev.org/). This puts an item in the 'right click' menu on a web page to open that same page right in IE. Saves a lot of cut/paste operatons.

Merriam-Webster
  • Merriam-Webster Online has all kinds of little add-ins to make your word defining life easier. http://www.merriam-webster.com/firefox/
Sage RSS Feed Reader
  • If you are into reading RSS news and blog feeds then Sage is an easy way to do it. http://sage.mozdev.org/
  • Sage supports the Live Bookmarks feature of Firefox. More details here.
  • Personally, I don't like the default layout of stories. The cool thing is that you can create your own sage.css file and, if you know a little about Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) it isn't to hard to make things look the way you want.

  • I've got 2 sage.css files that I have made available here:
  • sage.css: http://users.tns.net/~skingery/firefox/sage.css
  • sage2.css: http://users.tns.net/~skingery/firefox/sage2.css
  • They are pretty much the same except that sage2 hides the articles until you mouse over them. It's high tech but can get annoying.
    Note: Right click on the link and then click "Save link as..."

    To use a custom css file do the following:
  • From within Sage, click Options - Settings
  • Select 'Use custom css' and browse to the place where you saved the sage.css file and select it.
  • Restart Firefox

Scribe
  • Scribe lets you save the field of your form. So if you are on-line and filling out a blog post or a coment to someone elses post you can hit crtl+s and save your comment locally. If something should happen you can do a "File - Open Entry.." and open you saved file right into your form.
  • Handy for Gmail and other web based email programs.
Slogger
    Slogger (http://www.kenschutte.com/firefoxext/index.html)lets you keep copies of the webpages you visit.
    Be sure to read the help file on that site.

    Slogger can bog down a system on a slow connection. In Slogger, you can turn off "slogging" of images. It's on the second tab of Slogger preferences, check the box related to Save HTML only. This sets slogger for saving just the text of pages and will speed things up a lot.
Spell Bound
  • If you fill out lots of forms on the web or blog or enter into discussions or you name it, you might want to check out this extension for Firefox called SpellBound (http://spellbound.sourceforge.net/). Once installed it lets you right click in your text box and check the spelling of your entry. Excellent.
User Agent Switcher
  • User Agent Switcher (http://www.chrispederick.com/work/firefox/useragentswitcher/)will make your browser 'appear' to websites as a different type. For example, you can use the safety of Firefox and when you go to websites, the site will think you are using IE. This can be cool for getting into sites that won't let you unless you have IE.
That being said, I have only one site I can't use Firefox with because of ActiveX. For that one, I just use the IE View extension I mentioned above. Right click then click 'View this page in IE'

Wikalong
  • Wikalong (http://www.wikalong.org/) allows you to open up a side frame in your browser window. In that frame you can write notes. When you leave the notes, they get saved for others to see and comment on. So it is like instantly having a comments frame on any web page.
  • Equally interesting is that you can go to a page and subscribe to an RSS feed of all the latest posts to any page on the web.

Useful Utilities

Utilities that work outside Firefox
MozBackup
  • MozBackup (http://home.zcu.cz/~pcvrcek/soubory/132/) is a utility for backing up all your preferences including:
  • Bookmarks
  • History
  • Cookies
  • Certificates
This is really helpful when you do reinstalls or use the nightly builds. Unfortunately, this is a Windows only utility at the moment.

Security

  • Make sure you are running the latest released version of Firefox. Go to the Help menu and click About Mozilla Firefox and it will show you the version number. The current latest release version is 1.0.3
  • I've written a blog entry on how to update your browser to 1.0.2. You can find it here (http://techlifeblogged.blogspot.com/2005/03/how-to-update-firefox-to-102.html). It is still applicable for 1.0.3.
  • 1 Comments:

    Anonymous Andrew said...

    The /Prefetch:1 switch is a Myth

    http://mywebpages.comcast.net/SupportCD/XPMyths.html#Optimization

    10:57 PM  

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