The User’s Guide To Firefox

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Are you a little overwhelmed by the browser choices available to you? Have you been sticking to your old favorite because you never had time to really see what the other browsers had to offer? Does your current browser have advanced security options? Does it sync your settings across devices? Can you manage your tabs easily? These are all things Firefox can do for you, and you can find out more in this Firefox guide, the latest manual from MakeUseOf.

Firefox Guide Table Of Contents

§1 – Introduction

§2 – Installation

§3 – Structure of the Browser

§4 – Features

§5 – Security & Privacy

§6 – The Future of the Firefox Browser

§7 – Finding Firefox Support

§8 – Conclusion (The Verdict)

1. Introduction

Web browsers keep evolving to offer features, speed and web standards support. There are many web browsers in the market and because they refuse to sit still many people are confused about which one is the best for them. Most people focus on and look at one concern in the web browser, which is speed. Speed is all very good but it is simply one concern among many. So what are these concerns? And why should you read this manual about Firefox? Before we go any further with this Firefox guide, let us start with some background about Firefox.

First of all, in case you didn’t know, a Web Browser is a program that enables the user to view web pages. Mozilla Firefox is a free, open-source, cross-platform web browser coordinated by Mozilla Corporation. It is the third most widely used web browser, with approximately 24% of worldwide market share (as announced in July 2012). Firefox is a successor to the Netscape Navigator web browser, which was the dominant browser before Microsoft came up with Internet Explorer. Mozilla started when Netscape released the source code of its browser under an open source license; Firefox was released in 2004 (for more information about Firefox history, please see this link). Firefox was designed and developed based on the concept and point of view of building a better Internet by providing the users with what they need, whether it’s speed or security (to learn more about how the Mozilla team are making the web better for you, please see this page). Actually, Firefox was the first to implement the “Do Not Track” feature, in addition to other security features.

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In simple words, Firefox is a fast, flexible and secure web browser that helped revolutionize the way people browse the web. So don’t get left behind: get your copy now.

In this Firefox guide, we’ll find out what makes Firefox different, what kind of features it gives you, and why you have to change your mind and start browsing the web with it.

2. Installation

Firefox is a cross-platform browser, which means you can install it on Windows, Linux and Mac. The installation process is very straightforward and there is no ambiguity in installing it. If you have questions about installing it, please have a look at this website.

firefox 2   The Users Guide To Firefox

3. Structure of the Browser

firefox 3   The Users Guide To Firefox

3.1. Browser Interface

As mentioned before, Firefox is simple. It has a very simple, concise, attractive and efficient look and design of its interface. The following table and snapshot show you the structure of Firefox browser interface:

firefox 3.1.1   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.1.Table    The Users Guide To Firefox

3.2. Tabbed Browsing

Tabbed browsing enables you to open multiple websites in a single browser window. You can open web pages in new tabs, and quickly switch between them by clicking the tabs you want to view. Tabbed browsing is extremely useful in a variety of situations, such as:

  • Potentially reducing the number of items displayed on the taskbar.
  • Eliminating the need to repeatedly use the “back” button.
  • If you are reading a webpage and would like to click a link without losing your place, or you are doing an online shopping and you want to compare between two products, you can open the link or the second product in a second tab. This way you can keep both pages available and switch easily between them.

Moreover, Firefox gives more options with the Tabbed Browsing rather than merely to open the links in new tabs. It allows you to organize the tabs (changing their order) by moving them, grouping them and pinning them.

firefox 3.2.1   The Users Guide To Firefox

How do I make a new tab?

To make a new tab, you have three ways:

  • Using the New Tab button (+)Click the New Tab button (+) on the right side of the last tab, to open a new tab.

firefox 3.2.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • Using the keyboard shortcutIt’s Ctrl + T.
  • Using the Home menuClick the “Firefox” button, then go to “New Tab” option and click on “New tab”.

firefox 3.2.3   The Users Guide To Firefox

Please note a few things:

  • When you create a new tab, the Location bar will be focused so you can immediately start typing the name or address of the website you want to browse.
  • When you click a link it will open in the current tab by default. If you want to open it in a new tab, right-click on the link and select “Open Link in New Tab” from the context menu – or simply click with your scroll wheel.
  • When you have many tabs in your tab strip and you want to see all of them, click the “List All Tabs” (small down arrow) button. Select the tab you want from the drop-down menu.

How do I close tabs?

You can close a tab two ways:

  • By clicking the “Close” button at end of the tab, on the right.

firefox 3.2.5   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • By using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + W to close the current tab.

If you accidentally closed one of your tabs and want to bring it back, you can do so in two ways:

  • Click the Home button (also known as the Firefox button), go to the History menu, then mouseover “Recently Closed Tabs”. You can select the tab you want to restore.

firefox 3.2.6   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + T to bring back the most recently closed tab. Simple.

How can I organize my tabs?

You can organize the tabs in Firefox in three different ways: by changing the order; or moving them to a new window; or grouping them.

  • Changing the order of tabs: You can simply change the order of the tabs just dragging the tab using the mouse to different place in the tab strip. A small indicator will be shown while you are dragging the tab to show you where the tab will land.

firefox 3.2.7   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.2.8   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.2.9   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • Moving a tab to a new window: Another useful way of organizing the tabs is moving a tab to its own separate window. To do that, click and hold on the tab and drag it out of the tab strip. Also, if you have multiple Firefox Windows open, you can move a tab from one to another by dragging it to the tab strip of another Firefox window.

firefox 3.2.10   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.2.11   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • Tab Groups (Panorama): As Jeffry Thurana wrote in his article (Organize & Manage Your Firefox Open Tabs With Tab Groups), “The more tabs you open, the more difficult it is to keep track of them and to move between opened sites. Mozilla has tried to solve the tabs problem by adding a new feature called ‘Tab Groups’ to the latest version of its popular Firefox browser”. Tab Groups (also known as Panorama) is a tab-organized feature that enables you to put/categorize the tabs into groups and quickly switch between those groups.

There are two ways to create a tab group:

  • Using the List All Tabs button - Click the List All Tabs (small down arrow) button at the right side of the end of Tab Strip and then select Tab Groups.

firefox 3.2.12   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • Using the keyboard shortcutIt’s Ctrl + Shift + E.

For the very first time, you will see all the tabs listed in one group in a thumbnail view mode. To create a new group, simply drag one tab out of the group and drop it on the empty space.

firefox 3.2.13   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.2.14   The Users Guide To Firefox

A box will be drawn around them. You can add more tabs to the group or create another group. To exit the tab groups view, click the “Exit tab groups” button above the search icon.

firefox 3.2.15   The Users Guide To Firefox

Alternatively, you can click on any tab/page in the group to be returned to Firefox. The tab you clicked on will be active and only the tabs in that group will be visible. All the changes you make will be saved automatically.

How to organize tab groups?

Similar to the tabs, Firefox gives you the ability to organize tab groups:

  • You can give any tab group a name by clicking on the “pencil” icon at the top left corner of the group window. For instance, you can group all the social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn under one group called “Social Networking”.

firefox 3.2.16   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.2.17   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • You can resize a tab group by clicking the “resize handle” button at the bottom-right corner of a group and moving it to make the group box bigger or smaller.

firefox 3.2.18   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • You can change the order of tab groups by clicking and dragging the group to anywhere you like.

How to search the tab groups?

To search for one of the tabs, go to the Tab Groups view (the thumbnails preview of all of your tabs), then click the search button on the right side of the window to bring up the search box.

firefox 3.2.19   The Users Guide To Firefox

This box will search as you type, so just start typing. The tabs that match your search will quickly show up.

firefox 3.2.20   The Users Guide To Firefox

App Tabs

The App Tabs feature allows you add the websites you visit all the time (like Gmail, Facebook or Twitter) to a permanent position in your browser. These tabs will be kept open on the left side of the tab strip and will always open when you open Firefox. This can definitely save you quite a bit of time.

How to create and remove App Tabs?

To create an App Tab, just open the website you want to pin, right-click on the tab, and select “Pin as App Tab”.

firefox 3.2.21   The Users Guide To Firefox

Please note that the app tabs are different than the normal regular tabs:

  • App Tabs are always open on the left side of the tab strip. If you click on a link within one of these App Tabs, the link will be opened in a new tab.
  • They are small: they just show the site’s icon and don’t have a close button, so they can’t be closed accidentally. However, you can close them by right-clicking on them and selecting “Close Tab”.

firefox 3.2.22   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • They open automatically when you start Firefox.

To remove an app tab (or turn it back into a normal tab), just right-click on the tab and select “Unpin as App Tab”.

firefox 3.2.23   The Users Guide To Firefox

Can App tabs be used within Tab Groups?

App tabs will be also shown in the Tab Groups view. They are represented by their site’s icon on the right side of each Tab Group.

firefox 3.2.24   The Users Guide To Firefox

For more information about creating and using Tab Groups, see:

3.3. Search Bar

The Search Bar is one of the features that I love most. It is a text bar located in the top right corner in the navigation toolbar of the Firefox window. It can be used to query, or search, the most popular search engines (including Google, Yahoo and even Wikipedia) directly. The search results will be displayed directly in your Firefox browser. By default, Firefox includes the following 7 search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon, eBay, Twitter and Wikipedia. The active search engine is identified by name inside the search bar, and with an icon to the left of the name.

firefox 3.3.1   The Users Guide To Firefox

How to change the search engine?

To change the active search engine:

  • Click the down arrow next to the search engine’s icon.
  • Select a new search engine from the 7 search engines.

firefox 3.3.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

Also, you can add other search engines such as YouTube by selecting “Manage Search Engine”, and then selecting “Get more search engines”.

For more information, read the see the following links:

3.4. Bookmark

Bookmarks (known as favorites in some browsers) are lists of web pages that the user finds useful. By saving bookmarks you can access web pages easily without remembering the address or searching again and again. Firefox has a full-featured bookmarking system that enables you to do many things.

How to bookmark a web page?

There are many ways to create a bookmark.

  • Using the Bookmark Star: You can use the bookmark star inside the location bar to bookmark a web page. Simply click the star once to place the bookmark automatically under the Unsorted Bookmarks list/folder. Click the star twice to open the Edit Bookmark dialog where you can specify the name of the webpage, the destination saved folder and to tag it.

firefox 3.4.1   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.4.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.4.3   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • Using the Keyboard Shortcut: You can also bookmark a page using the keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + D. The “Edit Bookmarks” dialog box will open.

firefox 3.4.4   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.4.5   The Users Guide To Firefox

  • Drag & Drop: You can bookmark a web page by dragging it to your Bookmarks Toolbar, assuming you’ve enabled the Bookmarks Toolbar. To enable it, click on the “Display your Bookmarks” button, then select the “View Bookmarks Toolbar” option. If the toolbar is open, you’re ready to click and drag:
  1. Click and hold the “Site Identity” tab, located to the left of the web address in the location bar, for the page you want to bookmark.
  2. Drag and drop the tab or favicon on the Bookmarks toolbar. The bookmark will be created automatically.

How to remove a bookmark?

Open the Bookmarks manager by clicking the Firefox button. From here you can organize your bookmarks into folders and delete bookmarks you no longer need.

Firefox Sync

One of the latest improvements and new features in Firefox is “Firefox Sync” (discussed earlier on our website here). This essential feature helps users to synchronize their bookmarks across computers or smart phones with Android, meaning you’ll have access to your bookmarks everywhere.

Are you wondering how to set this feature up? Assuming that you have the latest version of Firefox, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the “Firefox” button.
  2. Click “Set Up Sync”.
  3. Click the “Create a New Account” button in the “Firefox Sync Setup” window.
  4. Fill out the Account Details form with your email address and chosen password.
  5. After filling out the form with your details, you will see a “Sync Key”. Please notice the message displayed under the sync key. As shown, this key will be used each time you want to set up and add another device to the sync account. Therefore, it is recommended to save it and keep it in a safe place (such as your Dropbox account). The key will be saved as an HTML file.
  6. By saving the sync key, the set up process is done, so click on the “Done” button to wrap up.

Of course, syncing one device isn’t exactly useful. You’ll want to sync a few. To add another device to your sync account, open Firefox on your second device and follow these steps:

  1. Go to the “Set Up Sync” option from the “Firefox” button to start the setup process again.
  2. Instead of clicking “Create a New Account”, click on “I Have an Account” button in the “Firefox Sync Setup” window.
  3. You will see the “Add a Device” window and you will have three sets of codes. Leave this window open for a while and go back to the first computer where you set up the Firefox Sync account.
  4. In your first computer, click on the “Firefox” button.
  5. Go to Options and click on “Options”.
  6. Click on Sync.
  7. Click on the “Pair a Device” link and write down the three codes that you got in the previous step.

Don’t have access to your first computer? Don’t panic. You still have the ability to add a device, by doing the following:

  • Click the “I don’t have the device with me” link under the three sets of codes to sign in with your Sync account. Fill out the form with your email address and password and the Sync Key (which you saved as an HTML file earlier).

Repeat the process for other devices that you use. For instance, you can use Sync feature with Firefox installed on Android phones, or even with Firefox Home installed on the iPhone. Take your bookmarks with you everywhere!

Don’t like this process? You can use other extensions, such as the most popular XMarks, for syncing your bookmarks. For more information, please see the following articles:

3.5. Options & Settings

To control the options, preferences and settings of your browser – including the tabs and content – go to the “Options” window and customize your browser as you like:

  1. Click the “Firefox” button.
  2. Go over to the “Options” menu and select “Options”.

firefox 3.5.1   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 3.5.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

There you will find 8 different settings panels: General; Tabs; Content; Applications; Privacy; Security; Sync and Advanced.

  • General contains options that allow the user to:
    • Set which web pages Firefox displays at startup.
    • Set what Firefox should do when downloading files, including where you want to store downloaded files.
    • Configure add-ons including extensions, themes and plug-ins.
  • Tabs includes options that help the user to configure the behavior of tabbed browsing features, such as:
    • Specifying how Firefox should open the new pages: in a new tab; in a current tab; or in a new window.
    • Setting when Firefox should display warning messages based on the tab behavior.
    • Deciding when Firefox should hide its tab bar.
  • Content is a list of options related to how websites are displayed, such as:
    • Blocking pop-up windows.
    • Enabling JavaScript and Java.
    • Applications shows a list of file types and their associated applications. This allows the user to decide how Firefox should handle different types of files. For instance: PDF documents. Should they be opened in Firefox using a plug-in, or saved like any other file?
  • Privacy is a list of options to set:
    • Whether you want Firefox to remember history or use custom settings, for instance if you will accept cookies or not.
    • When to clear your private data.
    • How to use the Location Bar.
  • Security contains options that help the user to keep their web browsing safe by:
    • Setting Firefox to warn the user when other sites want to install add-ons.
    • Checking if the visited webpage is one of the possible attack sites or web forgeries.
    • Managing the passwords by setting Firefox to remember passwords for sites or by setting a master password to protect saved passwords and other private data.
  • Sync was discussed earlier. It lets you set up or manage a Firefox Sync account that helps you to synchronize bookmarks across your devices.
  • Advanced includes more options categorized under four tabs:
    • General is a list of general browser settings such as:
      • Setting spelling preferences.
      • Choosing whether Firefox always checks to see if it is your default browser.
    • Network includes options for:
      • Configuring how Firefox should connect to the Internet (most people don’t need to worry about this one).
      • Increasing or decreasing the cache size.
    • Update includes options for setting if you want Firefox to automatically update itself and its add-ons.
    • Encryption lists protocol and certificate preferences.

4. Features

Firefox is awesome. Why? Because it is a lightweight, minimalist browser by default but you can expand it to do many things. The Firefox community provides you with many small pieces of software called Add-ons that you can add to Firefox to get more features and enhancements.

As one of our writers, Jackson Chung, wrote in his article The BEST Firefox Add-ons To Unleash Firefox’s Fullest Potential: “From reading to custom user scripts; downloading to privacy; shopping to speeding up the web; Firefox can do it”.

MakeUseOf offers a vast repository of the best Firefox add-ons, so if you want to know more about them please have a look HERE.

4.1. Add-ons

Add-ons are installable enhancements that add new features or functionality to your Firefox browser. These small pieces of software could change the browser interface, or increase the browser functionality. Indeed, there are several types of add-ons that customize your Firefox browser in different ways such as extensions, themes, personas, search engines, foreign language dictionaries (language packs) and plug-ins. We will discuss each one of them while highlighting some examples in the next sections.

Add-on Types

  • Extensions are a type of Firefox add-on that add new features to Firefox or modify existing functionality. Examples of the features include blocking advertisements, downloading videos from websites, integrating more closely with social websites, and much more. One of the most useful extensions is the Private Browsing Windows add-on (which is discussed in detail with other useful extensions HERE). It is an add-on that allows you to open a private browsing session/window without closing your current window.
  • Themes are another kind of Firefox add-on for changing the entire appearance of Firefox, including all the elements of the browser such as icons, colors, dialogs, and other visual styles. By clicking on Themes, you will be redirected to Mozilla’s repository of themes. There are many marvelous themes such as OldFactory Black theme that I like.
  • Personas (also known as background themes) are lightweight basic themes that use background images to change the design (look and feel), including the top (header) and bottom (footer) areas of the browser. In the next following part of this chapter, we will discuss how to dress up your browser in one click. Themes and Personas are confusingly similar, but different. Here’s how:

firefox 4.1.Table    The Users Guide To Firefox

  • Search Providers are additional choices to the list of search engines listed under the search box dropdown. As we mentioned earlier, the Search Box is one of the fabulous features that lets you find whatever you’re looking for from the browser itself. These extra Search Providers allow you to quickly search many websites.
  • Dictionaries & Language Packs are add-ons that change the language of the browser and its interface. They are installed to add support for additional languages. By default Firefox comes with a spell-checking dictionary that matches the language version of the browser. So the French release of Firefox ships with the French language dictionary and so on.
  • Plugins are add-ons that enable Firefox to display videos, animation and games, and understand different types of media. Examples of these plugins are Adobe Flash or Apple QuickTime. This kind of add-on is wonderful, but there is one major disadvantage with it that you should be aware of: plugins don’t update automatically, because they aren’t built by Firefox. However, Firefox promises to update the plugins for you in the future. Meanwhile, you have to regularly check the plugins page for the recent updates.

WARNING: As Mozilla Stated in its Firefox Official page, old plugins can affect your browsing and increase your risk for attack by malware, viruses and other kinds of security threats. So try to update your plugins regularly to get the latest improvements.

How to Install Add-ons?

With the latest releases of Firefox, installing and managing add-ons is simple thanks to the amazing Add-ons Manager. With it you can quickly search for and install any add-on. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Click on the “Firefox” button.
  2. Click “Add-ons” to open the Add-ons Manager utility. Please note that you have four different tabs on the left.
  3. Select the “Get Add-ons” tab.
  4. Then you can select one of the featured add-ons, or use the search box at the top to search for a specific add-on. When you click one of them, more information will be displayed with an “Add to Firefox” button. Click the button to install.
  5. Firefox will download the requested add-on, and may ask you to confirm it.
  6. Click “Restart Now” if it pops up. Your browser will restart and now you’re done!

firefox 4.1.1   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 4.1.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

Another way to install add-ons is by going to the Firefox’s Add-ons Official Page. Browse and install; the process is very similar. For Personas, the installation method is even simpler: you can even see the new look of your browser before installing it just by hovering the mouse over the desired design.

If you want to view your installed plugins, just go to the Add-ons Manager. Here you can browse installed Extensions, Appearance tweaks and Plugins.

How to remove or disable Add-ons?

Removing an add-on is similar to installing it.

  1. Click on the “Firefox” button.
  2. Click “Add-ons” to open the Add-ons Manager utility.
  3. Select “Extensions” tab.
  4. Click the “Remove” button beside whatever extension you’d like to remove.

Some Example of Add-ons

There are so many great add-ons that I cannot hope to describe each one of them. I already mentioned some of them above and I am also going to talk briefly about two of them in the next section. Better still, at MakeUseOf we have an organized up-to-date detailed repository of add-ons with a good number of articles explaining the most featured add-ons. Head there for up-to-date recommendations!

4.2. Firefox As A Web Development Tool

Firefox is not just a web browser. It is a popular choice for web developers and designers as well, and there are plenty of add-ons that can make web design with Firefox significantly more efficient. Firefox offers an extensive list of web development tools (or add-ons) that make it an essential web development tool or platform. We will not discuss these extensions in great detail, but we will highlight some top-notch Firefox add-ons for the web designer.

NOTE: In this part of this manual, I am using the two terms “web design” and “web development” interchangeably, but actually there is a difference between them. For clarity, as Jennifer Kyrnin wrote in her article: “Web design is the customer-facing part of the website. A web designer is concerned with how a site looks and how the customers interact with it.” Web development, meanwhile, is “the back-end of the website, the programming and interactions on the pages. A web developer focuses on how a site works and how the customers get things done on it.”

Firebug

Firebug is a Firefox add-on that gives you a wealth of web development tools including editing and debugging. It’s great for inspecting CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page. In a brief, it is an inspecting and debugging tool. The good news is that it can be used by web developers, designers, as well as non-coders.

When you install the Firebug in your Firefox, you will get a direct-access button at the top-right corner of the browser. Also, you can access Firebug by clicking F12 on the keyboard.

Firebug is the ultimate Firefox add-on for web developers. If you don’t have any idea about it or you want to learn more about it, please check the following:

Web Developer

Web Developer is another Firefox add-on that gives you an ideal web development environment within the browser. It contains many useful tools for inspecting, editing, validating and manipulating web pages in real time.

Please check the following:

firefox 4.2.1   The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 4.2.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

Firefox has many amazing add-ons which make the job of website developers much easier. These are the most important and well-known add-ons in the web development area.

4.3. Others

Auto Forms Fill

Firefox can remember what you have entered in forms on web pages while you browse, saving you the time of repeating information you’ve already entered.

How to use it?

When you visit a page with a form simply type the first few letters. As you type, a drop-down menu will show up, displaying your previous entries. Press the down arrow key to see all of the stored entries.

How to delete the entries?

You have the option to delete a single entry or delete everything (from your form history).

To delete a single entry:

  1. Display the list (or the drop-down menu) of stored entries in the form either by typing the first few letters in the form or text field or pressing down arrow key.
  2. Then highlight the entry you want to delete using the down arrow key or the mouse pointer.
  3. Press Delete key to remove the entry.

To clear the form history (all the previous entries):

  1. Click on “Firefox” button.
  2. Go to the “History” menu.
  3. Select “Clear Recent History”.
  4. In the “Clear Recent History” window, and in the “Time Range to clear” drop-down menu select “Everything”.
  5. Then click on the arrow next to “Details” to see the list of items that can be cleared.
  6. Check the box next to “Form & Search History” if it is not check marked.
  7. Click on “Clear Now” and you are done.

How to prevent Firefox from storing the form entries?

If you are using a public shared computer or generally you don’t want Firefox to store your form entries, then you can turn off this feature by following these steps:

  1. Click on “Firefox” button.
  2. Mouseover “Options”, then select “Options”.
  3. Select the “Privacy” panel.
  4. Set “Firefox will:” to “Use custom settings for history”.
  5. Uncheck the box next to “Remember search and form history”.
  6. Click “OK” and you are done.

An add-on called Autofill Forms enables you to fill out web forms with a simple click or keyboard shortcut. Be careful, though: this might be a security risk for you. Never use this on a public computer.

firefox 4.3.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

Firefox Keyboard Shortcuts

If you are one of these people who doesn’t like to interrupt the flow of your work, especially when they are in a middle of writing something using the keyboard, then you can browse the web in Firefox using the keyboard shortcuts. I personally love using the keyboard shortcuts because I think continually switching between keyboard and mouse it is less efficient.

MakeUseOf provides you with a list of keyboard shortcuts for Windows and Mac OSX, but I am going to highlight what I think are the really important ones.

firefox 4.3.Table    The Users Guide To Firefox

There are a bunch of articles about Firefox keyboard shortcuts. Read them to get yourself navigating around Firefox faster:

5. Security & Privacy

The main reason I switched from Google Chrome to Firefox is security. Each web browser – Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox – has strengths and weaknesses. Google Chrome is really fast, but I feel it’s lacking in security. On the other hand, Firefox comes with high performance, speed and fabulous security features. Besides that, with each release, Firefox patches hundreds of security updates and makes significant improvements just to protect you, the user, from malware, phishing attempts, other security threats, and to keep you safe as you browse the web.

5.1. Private Browsing

This is a great feature. It allows you to temporarily browse the web without storing your browsing history on the local machine. Usually, as you browse the web, the browser saves lots of information about which pages you have visited, files you have downloaded, your site preferences, form and search entries, passwords and more. Private Browsing temporarily prevents Firefox from saving this kind of information – but it doesn’t make you anonymous on the Internet.

As Mozilla mentioned on its website:

Warning: Private Browsing doesn’t make you anonymous on the Internet. Your Internet service provider, employer, or the sites themselves can still track what pages you visit. Private Browsing also doesn’t protect you from keyloggers or spyware that may be installed on your computer.

Still, Private Browsing is a great feature if you’re doing something you’d rather not record in your browsing history, and it’s perfect if you’re quickly using the Internet on someone else’s computer.

How to use Private Browsing in Firefox?

To turn it on:

  1. Click the “Firefox” button.
  2. Select “Start Private Browsing”.

Or you can turn on Private Browsing by using the keyboard shortcut; Ctrl + Shift + P.

firefox 5.1.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

When you start Private Browsing Firefox will alert you that it will save your current tabs for after you finish your Private Browsing session. Click “Start Private Browsing” to continue (you can check the box next to “Do not show this message again” if you don’t want to see it each time you turn on Private Browsing).

While in Private Browsing mode, the Firefox Button at the top-left will turn purple, helping you keep track of which mode you’re in.

To stop using the Private Browsing:

  1. Click “Firefox” button.
  2. Select “Stop Private Browsing”.

Or you can stop Private Browsing by using the keyboard shortcut; Ctrl + Shift + P.

Please note that when you stop Private Browsing mode, the Firefox button will turn orange and your tabs from before you started Private Browsing will be restored.

If you use a shared computer or you don’t want to keep any browsing history in your computer, you can customize your Firefox browser to use the Private Browsing mode as a default mode:

  1. Click “Firefox” button.
  2. Click “Options”.
  3. Select “Privacy”.
  4. In the History section, set so that Firefox will: “Use custom settings for history”.
  5. Then, check the box next to “Always use private browsing mode”.
  6. Click “OK” to close the Options window and you are done.

firefox 5.1.5   The Users Guide To Firefox

Keep in mind that if you enable Private Browsing whenever you start Firefox the Firefox button will not turn purple.

Private Browsing is very useful in many situations, especially if you use a shared computer and do not want to leave a trail of browser history, or if you need to do research work and you want to avoid any distractions from your Facebook or Twitter accounts.

5.2. Site Identity Button

One of the advanced security features in Firefox is the Site Identity/Identification Button, which is located to the left of the location/address bar. It is a feature that gives detailed information about the website you are visiting by telling you:

  • if the website is verified.
  • if the connection to the website (between the browser and the server that hosts the website) is encrypted.
  • who owns the website.
  • who verified it.

The Site Identity Button can be one of three colors; gray, blue and green. Each color has a different meaning:

firefox 5.2.Table2    The Users Guide To Firefox

firefox 5.2.Table    The Users Guide To Firefox

When you click on the Site Identity Button, it will show you security information about the website you are visiting. As an example, if you visit Facebook, the displayed information will tell you that you are actually connected to facebook.com as certified by VeriSign Inc. and so on.

5.3. Anti-Phishing Protection

Firefox has a built-in Anti-Phishing Protection tool to help keep you safe online. This feature will try to protect you from visiting any fraudulent site which is pretending to be a legitimate website like a bank in order to trick you into giving up sensitive information such credit card numbers. Firefox will show a warning message to stop you before any harm is done to your computer.

5.4. Anti-Malware Protection

Anti-Malware Protection is a mechanism added to Firefox to prevent the user from visiting malicious sites. Firefox has a local regularly updated database. It pulls updates from Google’s phishing and malware databases every 30 minutes in order to check sites a user visits before loading them. It will prevent the malicious website (or page that contains malicious software) from loading, and display a page that informs the user that malware has been detected.

5.5. Anti-Virus Integration

Firefox integrates with your computer’s anti-virus software to check executable files as they are downloaded for potential viruses.

5.6. Google Secure Search

Firefox makes your Google searches secure! Really? Yes, Firefox comes with a nice security feature – secure Google search – to keep and protect your information from the prying eyes. Search results will be encrypted with HTTPS.

5.7. More Security Layers…

You can also improve your security using add-ons, adding additional layers of protection to the browser. To get more browser security, check the following article:

5.8. Last Words

It is true that security is a central priority for Firefox and Firefox helps you get securely surfing, however, browser security is a matter of user responsibility, too. Make sure you use the web responsibly, and use SSL whenever possible. Don’t download anything if you’re not sure what it is or why you were prompted to download a file. Be careful!

6. The Future of the Firefox Browser

Last year, many articles discussed the future of Firefox, as well as the Mozilla Foundation, due to the end of the deal/agreement between Google and Mozilla that provides Mozilla with most of its revenue. The deal has since been renewed for another three years. Also, Firefox has just entered the mobile market by introducing the mobile Firefox browser and plans to release a new mobile operating system called Firefox OS (also known as Boot to Gecko or B2G). On the development roadmap, Mozilla has a number of new ideas for Firefox and its related tools. For example, for Firefox Personas, Mozilla is working on tools that will transform Personas from static background images to dynamically updating themes. In general, the future of Firefox is bright and it will add many significant improvements to the browser.

7. Finding Firefox Support

Firefox is open-source software that is developed by a great growing community, and it offers many support and help tools. Examples of these support tools include:

  • Mozilla Knowledge Base: A wiki page or repository that lists the most important and hot topics in all Mozilla products. It has a nice categorization of topics. Also, you can participate and help Mozilla by adding useful and helpful articles about Firefox.
  • Mozilla Support Page: A page that provides you with the latest hot topics, news and help tips about all Mozilla products including Firefox, Thunderbird and the others. Also, it provides you with a search box to search for what you need help with.
  • Firefox About:Support: A page that lists important application settings, extension settings and modified configuration settings that can be used to troubleshoot browser problems. To access it:
  1. Click “Firefox” button.
  2. Go over “Help” menu.
  3. Select “Troubleshooting Information” option.

firefox 7.3.2   The Users Guide To Firefox

8. Conclusion (The Verdict)

While the final decision for your browser choice depends upon what exactly you need from the browser, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari and the other web browsers are all competing to be your window to the Internet. Each one of them has its strengths and weaknesses in terms of speed, security and the other features such as extensions and add-ons. It is true that Firefox was starting to lose its edge to the other browsers – especially Google Chrome – but it’s catching up again. I personally and genuinely prefer Firefox to the other browsers, including Chrome, and use it regularly because it is (as stated in Mozilla’s mission) an awesome, fast, flexible and really, really secure web browser.

I hope this manual taught you what Firefox is capable of, or at the very least taught you some new tricks. Enjoy the web!

Check out these excellent articles about Firefox as well:

And don’t forget to check our Best Firefox Addons page!

Firefox Guide Published: September 2012

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