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Firefox is a great browsers for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is how it can be customized. Mozilla has worked hard to ensure the latest versions provide options and features you won’t find without add-ons in other browsers. By making these available by default all users can have the same access without the hassle of installing extensions that may cause compatibility or security concerns. Here are a few important tricks that prove you should be using Firefox.
Customize The Main Menu
Okay, let’s start with the elephant in the room. Firefox 29, released in late April of 2014, introduced the new, revamped “Auralis” interface to make customization easier. The most prominent change is the new icon-driven main menu that’s fully customizable.
Accessing the feature is very easy. Just open the main menu and then hit the “customize” link at the bottom. This opens a full window customization view where you can add or remove menu items by dragging them to and from the “Additional Tools and Features” field. Almost everything you see can be changed including very basic features like New Window and the zoom function.
You’re not just limited to adding or removing features. The order of the menu itself can be customized, so you can move features that you use frequently to a part of the menu you find more accessible.
Add/Remove Toolbar Icons
Customization isn’t limited to the main menu. You can also change the search bar field and bookmarks bar field by adding and removing items.
Let’s say, for example, that you don’t like the Google search field and just want to see the Awesome Bar. No problem! Just click it and drag it out of the search bar area and into the “Additional Tools and Features” field. Do you want your Home page to be in the bookmarks field? Just drag it there.
You can also remove features from any of the menus or toolbars by right-clicking them and hitting “Remove from Toolbar.” The only features you cannot remove are the Awesome Bar and the icon which provides access to the main menu.
All of the above applies to compatible Firefox Add-ons, as well. Those that support the Auralis interface will often appear in a toolbar by default but can be moved in the customization view or by right-clicking and hitting “Remove from Toolbar.”
Control The Awesome Bar With Keyboard Shortcuts
The Awesome Bar is the primary search field within Firefox (formerly called location bar, and sometimes still referred to by that name). One way to change what appears is to know and use keyboard shortcuts which customize Awesome Bar’s behavior. Here’s the current list.
^ to search in your browsing history
* to search in your bookmarks
+ to search in pages you’ve tagged
% to search in your currently open tabs
~ to search in pages you’ve typed
# to search in page titles
@ to search in web addresses (URLs).
Let’s say you want to search for MakeUseOf within your bookmarks and only your bookmarks. To do that you would enter “makeuseof *” in the Awesome Bar. Note the space between the * symbol and what you’re searching for. This is important; the feature won’t work if the space is not included.
You can chain these together for even more precise results. Entering “makeuseof * android #” would show you only MakeUseOf bookmarks with Android in the title, for example.
Remove Unwanted Awesome Bar Results
Awesome Bar is great, but it can be a privacy issue as well. Results are cataloged automatically and available for later use. Clearing history is an obvious solution, but maybe you don’t want to clear all of it.
The fix is easy. Any result that appears in the Awesome Bar can be highlighted by tapping the up/down arrow keys. Once highlighted just tap the delete key to remove the result from appearing in Awesome Bar. Note that this only works with your history. If you try this with bookmarks they will disappear from the open Awesome Bar field but will re-appear when you search a second time.
You can also exercise broader control by opening the Options menu and selecting Privacy. At the bottom is a location bar control drop-down menu. This menu lets you entirely exclude history items, bookmarks or both from Awesome Bar results without deleting either.
Further Customize Awesome Bar With Tags And Keywords
A third way to control the Awesome Bar is through tags, a recently introduced feature that largely supersedes the keywords of old. Tags can be added to any bookmarked page when you have it open by clicking on the blue bookmark star in the toolbar (assuming you have not removed it, of course). This will open a field that shows, among other things, the tags. No tags are assigned by default.
Tags appear in the Show All Bookmarks window and are great for categorizing information, but that’s not their only feature. Tags also impact how items appear in the Awesome Bar. Let’s say your planning a big dinner for your family and want quick access to recipes you’ll be using. Just bookmark them and tag them as “family dinner” and they’ll appear every time you search for that term.
You can dig even deeper into result customization with keywords. At first glance a keyword does the same thing as a tag; it changes what appears in the Awesome Bar. Keywords are separate, however, and don’t change how tags appear up in Show All Bookmarks. You can access keywords by selecting a bookmark in the Show All Bookmarks window and then hitting the “More” arrow at the bottom. You can also access keywords by right-clicking an item in the bookmark bar and selecting Properties.
Let’s go back to the family dinner example. You could plan more precisely by setting each individual recipe a more specific keyword like “entree” or “desert.” This means all your recipes would appear under the same tag but, if you want only more specific result, you can type in the keyword instead. Obsessive organizers can use tags and keywords together to create very elaborate customized search results in the Awesome Bar.
Connect Through A Proxy Server
While you can use a proxy alongside any browser, Firefox is unique in that it lets you enter proxy settings for your browser only. Other browsers require that you change proxy settings in your Internet Options, which means you don’t have as much control over what goes through a proxy and what doesn’t.
You’ll find the proxy settings by opening Options going to the Advanced settings and then hitting the Network tab. Hit the “Settings” button to open proxy controls. There are four options ranging from no proxy to settings manually entered into Firefox. You can also set up a proxy by pointing Firefox to the URL of a .pac configuration file.
Power Users Need Firefox
These six tricks prove that Firefox is the go-to browser for power users. With Mozilla’s browser you have far more control over your menus, toolbars and configuration of advanced search options.
Do you know a useful way to customize Firefox that you use every day? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Sumkinn