Firefox Tips and Tricks

This section covers a range of tips and tricks you can use to take better advantage of the various features in Firefox, along with clear descriptions of the more important features. Beginner users should definitely not skip this section, but even Advanced users who may already be aware of many of these might find some new information they haven’t yet seen, particularly those tips which are new for Firefox 3.5.

Streamlined Firefox Layout

To provide maximum viewable space in Firefox you may wish to use a ‘streamlined’ Firefox layout – the difference between the default and the streamlined view is shown below:

As you can see, the streamlined view retains all the main functionality of Firefox, but reconfigures the layout to be as minimal as possible. Instructions are provided below:

1. Open only one instance of Firefox, go to the View menu, select Toolbars and untick the ‘Bookmarks Toolbar’ item.

2. If you have a Sidebar showing, under the View menu select Sidebar and unselect any items.

3. Under the View menu select Toolbars and then select Customize. Alternatively you can right-click on an empty spot on a toolbar and select Customize.

4. In the ‘Customize Toolbar’ box which appears, select Icons in the Show box (not ‘Icons and Text’, or Text). If you’re running a lower screen resolution also tick the ‘Use Small Icons’ box.

5. Now remove any icon or element in the Firefox toolbar at the top of the browser which you don’™t need. For example, drag and drop the Search box into the ‘Customize Toolbar’ box to remove it from the Firefox toolbar. You can also remove any unnecessary space fillers, such as the large white space filler at the top right of the Navigation toolbar. You can always re-add these elements at any time if you change your mind later on.

6. Now drag and drop each icon in the bottom Firefox toolbar up to the top toolbar, just to the right of the ‘Help’ menu item. This includes the large white Address Bar. The aim is to have everything on a single toolbar.

7. Insert any additional icons, separators or blank spaces you need from the selection shown in the ‘Customize Toolbar’ box into the relevant spots on the top Firefox toolbar. When finished, click the Done button.

8. Finally, go to the View menu, and under Toolbars unselect the ‘Navigation Toolbar’ as it should now be completely empty anyway.

Note that the circular ‘throbber’, otherwise known as the Activity Indicator, has been removed from the main Firefox toolbar as of Firefox 3.5. This is because by default the tab bar is now visible at all times, and each tab has its own activity indicator on the left side. However if you prefer to restore the throbber, simply find the Activity Indicator icon in the ‘Customize Toolbar’ box and drag it to the Firefox toolbar as per Steps 4-7 above.

You should now have a single Firefox toolbar at the top of your browser, complete with all the menu commands, relevant icons and the address box as pictured further above. This gives you much more vertical viewable space. If you need more viewing space, go to the View menu and untick the ‘Status Bar’ item as it is not vital, and provides a further bit of vertical viewable space. Obviously this layout may not suit everyone, and can be modified to suit your taste. However once you get used to it, it is extremely efficient and provides maximum viewable space in Firefox.

Tabbed Browsing

The most famous feature of Firefox is Tabbed Browsing, something which other browsers have eventually adopted. This is a feature which allows users to open up a link as a new tab within their current Firefox window, rather than opening up an entirely new Firefox window. The benefits of this are faster loadup times for pages opened as tabs, less overall system memory usage, less buttons for open instances of Firefox on the Windows Taskbar, the ability to load pages in the background while reading the current page, and the convenience of being able to switch back and forth between pages just by clicking their tab. Below are some tips on how to make better use of this feature:

  • To open any link as a new tab click your center mouse button while pointing to a link. If you don’t have a center mouse button, hold down the CTRL key then left-click on a link to get the same result.
  • To force a link to open as a new tab in the foreground, hold down the SHIFT key and use the relevant methods above.
  • You can rearrange the order of open tabs by dragging and dropping them on the tab bar.
  • You can drag any tab to your desktop and it will open in a new instance of Firefox.
  • You can drag any tab from one instance of Firefox to another instance of Firefox, and the tab and its contents will move accordingly.
  • To close a tab quickly, click the center mouse button on the tab, or press CTRL+W or CTRL+F4 while viewing the tab. Or you can just click on the ‘X’ on the tab itself.
  • To reopen the last closed tab(s), right-click on the tab bar and select ‘Undo close tab’ or press CTRL+SHIFT+T.
  • To switch quickly between open tabs, press CTRL + Tab to go to the next open tab, or SHIFT+CTRL+TAB to go to the previous open tab.
  • To go to a specific open tab, press CTRL and a numerical key corresponding to that tab’s position from the left. For example press CTRL+2 to jump to the second open tab.

In fact, if you click your middle mouse button on a range of things in Firefox, they will typically open up in a new tab. For example, click the middle button on the back or forward arrows on the Firefox navigation bar and the previous or next pages you’ve visited will open in a new tab. Middle-click on an item in your history or your Bookmarks and it will open in a new tab. Middle-click on the Homepage toolbar icon and your home page will open in a new tab.

Once a certain number of tabs are opened, each tab starts to shrink in width and at a certain point no more additional tabs can be shown on the current screen, though they will be opened in the background. Arrows will appear at either side of the tab bar, allowing you to scroll through the tab list. There is also a small dropdown button at the far right of the tab bar which can be clicked to show a listing of all open tabs.

As of Firefox 3.5 the tab bar is always showing by default, even with only one page open in Firefox. This has been done to make more people aware of the concept of tabbed browsing, however you can change this behavior by unticking the ‘Always show the tab bar’ option under the Tabs section of the Firefox settings. There is also a small ‘Open a new tab’ button (the small button with a ‘+’ sign on it) to the right of any open tabs, making the task of creating a new blank tab easier. However if you wish to remove this button, you can either install this add-on.

Note that if there is only one tab displayed and you close it, it will close the Firefox window altogether. If you want to prevent this from happening you can change the browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab preference to false.

Firefox also has ‘tear-off’ tabs; tabs can be dragged not only from one location to another on the tab bar within a Firefox window, they can be dragged and effectively moved from one open Firefox window to another, and they can also be dragged onto the desktop to open a new Firefox window with the tab’s contents displayed. Note that if you just want to create a shortcut to the site on your desktop instead, drag the site’s favicon from the Address Bar to your desktop. Another useful feature is the ability to not only undo recently closed tabs, but also undo recently closed windows; both these functions can be found under the History menu, appropriately entitled ‘Recently Closed Tabs’ and ‘Recently Closed Windows’, giving you a list of each to select from. If you want to alter the number of recently closed tabs or windows which are stored in this menu (the defaults are 10 and 3 respectively), you can do so by changing the value of the browser.sessionstore.max_windows_undo and browser.sessionstore.max_tabs_undo preferences.

New to Firefox 3.6, this feature is disabled by default, however you can enable enhanced tab switching by going to your About:Config preferences and setting browser.ctrlTab.previews to true. Once this setting has been changed, and as long as you have more than two open tabs, when you press CTRL+TAB, instead of simply switching to the next open tab, Firefox will display a custom tab switcher window, similar to the ALT+TAB switcher under the Windows Aero interface – see the image above. A small thumbnail of each open tab is displayed, and you can either keep pressing the TAB key while holding down CTRL to cycle through and select a tab, or click one with your mouse. To bring up the tab switching window along with a custom search box, press CTRL+SHIFT+TAB instead, and the tab switcher window will remain open until you select a tab or enter a search term to find a particular open tab by name. Alternatively, if you wish to display a button in Firefox which does this, in your About:Config preferences, find the browser.allTabs.previews preference and set it to true. A square button will be shown at the far right of the tab bar, and clicking this button will bring up the enhanced tab switcher window along with search box.

Note that if you enable enhanced tab switching and press CTRL+TAB, the tabs will be displayed in the order of the most recently used tab in the tab switcher rather than the same order in which they appear on the tab bar. When you use CTRL+SHIFT+TAB, or click the enhanced tab switcher button, then the tabs are shown in their normal order as provided on the tab bar.

Full Page Zooming

You can zoom in and out of all elements of a web page, whether text or images, or both. This functionality can be accessed under the View menu, by going to Zoom and selecting ‘Zoom In’ or ‘Zoom Out’ to change the zoom level accordingly. If you just want to zoom in or out of the text only (i.e. you only wish to change the text size on a page), then tick the ‘Zoom Text Only’ item under the View>Zoom option. An easier way to access these functions on any page is to use the Control (CTRL) key in combination with the + (plus), – (minus) and 0 (zero) numerical keys. However the quickest way of all is:


  • To progressively Zoom In on a page, hold down CTRL and scroll up with the mouse scrollwheel.
  • To progressively Zoom Out of a page, hold down CTRL and scroll down with the mouse scrollwheel.
  • To Reset the page to its default zoom level press CTRL 0 (CTRL and Zero key).

This feature is particularly useful when viewing images, as it lets you zoom in or out of an image within the browser so you can look at relevant details without having to launch a separate image viewing application. Note that you can further customize Zoom in Firefox using the browser.zoom.siteSpecific, zoom.maxPercent, and zoom.minPercent preferences.

Faster Searching

There are several ways you can speed up searching web pages and searching on the Internet using Firefox:

Search for text when I start typing: I recommend that you have the ‘Search for text when I start typing’ setting ticked (See the Settings section). That way you can initiate a word search on the currently viewed web page simply by starting to type the search string on your keyboard without having to first bring up the search box. The first instance of that word will automatically be highlighted in green on the page. To find more instances of the word(s), keep pressing the F3 key. Note that the last search string you entered in the current session is kept in memory, and simply pressing F3 on any other page initiates the same search again. Pressing ESC closes the search box, but it also closes automatically if you click anywhere else in the Firefox window.

Keyboard Shortcuts: Another way to quickly open the search box is to use the keyboard shortcuts F3 or CTRL+F. You can quickly close the search box by pressing the ESC key at any time.

Selection Web Search: Highlight a portion of a web page by holding down the cursor over the start of your selection, then left-click and drag the cursor to the end of your selection and release the mouse button. Now right-click on this highlighted selection, and in the context menu select the ‘Search Google for…’ item. Firefox will automatically launch a web search using the default search plugin Google and provides the results in a new tab/window.

Web Search Box: You can use the dedicated Web Search box in your Firefox toolbar to speed up searching for information on the Internet. If it is not already there, to add it in go to View>Toolbars>Customize and in the ‘Customize Toolbars’ box find the white Search box, and drag and drop it into a suitable position on your Firefox toolbar, then click Done. Next, click on the small icon in the left side of the search box, and select the search engine you wish to use for web searches – Google is the default and recommended engine, although you can use a more specific site such as or for example. Now enter the phrase(s) you wish to search for in this Search box and press Enter – the results will be displayed in the current Firefox browser window.

You can download additional plugins for the Web Search box by clicking on the icon next to the Search box, selecting ‘Manage Search Engines’ and then clicking the Get more search engines link at the bottom. You can also create your own custom search. Since all the search engine coding is saved in your \Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins\ directory as .xml files, you can create your own .xml file which will allow you to use the Search box to launch a search on any site you wish. Full instructions are here.

Address Bar/Keyword Searches: One of the fastest ways to search is by using keywords within the Firefox URL Address Bar. The Address Bar, also known as the Location Bar, or the “Awesome Bar”, is covered in detail in its own section below.

The Awesome Bar

One of the major features which has proven to be very popular in Firefox 3 is the enhancement of the Location Bar or Address Bar, the place you normally see website URL addresses. Rather than simply displaying your location or allowing you to enter web addresses, or even conducting basic URL or web searches, as of Firefox 3 the Address Bar has been revamped to be much more functional, and is nicknamed the “Awesome Bar”.

To start with, you can type in any words or phrases, even partial words, and the Awesome Bar will instantly search your entire browsing History and Bookmarks to display any possible matches in a drop down box beneath the Awesome Bar. More importantly, the matched words/phrases can be in any part of the URL or page description, or any custom tags you’ve added to bookmarks. The more words you keep typing into the Awesome Bar, the more refined the search results will become.

When viewing the search results in the Awesome Bar, you will see not only the title of the web page, but also the favicon next to it, which makes identification easier, and you’ll also see the site/page URL beneath the title as well. Importantly, you will also see at a glance whether it is already part of your bookmarks; it will have a yellow star next to it if it is – see the Bookmarks section on the next page for more details.

Of course all the previous Address Bar functionality is also present. For example if you simply type a word and press Enter in the Awesome Bar without selecting a search result, Firefox will usually attempt to find the closest matching web page for that word using Google’s ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ search by default and display the result. If you want to add the Search functionality of any web page directly to the Awesome Bar, simply right-click in any search box on a web page and select ‘Add a keyword for this search’. If you want to jump quickly to the Address Bar/Awesome Bar at any time, press CTRL+L – this moves the cursor to the address bar and highlights all existing text in there.

To allow you to further customize how the Awesome Bar functionality works, you can adjust whether it searches your History and Bookmarks, just your History, just your Bookmarks, or none of them at all (i.e. switching off this functionality altogether) by selecting the relevant items under the ‘Location Bar’ options in Firefox’s Privacy settings – see the Settings section on the previous page for more details.

Also added as of Firefox 3.5 is the ability to use search filters to refine Awesome Bar search results. You can use the ‘*’ and ‘#’ characters to respectively restrict search results to bookmarks or tags. For example a search on “browser *” (without quotes) will find any bookmarks you have with the word ‘browser’; a search on “browser #” (without quotes) will find any items you’ve specifically tagged with the word ‘browser’.

Note that you can further customize the way the Location Bar/Address Bar/Awesome Bar behaves by adjusting the keyword.URL, browser.urlbar.maxRichResults, browser.fixup.alternate.enabled and places.frecency..

Site Identification Button

Part of the Address Bar/Awesome Bar, though deserving of its own section, is the Site Identification button shown at the far left of the Awesome Bar. Whenever you visit a particular site, that site’s favicon will appear in the usual place at the far left. However now, as part of the increased security measures in Firefox 3, you can actually find out more about the security of the site by clicking the favicon button. There are three colors which can be shown in the background of the favicon, as well as in the box which opens when you click it:

Grey – Means that the site has no or insufficient encryption. Most pages on websites will display this color, which is completely normal and fine as long as you’re not entering any sensitive information such as credit card details for online purchases for example.

Blue – Means that you are using an encrypted connection to the site, and its identity has been verified as being a legitimate domain name. This should be secure enough for sensitive transactions, but you may need more information (See below).

Green – Means that the site is as secure as it can possibly be, both in terms of verified ownership, and also being fully encrypted.

More Information: In all cases, if you have any doubts, click the Identification button, and in the box which opens, click the ‘More Information’ button. The dialog box which opens shows you a range of information which should help you better understand the level of encryption, the ownership details, and even useful facts such as how often you’ve visited this site in the past. Of great use however is the ability to also set the permissions for things such as popups, cookies, images and location awareness on a site-by-site basis here, under the Permissions tab. In short it makes it far easier for you to actually see how secure a site is compared to a simple ‘padlock’ display which simply indicates that a site is using some level of encryption, and nothing more.

Private Browsing Mode

Similar to the InPrivate Browsing mode in Internet Explorer 8, or Incognito Mode in Google Chrome, Private Browsing Mode is designed to allow users to browse the Internet without leaving any trace of their browsing history on the PC. While some may jokingly refer to this as “Porn Mode”, in reality there are many legitimate reasons why this feature is useful, especially when browsing on a public PC, or at a friend’s place.

The main method of enabling Private Browsing mode involves simply selecting the ‘Start Private Browsing’ option under the Tools menu of Firefox at any time – this instantly closes all your existing tabs in Firefox (and any other open Firefox windows) and replaces them with a single instance of Firefox displaying the Private Browsing window as pictured above. You can then load up any web page by entering its URL directly in the Address Bar, by using the existing Bookmarks, or by clicking a web link as usual. When this is done the page will display as it normally would, however the Firefox title bar will have (Private Browsing) after the page title, indicating that you’re browsing in this mode. You will continue to be in Private Browsing mode until you either close the current Firefox window, or select ‘Stop Private Browsing’ under the Tools menu. Upon resuming normal mode your previous tabs (and any additional Firefox windows) and their contents will all be restored exactly as they were before you entered Private Browsing mode.

When in Private Browsing mode Firefox will not save any of your history, including: visited pages; form and search bar entries; passwords; listings of downloaded files; cookies; or cached files of any kind. This means you essentially leave no trace of the browsing activity which occurred while Private Browsing mode was enabled. Note however that if you save any bookmarks or manually download any files, these will not be deleted once you exit Private Browsing mode.

If you always want to browse in Private Browsing mode, then you can force Firefox to always open in this mode whenever it is launched by going to the Privacy section of the Firefox settings and selecting ‘Use custom settings for history’ in the drop down box, then ticking the ‘Automatically start Firefox in a private browsing session’ box.

Alternatively, if you simply want Firefox to remove any history for specific sites rather than your entire browsing session, go to the History menu, select ‘Show All History’, find the site in your history listing (use the Search History box at the top right if necessary), right-click on it and select ‘Forget About This Site’; this will remove all recorded history for that site immediately. Be aware however that Firefox treats subdomains of the same site as separate entities when using this feature: e.g. if you right-click on and select to forget, it won’t also remove from your history.

Also keep in mind that you can delete specific aspects of your history at any time using the ‘Clear Recent History’ option under the Tools menu in Firefox. This is covered under the Privacy settings section on the previous page.

Location Aware Browsing

When visiting certain sites which are “location aware”, you will be prompted as to whether you wish to let the site know your location. The available options you will be presented with are ‘Share Location’ or ‘Don’t Share’, as pictured above. If you select ‘Share Location’ this will enable the new Geolocation functionality in Firefox, sending information about your IP address, any nearby wireless access points, and a random client identifier to Google Location Services, which then shares it with the requesting website. The website can then provide more relevant information based on your location, such as refining search results to be more specific to your area (e.g. a search for Central Station will show you your town’s central station), or showing you businesses and services in your local area. Geolocation is a relatively new service, so it is not supported on most sites, and even if supported may not be very accurate. To safely test out this functionality for yourself, click the Mozilla link further above and select the ‘Give it a Try’ link at the top of that page – a Google map will appear with your detected location. Alternatively to see it on a third party site you can use this link.

Keep in mind that unless you manually choose to share your information with a site by clicking the ‘Share Location’ button which appears at the top of the screen, no Geolocation information will be shared with any site. There is no inherent danger to leaving this option enabled. If you are concerned, see the Google Location Service Privacy Policy for more details. If you have granted permission to a site to use Geolocation but want to revoke it at any time, or you want to make sure a specific site can’t ever use Geolocation on your system, open that site and under the Tools menu select ‘Page Info’, then in the box which opens select the Permissions tab and untick the ‘Always Ask’ box and select Block. If you want to disable the Geolocation functionality in Firefox altogether, you will have to change the geo.enabled preference found under your About:Config settings.

Session Restore

If Firefox closes unexpectedly, when next you open it you will see a custom prompt screen asking you to specifically select which particular tabs or windows you wish to reopen. This way you can untick the tabs you believe may be problematic and prevent Firefox crashing again as soon as it opens up. What’s even nicer about Session Restore is that if you crash out of a page while you were typing some text – e.g. part of an email, or a forum reply – then when next Firefox opens up on that page it will also redisplay any text you had entered on the restored page. No more frustrations about typing up long passages of text only to have the browser crash and lose it all. Note that if you just wish for Firefox to always continue on from your previous session each time you open it, and not just after crashes, you can select the ‘Show my windows and tabs from last time’ option under the Main section of the Firefox settings.


Your bookmarks are web pages whose URL addresses you have stored so that you can return to these pages quickly and easily just by clicking on their bookmarks. This is identical to the Favorites feature in Internet Explorer. However there are a range of neat things you can do in Firefox to make using and managing your bookmarks far easier.

Bookmarks File: Unlike previous versions of Firefox, the browser no longer keeps all your bookmarks in a single Bookmarks.html file under your profile directory, it holds them in a database format as the file places.sqlite under your profile directory. The bookmarks.html file is now simply used to update the database with changes. To import your previous bookmarks from other versions of Firefox, or to restore previous versions of your bookmarks, or to export your current bookmarks in .JSON or .HTML format (e.g. for backup purposes), you will need to go to the Bookmarks menu, select ‘Organize Bookmarks’ and then click the ‘Import and Backup’ button.

Bookmark Star: You can view the bookmark status of a web address just by looking at the small star at the end of the address in the Awesome Bar. If it’s white, that means you haven’t bookmarked that page; if the star is yellow, the page is already part of your bookmarks. You can also add bookmarks with just one click – just left-click once on a white star to make it yellow, meaning it is now added to your bookmarks, under the ‘Unsorted Bookmarks’ folder. If you want to edit the bookmark and its location before adding it, instead double-click on the white star or click again on the yellow star, and a dialog box opens underneath, allowing you to edit the bookmark’s name, it’s target folder, and whether you want to remove it by clicking the ‘Remove Bookmark’ button.

Tags: You can add a tag to a bookmark by entering text in the Tags field for that bookmark – visible when you click on a yellow star. A tag is an additional property you add to a bookmark purely for organizational purposes. Tag any bookmarked site with a particular word, and you can then either search for all sites with a particular tag by entering that tag word in the Awesome Bar, or by going to the Bookmarks menu in Firefox, selecting ‘Organize Bookmarks’ and then selecting the Tags item.

Saved Searches: If you go to the Bookmarks menu and select ‘Organize Bookmarks’, in the Bookmarks Manager window which opens, you can search your entire bookmark collection by entering a word or phrase in the Search box at the top right. When the results of a search are shown, you also have the option of clicking the ‘Save’ button which appears, saving your search result as a new folder with the search’s name as the title. Furthermore any time in the future you bookmark a site which has a name, URL or tag that is relevant to that search, it will automatically be added to this custom saved search folder as well.

Sorting Bookmarks: To quickly sort your bookmarks at any time, go to the Bookmarks menu of Firefox, right-click on any folder name, select ‘Sort By Name’, and the contents of that folder will be alphabetically sorted by the name of the bookmark, with folders first, and standalone bookmarks below them. To sort all your bookmark folders in the Bookmarks menu itself, go to the Bookmarks menu, select ‘Organize Bookmarks’, then right-click on the Bookmarks Menu category in the Library box and select ‘Sort by Name’.

Keywords: If you want to rapidly access your bookmarks, you can always use the Awesome Bar’s search functionality (See previous page). However there’s an even faster way – go to the Bookmarks menu, right-click on the relevant bookmark and select Properties. In the Properties box which opens, you can assign a shortcut to this bookmark in the Keyword box. For example, if you have bookmarked, enter “t” (without quotes) in the Keyword box, and click OK to close the box. Now the next time you want to quickly load up, go to the Awesome Bar and simply type the letter “t” (without quotes) and press Enter – will load up straight away. You can assign custom keywords – whether a single letter or an entire word – to each of your favorite bookmarks and use them in the Awesome Bar in a similar way. If you assign a Keyword to a search engine search result, you can use it to speed up searches as well – see the Faster Searching tips on the previous page for details.

Bookmarking Multiple Tabs: If you want to bookmark several open tabbed pages at once, open all the tabs you want to bookmark, then go to the Bookmarks menu in Firefox and select ‘Bookmark all tabs’, and give the new folder a name. The next time you want to open all the sites listed in that or any other folder all at once, right-click on the folder and select ‘Open all tabs’.

Live Bookmarks: If you visit websites which have RSS feeds, you can bookmark them as ‘live’ bookmarks. To do this, just click on the orange RSS icon in the right side of the Awesome Bar. From there, you can select the type of RSS subscription, and the bookmark will be added with a sub-folder which has all the latest articles from that site as a live feed. For more details go here. By default Firefox has one such bookmark under the ‘Latest Headlines’ folder.

Remove Bookmarks Toolbar Folder: You may have noticed that there is a ‘Bookmarks Toolbar’ folder in the Bookmarks menu which can’t be deleted. This is because by default Firefox requires this folder so that it can display something when you choose the ‘Bookmarks Toolbar’ option under the View>Toolbars menu. However if you don’t use the Bookmarks toolbar, then you can safely remove this item. To remove it requires making changes to your UserChrome.css file.

Bookmark Add-ons: If you want to do more with Bookmarks, you can get various Bookmark Add-ons which can help you do just that.

Spell Checker

One of the useful features of Firefox is the integration of a spell checker. This might seem confusing at first, however the aim of the spell checker isn’t to check the spelling on web pages you’re viewing, it’s to check the spelling of any text you enter in various text boxes. For example, if you’re posting on a Forum, or entering text into an online form or search box, by enabling the spell checker (the ‘Check my spelling as I type’ option found under Tools>Options>Advanced>General>) any spelling mistakes you make will be underlined in red. Right-clicking on these underlined items will show you suggested alternative spellings which you can click on to use instead, or if the word is correct, you can ignore the spell check, or select ‘Add to Dictionary’ and it will be stored and not flagged as being misspelled in the future.

Some text entry boxes however do not have spell checking enabled by default. To enable spell checking in any text entry box on a web page temporarily, right-click in the box and select ‘Check Spelling’. To enable spell checking in all text boxes permanently. Furthermore, ideally you should have downloaded the correct language version of Firefox for your region (see page 3), as this affects the specific dictionary that Firefox uses by default. For example if you downloaded the English US version of Firefox and you live in Australia, it will falsely pick up some Australian spellings as incorrect. Furthermore dictionaries for certain regions are not automatically built into Firefox. To add new dictionaries to your existing version of Firefox, right-click in a spell-checked field and select Languages>Add Dictionaries. You can then install a new dictionary, and select which to use under the Languages menu item in the spell checker.

The spell checker generally does not affect performance, however note that on pages which have multiple editable text boxes containing a very large amount of text, this can cause a slowdown as Firefox checks for errors. In general though there should be no real reason to disable the spell checker.

Download Manager

The Download Manager starts by default whenever you initiate a file download within Firefox. While its basic functionality is obvious, it has a range of useful features you may not know about:

Pause and Resume Downloads: You can pause an active download by either double-clicking on it in the Download Manager, or by pressing the pause button at the right of the individual download you wish to pause. You can similarly resume the download at any time. In fact you can exit Firefox, come back and reopen the Download Manager and still resume a download – click on the ‘paused download’ text in the Status Bar, go to the Tools menu and select Downloads, or just press CTRL+J to reopen the Download Manager and resume the download. Note however that some file servers may not allow resumption of downloads, such as Rapidshare.

Download Progress in Status Bar: You can minimize an active download and if you have the Status Bar visible (can be enabled using the View>Status Bar menu item), while the Download Manager itself will disappear, the progress of the download will still be shown in the bottom right corner of the status bar. You can also click on this progress text to re-open the Download Manager box at any time.

Managing Downloaded Files: If you often find yourself wondering where or when you downloaded a certain file, then firstly make sure that the ‘Remember download history’ option is ticked under the Privacy section of the Firefox Settings. This will keep all the details of each download, including the filename, site it was downloaded from, and date of download, all shown in the Download Manager and able to be scrolled through if you so wish. This allows you to use the Search functionality in the Download Manager. You can also open any file at any time by double-clicking on it. If you want to revisit the download page for a particular file, right-click on its filename and select ‘Go to Download Page’. Of course you can clear this list at any time by clicking the ‘Clear List’ button, particularly if you have no further need of the existing download history.

Anti-virus Scanning: The Download Manager works with your anti-virus/anti-malware package(s) to trigger a scan of downloads before they can be finalized. This integrated anti-malware scan can be useful to some, however it can also add quite a bit of time to the end of large downloads. I recommend manually scanning any untrusted downloads with multiple scanners rather than relying on a simple automated scan in the browser.

Windows Parental Controls: If you are using Windows Vista or 7′s Parental Controls feature to block certain content, the Firefox Download Manager will provide an appropriate error message indicating why certain content is being blocked from being downloaded.

Add-on Manager

The Add-on Manager handles all the components of Firefox which are added by users depending on the functionality and appearance they need. This includes Extensions – which add new functionality; Themes – which alter the appearance of the browser; and Plugins – which handle content that Firefox cannot handle natively. You can open the Add-on Manager by selecting Add-ons under the Tools menu.

Get Add-ons: The ‘Get Add-ons’ tab in the Add-on Manager provides users with the ability to quickly find the add-on they need for the functionality they desire. When it is opened, the tab lists several recommended add-ons that you don’t already have, which are compatible with your current version of Firefox, and which you may wish to consider. Regardless, if you’re after a particular type of functionality, enter an appropriate phrase in the Search box here, and all the add-ons which match the search criteria, whether Extensions, Themes or Plugins, will be shown. Only the first few results are shown within the tab, the remainder can be seen in a new browser tab when you click the ‘See all results’ link.

Plugins: The Plugins tab of the Add-on Manager provides a straightforward location to view currently installed Plugins for Firefox. The two most common Plugins include Flash Player and Java. Other plugins may be installed depending on your particular OS and which websites you visit, however if any Plugin appears dubious, click the Disable button. Importantly, Firefox automatically disables any insecure versions of particular plugins, as these can pose a significant security threat. Firefox will warn you about these and prompt you to update to a newer version if necessary and available.

Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts

There are a range of keyboard and mouse shortcuts you can use to speed up browsing and to access special features in Firefox, some of which have already been mentioned. Whether you use them is up to you, however I often find that there are a handful of shortcuts which are very useful in any program. To see a complete list of various keyboard and mouse shortcuts you can use in Mozilla, see this Keyboard Shortcuts List and Mouse Shortcuts List.

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