Search Better With Keywords
If you find yourself searching through the same sites over and over again, you may want to consider utilizing search keywords. For example, if you’re an avid Wikipedia-er, you can use search keywords to access an intra-Wiki search directly from the main address bar.
To create a search keyword, right-click on the search box within the site you’d like to add. This action will prompt a pull-down menu where you can choose “Add a Keyword for this Search.” This in turn prompts a pop-up bookmark window, which includes a “Keyword” field where you can create a nickname for your search, e.g. IMDb.com would get “IMDb” and PCMag.com would get “HellaAwesomeTechSite” (from experimenting, it appears that you can’t use a multi-word keyword).
Once added, you access that search by typing the keyword followed by the search into the address bar. For example, you would just need to enter Wikipedia Charles Darwin in the search bar to be taken directly to Darwin’s Wiki page. #boom
Explore Firefox’s Secret Interface
Firefox has a secret interface which allows users to really
get into the coding weeds and tweak how their browser performs (including items not included in the Options menu).
We should note that this function comes with the pop-up warning “This might void your warranty!” and furthermore “You should only continue if you are sure of what you are doing.” Mozilla’s own information comes with similar scary language.
However, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can check it out by entering about:config in the Location bar. You’ll be greeted with the aforementioned pop-up warning. Just click “I’ll be careful, I promise!” to move on. (You can’t break things by just looking.) Here, you’ll find a number of preferences that you can change and tweak.
For most users, this window will look a bunch of impenetrable codespeak nonsense. If you want to try some things out, the website Askvg.com has a handy list of config tweaks (though we should note that they are specifically tailored for Firefox 40, so things may have changed in subsequent versions).
Have fun! (But be careful.)
Easily Jump Through Tabs
Have a lot of tabs open? You can easily toggle through them via simple keyboard shortcuts:
Focus on the next tab on the right: Ctrl + Page Down
Move to the left: Ctrl + Page Up (on a Mac, you can toggle between tabs using command + option + [left/right] arrow)
Jump between multiple tabs: Ctrl + [1 through 9] allows you to jump between a long set of tabs where 1 represents the one on the far left and each subsequent number represents the next tab over. (On a Mac use the command key.)
But if you really want to step up your tab game, check next tip…
Enable Tab Previews
Firefox has a helpful (but non-default) feature that presents thumbnail previews of all your open tabs, but you have to go into the aforementioned (and thoroughly code-y) about:config interface to do it. As stated earlier, this interface comes with warnings that it might mess with your browser’s performance (and it’s probably also worth noting that this function hasn’t been included in the Options menu).
But THAT all being said, I enacted this feature and can say the following two statements with confidence: 1) it’s pretty handy, and 2) I haven’t noticed any issues on my system (but can’t guarantee that you won’t on yours). If you’re feeling bold, here’s how you do it:
Enter about:config into the Location bar > click “I’ll be careful, I promise!” > enter “browser.ctrlTab.previews” in the Search bar in the new window > double click the entry. This will toggle the value from default “false” to “true.” Now, try holding down the Ctrl + Tab keys and you’ll be presented with thumbnails of all your open tabs, which you can navigate through using the arrow keys or your mouse.
Refine Your Search
Firefox aids your searches by auto-filling suggested sites based on your bookmarks and browsing history below your search bar. This can be an overwhelming form of assistance—particularly if you have many bookmarks and a voluminous browsing history. Fortunately, you can refine this search using the following modifiers (be sure to add a space between them):
^ for matches in your browsing history
* for matches in your bookmarks
+ for matches in pages you’ve tagged
% for matches in your currently open tabs
~ for matches in pages you’ve typed
# for matches in page titles
@ for matches in web addresses (URLs).
For example, if you wanted to find that online magazine about PCs, which you have saved somewhere in your bookmarks, you would easily find it by typing PCMag * in the address bar—it will then appear in the autofill pull-down section below your search bar sans all the other PCMag articles that may exist in your browsing history. You can even use these search refiners in combination with one another (just remember to include a space between symbols).
How Healthy Is Your Browser?
Firefox collects data on your behavior and your browser’s overall performance so as to “provide you with meaningful comparisons and tips,” as well as to “aggregate the data shared by everyone to make Firefox better for you.” This function is turned on by default, but if you don’t like the idea of Mozilla keeping an eye on you, it can be disabled under Options (Mac: Preferences) > Advanced > Data Choices [tab].
Firefox also uses these collected facts and figures to render a personalized data-licious report of your browsing data, such as how long you’ve spent on your browser, how many times it has crashed, and even how long it has taken to open (measured in milliseconds). To access this “health report,” Just go to Help > Firefox Health Report.
All About That Master Password
A master password can keep you secure by requiring it to be entered in order for Firefox to access your stored passwords (that particularly comes in handy if you share your computer with anyone). To create a master password, go to the Menu button (AKA the hamburger icon) > Options > Security tab > check the box next to “Use a master password.” Follow the directions in the pop-up window. You can also disable or change your master password through this same window.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having lost your master pass, you can re-set it in a roundabout way. NOTE: This action will remove all your saved usernames and passwords. To re-set, enter “chrome://pippki/content/resetpassword.xul” into the location bar > Enter > Reset in the ensuing pop-up page.
You can then go and create a new master password from there using the above directions.
Learn Yer Keyboard Shortcuts
Are you still pointing and clicking? Like an old person? You need to learn your keyboard shortcuts. Mozilla provides a comprehensive list of Firefox key commands here, but here are a few good ones that will make browsing easier (Mac users, just replace all the “special keys” with the command key):
Back/Forward: Alt + left/right arrow
Reload Page: F5 or Ctrl + R
Reload Page (override cache): Ctrl + F5 or Ctrl + Shift + R
Zoom In/Out: Ctrl + [plus symbol]/[minus symbol] (Zoom Reset: Ctrl + 0)
New Window: Ctrl + N (New Private Window: Ctrl + Shift + P)
Undo Close Tab/Window: Ctrl + Shift + T/N
Design Yer Own Shortcuts
You could take some time to learn all of Firefox’s aforementioned set of shortcuts. But you’re not a mere sheep who just accepts what you’ve been handed, are you? I thought not.
Users can use the Mozilla-blessed Customizable Shortcuts extension (for Mac and Windows) to trick-out their commands. Once downloaded, just go to Options and you’ll find a new Shortcuts tab.
Customize Control Panel
You can customize which items you see in the control panel (and even find some new tools you might not have known about). Click the hamburger in the top-right corner and then click Customize at the bottom.
In this new pop-up window you can drag-and-drop (d+d) items from the window on the right into the “Additional Tools and Features” window on the left, and vice-versa. (Don’t worry, you can always hit “Restore Defaults” in the bottom right corner to go back to where you started.) You also have the ability to (d+d) items to/from the bar in the top right.
We’ll revisit this feature later when we investigate some of Firefox’s hidden Easter Eggs.