Fast and Fabulous Firefox

http://www.flickr.com/photos/89466786@N00/4553138609Firefox is currently my browser of choice for several reasons, foremost being speed, personalization, and compatibility with various Web 2.0 tools. Sometimes Google Apps doesn’t play well with Internet Explorer resulting in jiggling/jumping screens or buttons that don’t work. I also like that I can personalize this browser and have some settings sync across multiple devices. I spend hours in my browser each day, so these two features are a real time saver and increase my efficiency quotient.

Default Browser

You can use more than one web browser on your computer at the same time. So you can easily give Firefox and try and still have Internet Explorer available. When you install Firefox it will ask if you want it to be your default browser. I would recommend choosing NO at first. Once you’ve used it long enough to know that it will work for you, then you can choose to make it your default browser (Options>Advanced>General>Click the Check Now button in System Defaults).

Setting Your Homepage

You can set multiple tabs to open on start up by first opening all the tabs you wish to open when you start Firefox and then following these steps:

Using Pinned App Tabs

I prefer to open four sites (Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, and Tasks) as App Tabs. Every time I start Firefox, each of these tabs opens with a small footprint having only an icon displayed. I like that you can’t accidentally close these tabs as there is no close button on the tabs. If I get a new email message, the Gmail icon glows. When you click a link in one of these sites it will open in a new window so that your App Tab remains available. To set a site to open as an App Tab, right click on the tab and choose Pin as App Tab.

Load Your Toolbars

You can choose to hide/show most of the toolbars. You can also choose which buttons to display and in what order by using the Customize Toolbar window. I view only the Navigation and Bookmarks Toolbar to keep the interface clean. In the Navigation toolbar I’ve added the buttons for some of my Extensions (Evernote, LastPass). The Bookmarks Toolbar has those websites that I access on daily as well as some bookmarklets (Diigolet, Pin it!, and Convert with Zamzar).

Sync Between Your Devices

I use Firefox Sync to sync my links in the Bookmarks toolbar with the Firefox browsers that I run on my desktop, laptop and phone. This means if I add a link to the Bookmarks toolbar on my desktop computer, that same link will appear in the Bookmarks toolbar on my phone.  Firefox Sync can automatically sync book​mark​s, history, pass​word​s and ​open​ tabs. I choose to sync just bookmarks. For an iPhone or iPad you can install the free Firefox Home app to access your synced bookmarks, history, and open tabs.

Customize for Your Work Flow

Add-ons can be installed to add additional features to your browser. Two types of Add-ons are Extensions and Plugins. Extensions add new features or modify existing ones (block ads, download videos). Plugins provide support for Internet content (Flash, Quicktime, Silverlight). The more Add-ons you have the slower Firefox may start. Because of this, I’m careful to keep my Add-ons to a minimum.

The Extensions I use are: Last Pass, Boomerang for Gmail, Evernote Web Clipper, Google Shortcuts (I especially like that I can open Google Tasks in a full browser window. I have a lot of tasks.), and IE Tab 2. IE Tab 2 allows me to open SISK12 and DESE’s Web Applications in an Internet Explorer tab within Firefox. It’s been my experience that these 2 sites don’t fully function in Firefox, but will work fine for what I do using the IE Tab 2 extension. I don’t do grades in SISK12, so I can’t speak to the functionality of that component. After you install IE Tab 2, in the Add-ons Manager, click its Options button. Paste in the web addresses for the sites that you want to open with Internet Explorer. You will need Internet Explorer installed on your station for this to work extension to work. If this extension doesn’t allow you to do all that you need to in SISK12, then you should continue to access SISK12 in Internet Explorer.

For security and functionality you need to keep your Add-ons updated. Usually Extensions do a good job of updating automatically. Plugins do not always update automatically (even though I’ve indicated in the settings that I want them to) so I occasionally click the link in the Add-ons Manager to check for updates. Also, when installing or updating plugins or add-ons, watch for additional software that it may offer to install. Usually the box to install the additional software is checked by default and you should uncheck it.

Find It Quick

  • Awesome Bar: I like that I can start typing a website title or address in the location bar, and the autocomplete drop-down will show matching sites from my browsing history.
  • Search Bar: Enter keywords here to use a variety of search engines without accessing their websites. Of course you can customize the search bar choosing a default search engine, adding additional search engines, and more.

Choose Your Flavor

Click the Appearance link in the Add-on Manager to change the colors, buttons, and images by choosing a Personas or a Themes.

  • Personas: Change the color scheme and add background image to the toolbars.
  • Themes: more customizable than Personas, as it changes the look of buttons and menus.

Additional Settings

  • Security Settings: You can several security options including remembering passwords and setting a master password. Since I use LastPass, I do not use the password features.
  • Do Not Track: Tracking refers to the methods used by various sites to learn about your web browsing behavior and use that information to show you ads. You can turn on the Do Not Track feature to notify sites that you do not want your browsing behavior tracked. However, they are not required to honor this request.
  • Site Identity Button: In the Location bar, the left of the web address is the Site Identity Button. The color of this button indicates the level of available security information (Gray= none, Blue=Basic, Green=Complete.) Click to display security information about a site.

Side Notes

  • SpeedyFox: Every couple of weeks I run SpeedyFox, a free little program that keeps my Firefox fast.
  • Chrome: Yes, I’ve tried it and yes it’s fast. However, when using Chrome it’s been my experience that if you visit a secure page that isn’t trusted by Chrome, but that you know is trustworthy, Chrome will display an error page with no options to access the webpage. It also lacks some of the customization features that Firefox offers.
  • A “Firefox” is another name for the red panda.