An overwhelming share of the web browser market has been held by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for close to a decade now, but for the past two years their market share has been steadily declining in favor of the upstart web browser Firefox. This guide is designed to give you everything you need to know to get the most out of the Firefox 2.0 web browser.
What is Firefox? Originally titled Phoenix and Firebird, the free open source web browser now called Firefox was released in November 2004 by the Mozilla Corporation in an effort to compete with Internet Explorer. With the help of thousands of volunteers from around the world, as well as thousands of user made extensions and themes, Firefox has become a serious Microsoft competitor. Firefox’s most recent release is Firefox 2.0.
What are the features of Firefox? Features included with the Firefox web browser include enhanced security, a built-in pop-up blocker, extensions, themes, plug-ins, and a built-in search engine. Other features include the following:
Tabbed Browsing – This allows you to open multiple websites within the same web browser. Firefox 2.0 includes close boxes on each tab. You can also use your mouse wheel or arrow keys to switch between tabs.
Recommended Search Phrases – The built in search box now does a “recommended” search as your typing (requires a compatible search engine to be selected).
Improved In-page Search – Firefox 2.0 allows you to use Cntl+F to search the page you are on. By typing into the in-page search dialog to open quick find, which you can then use the search function to highlight either the first occurrence or each occurence of a term in the page.
In-line Spell Checking – Firefox 2.0 has a spell check built into any text areas and includes a customizable dictionary. This features works exactly like the spell check built into Microsoft Word.
Live Bookmarks and LiveTitles – Websites with web feeds can be saved as live bookmarks and LiveTitles will automatically refresh your bookmark title for a page when the page’s content updates.
Session Management – Make a quick adjustment to the settings and you can have Firefox restore any lost/closed tabs next time you relaunch Firefox.
Anti-Phishing Protection – Firefox runs checks on the web page and queries several database looking for suspected phishing websites. If you visit one you will get a warning message advising you to proceed with caution.
What are Firefox add-ons? Firefox add-ons are software plug-ins created by the users of Firefox that can build additional features into the web browser or change the browsers appearance. I have created a detailed post of the best Firefox extensions and themes currently available entitled Best of: Firefox Add-ons. This post is updated regularly to ensure that is remains a good and current reference.
Firefox Built-In Search Engine
Firefox Search Engines Page – You can add many search engines to your browser search in the upper right corner of your browser including Wikipedia, Technorati, Del.icio.us, ESPN, Flickr Tags, and USA Today.
If you are unable to locate an extension or theme to meet your needs, I would recommend checking out this post on How-To Create Firefox Extensions.
How can I customize Firefox 2.0? With the release of Firefox 2.0, you can now customize your browser a little more than before. The first option I’ll cover is the new session restore feature. In the past, people have used Google Browser Sync or Tab Mix Plus to restore their Firefox tabs. Now, Firefox 2.0 allows you to do this without an extension (which I always find to be a good thing, as to many extensions can slow down your browser). Here is how to do it.
- Click on Tools in your menu bar.
- Click on Options.
- Click on the Main tab.
- Select Show my windows and tabs from last time in the When Firefox Starts field.
- Click OK.
If you don’t want your tabs to be restored next time you open your web browser, you can also choose from Show my home page or Show a blank page.
The next is setting up Firefox to check for automatic updates. Once this is done, Firefox will notify you if any of your extensions or themes have a newer version or update available, then gives you the option of downloading the updates. Here are the steps to set it up:
- Click on Tools in the menu bar.
- Click on Options.
- Click on the Advanced tab.
- Click on the Update mini-tab.
- Check the boxes to the left of Firefox, Installed Add-ons, Search Engines in the Automatically Check For Updates field.
Once this is done, Firefox will notify you prior to opening the web browser that you have updates available and list the individual extensions or themes. You can un-check any ones you don’t want to update, then click Install to have it install your updates. Once done, click Continue to open the web browser. This will save the extra restarting step of extensions like Update Notifier, and not require you to install all available updates if you don’t want to.
The third option you have is the one click RSS subscription feature. Firefox still has the same Live Bookmarks feature that you’ve come to expect from previous versions, but many people aren’t aware you also have some new options with this version. You can now integrate many of the popular feed readers into your web browser by default, or add your own feed reader if you use a different one. Here are the really easy steps to do this:
- Click Tools in the menu bar.
- Click Options.
- Click on the Feeds tab.
- Click on the Subscribe to the feed using radio button.
Select your feed reader service. By default you can leave it on Live Bookmarks, or you can select Attensa, Bloglines, My Yahoo!, or Google Reader. You also can click the Choose Application button and locate your feed reader.
Thanks to CyberNet News, if you use one of the following services, simply click on the following link(s) to add the feed reader as a default option: My AOL, My MSN, Netvibes, NewsGator, or Rojo.
Once completed, any time you select the feed icon on the right side of your address bar, it will add the feed to the selected feed reader! As you can see from the picture above, mine will automatically drop itself into my GreatNews feed reader.
The last thing I wanted to cover is About Config. While browsing several of my favorite websites, I found a Guide on Firefox 2 Tweaks from CyberNet News that is well written and covers everything you need to know.
Included you’ll find instructions on how to:
- Configure the scrolling tabs.
- Configure the red X button on each tab.
- Adjust unresponsive scripts.
- Change the user agent.
- Hide the Go button.
- Enable inline spell-checking for single-line text fields.
- Open search box results in a new tab.
- Lower the physical memory when minimized.
Why should I use Firefox as my primary web browser? Due to the overwhelming market share of Internet Explorer, most viruses, spyware, phishing attempts, and hackers target Internet Explorer users. Firefox takes advantage of being open source, using thousands of developers from around the world to thoroughly test their browser, which helps to ensure a more safe and secure browsing experience. That, in addition to the features mentioned above, make for what most people feel is a better internet surfing experience.
If you like Firefox and would like to help others find Firefox, you can get a Firefox button for your website or blog from Spread Firefox.
You can also get a Firefox Download Counter if you’re truly a Firefox fanatic!
When is Firefox 3.0 due? Firefox 3.0 is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2007. Included in Mozilla’s plans for Firefox 3.0 are a revamp to how bookmarks work. In the meantime, if you are interested in making suggestions or requesting features, you can do so through Mozilla’s Feature Brainstorming Wiki.
Other useful Firefox references:
- Spread Firefox
- Top Firefox 2.0 Configuration Tweaks
- Firefox Problematic Extensions
- Customizing Firefox – Have it your way!
- Firefox Cheat Sheet
- Firefox Facts
- Inside Firefox