As Firefox becomes an increasingly competitive browser in the overall marketplace I find myself
getting more and more questions (mostly from family) about how to get setup on it. I decided to do a write up geared toward the non-techies out there to help them get the most of Firefox and to understand it’s differences.
Firefox is the Internet browser that was released by the Mozilla folks and has been around for many years now. It was released as an open-source (Means that anyone can alter the code and make improvements or changes) browser primarily designed to compete with Internet Explorer. Over the years Firefox has grown into a feature rich browser that has really put a dent in Microsoft’s browser market share. As of the writing of this article, Firefox boasts nearly 47% market share compared to Internet Explorer’s shrinking share of roughly 40% (http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp). This means if you haven’t already, its time to get on the bus (or at least take it for a spin).
Because Firefox is open source, anyone and their mother can create and release add-ons or plugins to tweak the browser to their specifications. To give you an idea, one plugin called ad block plus allows you to block common advertisements thus creating not only a cleaner browser experience, but making your pages load faster. I have also noticed that, in general, Firefox is a more stable browser that crashes less and loads pages faster. So lets get started.
Should I get Firefox?
Yes. Unless you are on a computer owned by your employer, you should get Firefox. If anything I would suggest taking it for a test spin and keeping it on your system as a backup browser should you have issues with your other browser of choice. Now there certainly are some scenarios where you may want to take a rain-check on Firefox. For reasons unknown to me, some developers do not build secure websites that are Firefox friendly. A good example might be your company’s Intranet. While Firefox works on most websites, sometimes there are issues when logging into secure sites and using remote connections. Not to worry though, if you do happen to try to login to a system or site that is not Firefox friendly you are not going to create any major problems. Just simply log out and revisit the site with Internet Explorer. These sites are few and far between and you will surely know pretty quickly if your site is not displaying properly.
So on to the good stuff… lets install Firefox. Point your browser to http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/ and click on the displayed link to get yourself the latest version of Firefox. Either choose to open the link from its location or download the installer and run it from your desktop. When you run the installer it will ask you if you would like to make Firefox your default browser. This means that if you click on a link in an email or anywhere else, it will automatically open up in Firefox. If you are unsure of what to do just keep your current default browser and click no. You can always go back and make Firefox your default browser once you are sold on it. Follow the rest of the directions in the installer and you should be good to go.
When you first open up Firefox it will ask you if you want to import your passwords, bookmarks and settings from Internet Explorer. This is a huuuuuge time saver and I would suggest doing it. Next, make sure you have your homepage of choice. If Firefox is not pointing to the right homepage click on the “tools” tab from the menu bar and then choose “options”. Click on the “Main” tab and make sure that it says “When Firefox starts: show my homepage” then make sure below that you have the right home page. Next, while still in the options menu, click on the “tabs” tab. I personally like to always see the tab bar and if you do too, make sure “always show the tab bar” is checked. I also like to have the “warn me when closing multiple tabs” box checked. You can now go through the rest of the options area and make any other changes you might want. You’re ready to start browsing!
Note, if by accident you choose Firefox as your default browser and didn’t want to you can change it back to Internet Explorer by doing the following. Open Internet Explorer and click on “tools” on the top menu and then go down to “options”. Click the “Programs” tab and then make sure the check box that says “make Internet explorer your default browser” is checked. That’s it!
Getting the most out of Firefox
Now that you have Firefox installed and ready to use it is time to optimize it. Make yourself familiar with https://addons.mozilla.org/ . This is the site where all the great add-ons for Firefox can be found. You can browse through all these add-ons and read the general descriptions of each one and decide if it is right for you or not. Did I mention these are for the most part all free? Well they are.
The first add-on I would start with is adblock plus. This nifty plug-in allows you to block all those annoying ads that usually pop-up and slow down your browser. When you install adblock Firefox will ask you to restart. It will save all your tabs and return you to where you are so click OK. When you restart Firefox it will then take you to a page where you configure which ads to block. Make sure you choose the North America setting. Now for a fun test. Open up Internet Explorer and also keep Firefox open. Go to a site that is usually slow to load… I like to use www.weather.com (it also is full of ads). Open the site in both browsers and see how much faster Firefox loads!
Next I would suggest browsing through the add-ons by popularity. Some suggested add-ons are:
- Flash Got
- Any Color
- Flag fox
- Fox Tab
At this point you should be all setup on Firefox and ready to browse. Enjoy!