I'm sure a many of you know what FireFox is, but for those of you who don't: It's only the biggest movement in web browsers since.. well as long as I can remember! It's a free alternative to the security-hole-laden Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Now that we're all caught up.
I've been a diehard Mozilla fan since it's very first version, and switched to Firefox when it was still a baby fox, and have been installing it on every computer I come on contact with ever since.
The other night I set out to take my default-themed firefox with its few extensions, and put together a set of extensions that worked together synergistically to form a sort of super-browser, and top it off with a slick looking skin. This was one of those "where did the past 5 hours go" nights, but lucky for you, I've broken down setting up your Firefox the same as mine into 5 easy steps. Enjoy!
Note: I'm running Firefox on Windows, so this guide is really aimed at fellow Windows users. If you're not on Windows, some of these extensions may or may not work (I haven't checked), but you get the idea, and if you like what the extensions do, give it a search on http://addons.mozilla.org, and I'm sure you'll find something comparable for your OS.
1. Download the latest version of Firefox! If you already have an older version installed, either select "Check for updates" from the Help menu, or just install the newer version and it will replace the older one.
2. Install this theme: Mostly Crystal -- You don't have to install this theme, and can instead skip to step 4 to just install my select set of extensions, but I've been through a ton of themes, the other night, and over the years, and this is by far the best. It's unobtrusive, customizeable, and maintains that unique Firefox look with a little more color and fun.
3. Now that you have the theme installed (if you installed it and don't know how to set it, in Firefox, go to Tools>>Themes>>Select Mostly Crystal on the left and click "Use Theme") this theme is fully configurable through the Firefox config files. This step isn't completely necessary, but it will make it look a little nicer.
- Download the ChromEdit extension and remember where you save it
- When the download is complete, go to File>>Open File and select the file that you downloaded. Follow whatever it says on screen, and the extension is installed.
- Restart firefox by closing all open browser windows (unfortunately including this one), and meet me back here..
- Welcome back! I hope all went well! The extension that you just installed will allow you to easily edit your firefox config file. Go to Tools>>ChromEdit Plus>>ChromEdit
- Replace everything in there with the following code:
/* Change the theme's default Flat Tabs to Native OS Tabs. */
/* Use "Circular" throbber image in all places, always. */
* This file can be used to customize the look of Mozilla's user interface
* You should consider using !important on rules which you want to
* override default settings.
/* Use stylized address and search bars. */
* Do not remove the @namespace line -- it's required for correct functioning
namespace url("http://www.mozilla.org/keymaster/gatekeeper/there.is.only.xul"); /* set default namespace to XUL */
- Then click "Save" and "Restart Firefox" and I'll see you in a few seconds..
- OK! Now all of your options should be changed, you'll notice that your address bar is rounded like on a Mac, that annoying penguin is gone, and your tabs look more like.. tabs.. if you're feeling adventurous you can see a whole list of config options here: http://www.tom-cat.com/mozilla/firefox/userchrome.html
4. Now it's time to install some extensions. Here's a list of my GOTTA HAVE IT extensions:
- Fasterfox - This makes Firefox download web pages faster. Plain and simple. Once installed, I'd go into its options window (see below on how to do that), and select "Turbo Charged" under the "Presets" tab. I also use "Enable Enhanced Prefetching" under the "Fasterfox" tab, but they claim it's dangerous.. if you're on broadband, I'd use it.
- Google Preview -- This puts a little thumbnail of the webpage next to every google search result. Saves a ton of time, especially on slow connections.
- Adblock -- This blocks ads on web pages. Also install the filterset. With those two combined, it automatically removes ads from web pages, including most flash ads.
- IE Tab -- This lets you open an Internet Explorer window right in firefox! Simply by clicking a little icon on the bottom of the browser window! This is great for those annoying sites that don't look right in Firefox.
- SessionSaver -- If you use tabbed browsing (which everyone should! It's the best part of Firefox), then use this, and it will save all of your open tabs and firefox windows when you close them or if your computer crashes, when you open firefox again, BAM all of your pages are loaded! Way cool!
5. Now these extensions are great, and I like them, but they're not for everyone. They require some configuring, but can be really useful if you're a Firefox superuser like myself:
- Download Statusbar -- This replaces the annoying Firefox download window with a neat bar on the bottom of the browser. If you do alot of downloading, this is definitely a must.
- Tab Mix Plus -- This lets you completely configure how your tabs work! It requires some configuring, but if you're always using tabs like myself, then it's worth the effort. I have mine set up to switch to a tab when my mouse is hovering over it, and to open a new one when I double click anywhere on the tab bar. NOTE: This also has a session saver feature, but I like the one in the SessionSaver extension better. It's probably a good idea to disable this feature in Tab Mix Plus, as they probably conflict.
- Hyperwords -- This one walks the line of super useful and extremely annoying. Whenever you select text, or press a predefined hotkey or the likes, it opens a menu that allows you to do a ton of stuff with the highlighted text (search for it, map it, use it as a tracking number on UPS or a similar site, etc., etc.) I still haven't decided if I'll keep this one, because it gets in my way sometimes, but it has also proved useful.
- PDF Download -- If you find yourself opening alot of PDFs online, then this should come in handy. It lets you choose what to do with a PDF when you click on a link to one (save it, open it in a browser window, etc.)
Well that's it! After you install the extensions, restart firefox for them to load. If you do a bunch at once, you will probably be bombarded with configuration windows, the first group of extensions don't require much, if any, configuring, but the second group's configs should at least be clicked through to make sure the defaults suit you. To access the configuration windows for the extensions, go to Tools>>Extensions, right click on the extension, and select "Options". Some extensions put their options right in the Tools menu, so you can look there, too.
If you installed an extension and are not sure how to use it, check out its options, or also look on the bottom of the firefox window, as alot of extensions install small icons there to use them. For example, the IE Tab extension puts a little firefox icon on the bottom, when you click it, it reloads the current page in Internet Explorer and the icon changes to the infamous IE logo, the reverse happens if you click it again.
If you followed these instructions, you are now using one of the most tricked out browsers on the net! Extensions don't slow down Firefox too much, but it's best not to have ones you don't use, so if you realize that you're not using one, just go to Tools>>Extensions, right click on the extension, and either Disable it or Uninstall it. (The former is good to see if you can live without it, and the latter is good if you know you can!)
Take back the web!