Archive | Usability

Easier Access to Private Browsing

Here is a quick tip that is not that well known.  If you want to start private browsing in a hurry, and you don’t have time to dive through the menus to start it (Tools > Start Private Browsing) then just type about:privatebrowsing into your address bar.

are you really sure?

There you have it.  Once you have done so, it will ask you if you want to switch into Firefox’s private browsing mode.  You could also save about:privatebrowsing as a bookmark, so you have easy one click access to the private browsing mode, without adding any extra add-ons to Firefox.

Now here is my challenge to all of you out there, does anybody know a quick way to stop private browsing, and return your browser back to normal (other than the traditional menu method).  If you do, leave it in the comments!

Unique Browser Backtracking

Unique Firefox Navigation Tip Need to quickly navigate back in the browser history?  Now sure, you could click the actual backwards button, in the Firefox navigation toolbar.  I have another alternative for you to try though.  MileWideBack is an add-on for Firefox that will let you click on the left border of your Firefox window to go back to the previous web page you were viewing.

What does does this extension for Firefox allow you to do?  Well, if you can navigate forward if you right-click with your mouse on the Firefox border too. If you are using tabbed browsing, middle-click on the left border to close the current tab, or rotate the mouse-wheel to cycle through your current tabs.

To learn more about how to tweak this add-on, check out this tutorial:

So if you are looking for way to make your browsing experience more user friendly or unique, MileWideBack is well worth your time.  Give it a shot, and let me know if you find browsing this way is better or worse than your more traditional methods.

Copy, Bookmark or Open Multiple Links

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Need to save a list of links, but don’t want to copy each one, one by one, individually?  Then you might check out Multi Links.  This Firefox add-on will let you open, copy, or bookmark multiple links, rather than having to handle each one individually. 

To get started, all you have to do is right-click and hold to drag a box around the links you want to effect or “take action” on.  When you release the mouse button, you will have opened, copied and/or bookmarked those links. 

Now how do you decide which of those actions you take?  You can customize that in the options.  Overall, Multi Links is a great add-on that simply adds a lot of functionality to your links and how Firefox relates to them.  If you spend a lot of time copying and pasting resources, this is an add-on you can not do without.

Use Firefox to Customize Your Web

I think everybody, at times, would like to be able to customize certain web sites to better meet their goals.  Now, I am not talking about simple visual edits – like making the background black and the text white.  How about adding keyboard shortcuts for certain web site links and navigation elements?  You an do that and more with the Customize Your Web add-on for Firefox.

So do you want to customize web sites without writing one single line of code?  Check out this video tutorial for a little more information about the Customize Your Web add-on for Firefox.

Some of the other customizations featured include:

  • Removal and rearrangement of elements (cut / copy / paste behavior)
    Modifying of elements in every possible way (changing size, color, default values etc.)
  • Definition of keyboard shortcuts / shortstrings for any clickable element (shortstrings are multi-character shortcuts, e.g. "SO" for a "Sign out" Button)
  • Adding keyboard navigation support for any list of elements  (e.g. for the result entries of search)
  • Insertion of arbitrary HTML and JavaScript code
  • Definition of small macros which are triggered by a shortcut
  • Automatically triggering actions on page load (e.g. for automatic click on a login button or focusing a special field)

I am just having fun playing around with this add-on figuring out all the things I can do with it.  For some, it might seem a little complex, however there is extensive documentation to help you along.

You can pick up the Customize Your Web add-on for Firefox from the Firefox Add-ons site or from Mouseless.de.

Clear Junk When Firefox Closes

Clearing History Settings in Firefox Want to have Firefox just clear out the un-important stuff when you start browsing?  Now, this is highly based in my opinion – and I do have to say that one man’s un-important data might be another man’s stuff he can’t miss. 

I’ll share with you though how I have my browser setup to clear some un-important data each time I close the browser.

Mitch’s Clear History When Firefox Closes Settings

Go to Tools, and then click on Options.

Next, go to the Privacy tab and select “Use custom settings for history” from the drop down menu.

Put a check mark in the box for, “Clear history when Firefox closes” and then click on the button labeled, Settings.

Make sure you add a check mark for only the following boxes:

  • Browsing History
  • Download History
  • Forms & Search History
  • Cache

Then hit the button labeled, “OK” to continue.  On the Options window, also click the button labeled, “OK” and you are all set.

This way I have Firefox setup to clear everything except for my saved passwords and login sessions that are enabled by cookies.  Your setup might be different, and if it is – feel free to share in the comments. 

Stop Squinting to Read Web Pages

Make Text Easier to Read

Don’t you hate it when you visit a web site and the web site’s text is so small, you can barely make out what you are reading?  Here are a few ways you can work around that everyday issue.

Three Ways to Enlarge or Shrink Text

You can enlarge text per web site you are visiting by holding the Ctrl key on your keyboard and scrolling up to enlarge text, and down to shrink text.  If your mouse doesn’t have the scroll wheel, then you can also do this by holding the Ctrl key and hitting the “+” key to enlarge text, and the “-” key to make text smaller.  The third way to enlarge text via Firefox would be to go to your menu bar, go to View > Zoom, and then choose to zoom in (to make things bigger) or zoom out (to make things smaller).

Reset a Web Page to Normal (after Zooming)

Now if you have messed around with the font size so much, your not sure what the default size should be – you can reset that too.  Just go to the menu bar, then click View > Zoom and then  Reset.  This will reset the web page to it’s normal viewing size.

So there you have a few more accessibility options to play with from within Firefox, so you can stop squinting at web pages you are trying to read.

What is the Firefox Applications Tab?

To get to the Applications menu, you’ll want to go to Tools in the menu toolbar, then Options, then click on the Applications tab.

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From here you can change just about any way that Firefox relates to any other file, application or task out there.  Here are a few things I did to speed up my browser usage.

ARCHIVES: For archives (like .zip, .rar, ect) I set the action to “Save File”, that way I can skip Firefox asking me if I would like to open or save that type of file when I download it.

FEEDS: Since I am a Google Reader user when it comes to subscribing to feeds, I changed the Web Feed option from “Preview in Firefox” to “Use Google”.

MP3S: Another fix I like to do here is to set MP3 Format Found from the hijacking QuickTime (which like to take control of everything you do) to “Always Ask” cause sometimes I might want to stream it right there and other times, I might like to download it.

MAILTO: If you use Gmail a lot, you can also setup the mailto links to Use Gmail anytime you click a link that is formatted in that way.

I hope that handful of Application handling in Firefox is handy.  Just one more way Firefox lets you have the ultimate customized web browsing experience, if you you know where to look.

Not All Toolbars Are Evil

Toolbars Can Be Good

Having seen the phase of toolbar upon toolbar come our way in this browsing generation, many have been labeled as evil space wasters that must be done away with.  However, I do have to say not ever toolbar out there is evil.  Now I don’t think you should ever become this crazy, but used in the right way they can be handy. 

Look at these handy toolbars you can add to Firefox:

  • Forecastfox – Get international weather forecasts from AccuWeather.com, and display it in any toolbar or statusbar with this highly customizable and unobtrusive extension.
  • Google Toolbar – Ok, I haven’t really used the Google Toolbar in half a decade, however it does still have a few handy things about it.
  • Fire.fm – It gives you access to the extensive music library on Last.fm. Last.fm gives free radio to the US, UK, and Germany, plus subscriber-based service to the rest of the world. Listen to your favorite music and discover new artists in the process.
  • Web Developer Toolbar – The Web Developer extension adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools.

So see – not every toolbar is bad.  Are there any more toolbars you really enjoy?  Don’t be afraid, share with the rest of us in the comments.

Show the Status Bar in Full Screen Mode

See the Status Bar in Full Screen Firefox

Ever needed to see your Firefox status bar when browsing in full screen mode (you can get into full screen mode by hitting the F11 key on your keyboard).  If you answered, “Yes, tell me more!” do I ever have that add-on of your dreams.

Simply called Full Screen Status Bar, this add-on for Firefox shows the status bar in full screen mode.  It is a very simple tweak that should make many full screen web browser users very happy.

Pick it up for yourself, and give it a shot at the Mozilla add-ons web site.

Create a Downloads Folder for Firefox

Sometimes the simple usability tips are the ones that people overlook the most.  Creating a downloads folder not only keeps things organized when you download things from the Web in Firefox, it also will save you time too.

More About the Downloads Settings and Options

In the menu bar, go to Tools and then select Options.  In the Main tab in the options menu, you should see an area where you can configure how Firefox handles your downloads.

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I would recommend selecting the Save files to option and setting up a downloads folder where you can save all your downloaded files.  Why?  It makes it much easier to find them after you are done, and also it keeps your desktop clean – which often is the default place to dump things for many people out there.  I have mine setup right inside of my documents in Windows XP and my profile folder inside of Vista.  It doesn’t matter where you put it, as long as it is somewhere you can easily reach.

Show the Downloads window when downloading a file is pretty obvious, checked it will show the download manager box as your downloads progress and unchecked, it’ll keep the download information and alerts in your Firefox status bar.  You can also select the option to close it when all downloads are finished.  I don’t do this, cause I usually want to check out what I just downloaded after I downloaded it. 

Always ask me where to save the files might be a good option for those of you out there that need to have everything in it’s specific spot, but often becomes a great time waster. 

Just dump your downloads into a folder called, “Downloads” – it makes things much easier.