Whether your computer runs Windows or macOS, Mozilla Firefox makes a great default browser. The free program is quick, intuitive, and packed with features. And you can customize it in all kinds of ways, from tweaking the look of the software to changing the appearances of individual websites.
Once you dig past the surface-level options, you can find some more advanced Firefox hacks. These features include app troubleshooting, expert tab management, and new ways of surfing the web. In this guide, we’ll go beyond the Firefox basics to ensure you’re getting the most out of your browser.
1. Customize your address bar
You can turn the navigation bar at the top of a web browser’s window into a search powerhouse. That way, when you type keywords (rather than URLs) into the address bar, you’ll actually be searching for those terms on a specific website. First, choose the search engine you prefer, from Google to Bing to Duck Duck Go. Then set it as Firefox’s default, so search terms in the navigation bar will yield results from that site. To do so, open the application menu (by clicking the logo of three horizontal lines on the top right of the page), then choose Options and Search.
The address bar can act as more than a standard search engine. By typing in special keywords, you can launch custom searches within pretty much any site you like, including Wikipedia, IMDb, Amazon, and more. To set this up, navigate to the site you want to search and find its search box. Right-click inside the box and choose Add a Keyword for this Search. A dialog box will pop up. Next, type something short but unusual in the keyword box. This is the term that will trigger your site-specific search when you type it in the Firefox address bar, so you don’t want it to resemble any normal keywords you might search for on a regular basis. For example, you might choose to trigger an IMDb search with the term “imdb,” because you’re not likely to run a general search for that word. Click Save, and you can then search within that site by entering your keyword, followed by your search terms, in the address bar at the top of the browser. To stick with our previous example, type “imdb Tom Cruise” into the navigation bar to search the IMDb website for Tom Cruise.
2. Turn on mouse gestures
Browsing the web by clicking and scrolling is all very well. But Firefox lets you supercharge your online navigation experience with mouse gestures, which allows you to trigger specific actions by moving your mouse a certain way. Give it a trial run, with the help of the FireGestures add-on, and there’s a good chance you’ll never look back.
First, install the extension inside Firefox and restart your browser. To explore the available gestures, open the main menu (again, click the three horizontal lines on the top right) and choose Add-ons. Find FireGestures and click the Options button next to it, and you’ll find the configuration panel.
Under the Main heading, you can set the trigger button, which is a button you need to hold down while making a mouse gesture. FireGestures’ default trigger is the right mouse button, but you can change it if you’d like. Switch to the Mapping pane to see some of the gestures already in place. For example, dragging the mouse straight up or down while holding the trigger button will perform specific actions, such as opening links in new tabs. In the Mapping pane, U means up, D means down, R means right and L means left. And you can add more gestures to the extension’s repertoire here.
It may take you some time to get the hang of these gestures. Once you do, you may find that, say, flicking your mouse to the left or right to navigate forwards or backwards feels much more intuitive than having to fish around for toolbar buttons or scroll through right-click menus.
3. Manage your tabs
Tabs make up the core of your browsing experience—but you don’t have to settle for the default options Firefox gives you. An add-on called Tab Mix Plus gives you extra features to play around with, without slowing down the flow of the program. For example, you can activate a setting that will force all clicked links to open up in new tabs, turn new windows into new tabs instead, and automatically close the blank tabs that sometimes appear when you initiate a download.
Install the add-on and then configure it by opening the main Firefox menu and picking Add-ons from the drop-down panel. Click Options next to Tab Mix Plus to see what’s available and to set the extension up the way you like it. In addition to the aforementioned settings, you can also set where along the bar new tabs will appear, configure which options will appear when you right-click on a tab, and even switch the tab bar from the top to the bottom of the Firefox window. The extension also lets you open tabs by hovering the mouse over them for a set number of milliseconds. For extra tab-control options, keep reading.
4. Snooze tabs for later
You might be familiar with snoozing your alarm—hitting a button to postpone your wakeup call and sleep for a few extra minutes. Now you can do the same with Firefox tabs, thanks to an official add-on pack known as Test Pilot. (Firefox developers use Test Pilot to experiment with new features that may eventually get added to the stable, public version of the browser.) Snoozing a tab will hide that page until a set time, when it will automatically reappear.
Download and install Test Pilot to get your hands on this ability. Under the Snooze Tabs heading, click the Get Started button, then choose Enable Snooze Tabs. An extra button, which looks like a bell symbol, will appear in your toolbar on the top right of the page. When you’ve opened too many tabs to navigate easily, but don’t want to exit pages you’ll need later, you can simply hit this bell to snooze the less-urgent tabs. The button will open a menu where you can pick how long the snoozing period will last. Either choose one of the preset options (like tomorrow or the weekend) or set your own date and time.
If you want to revisit a snoozed tab before it’s due to return, click the Snooze Tabs button and select Manage Snoozed Tabs. You can reopen hidden tabs with a click, see when certain tabs are scheduled to come back, or remove tabs from the list by selecting the red-and-white trash icon.
5. Refresh Firefox
If you find your software bogged down with a bunch of extensions, or behaving sluggishly for no specific reason, then most programs require that you uninstall and reinstall them again to restore their factory settings. Firefox offers a built-in refresh feature that more easily resets the browser back to its factory settings, to get it running as good as new. As Mozilla explains, a refresh will return most of the Firefox settings back to their default state, but it won’t affect your saved bookmarks, stored passwords, browsing history, or even open windows. What it does scrub are third-party extensions, website permissions, modified user preferences, and any customizations you’ve made to the Firefox toolbar.
To access the refresh feature, type “about:support” into the address bar and hit Enter. This takes you to the master troubleshooting page. Click the Refresh Firefox button on the right, and instructions will guide you through the short process.
If you’re really having problems with Firefox, you may not be able to start it at all, which will prevent you from performing a refresh. So try running it in Safe Mode, which disables everything except the core Firefox program. To open the browser in Safe Mode, hold down the Shift button (when you’re using a Windows computer) or the Option button (when you’re on a macOS machine) while clicking or double-clicking the icon. As Firefox starts, you’ll see the Safe Mode window appear. You can continue to browse in Safe Mode, or go ahead and run that refresh right away.