15 handy Firefox 4 tips and tricks

Get the best from Firefox 4 with these useful tips

Firefox 4 is the best Firefox yet, and it's packed with useful tricks and features that can make your online life easier.

From complete control over tabs to better bookmarking, these Firefox 4 tips will help you make the most of it.

1. Keep on top of tabs

Keyboard shortcuts in Firefox 4 make tab management simple: Ctrl-T opens a new tab, Ctrl-W shuts it and Ctrl-Shift-T goes "oops, didn't mean to close that one" and re-opens the tab you've just closed.

On the Mac, use the Cmd key rather than Ctrl. Middle-clicking with the mouse opens the currently selected link in a new tab. No middle mouse button? Ctrl-clicking has the same effect.

2. Use the keyboard to move around

Getting around Firefox's new interface is simple. Ctrl-L takes you to the location bar, Ctrl-K to the search box, the space bar scrolls down and shift-space scrolls back up again. Hold down the Alt key and then use the left arrow to go back a page and the right arrow to go forwards (on the Mac, Cmd-arrow works too). Ctrl-R reloads the current tab.

3. Start in safe mode

If you think an extension is messing with your browser, restart in safe mode by clicking on Help > Restart With Add-ons Disabled. As you'd expect, this restarts Firefox without any add-ons.

4. Save sites fast

To bookmark the current page, simply click on the star icon in the location bar or press Ctrl-D. Ctrl-Shift-B brings up the bookmarks library.

5. Find favourites faster with tags

This is really useful: in the Bookmarks Library, click on a bookmark and enter something in the Tags field (or click on the star icon in the location bar and enter tags in the pop-up menu that appears). For example, you might add the tag "awesome" to your Techradar bookmark. Once you've done that, entering a tag in the location bar shows any bookmarks with that tag - so typing "awesome" would display the TR bookmark.

Firefox 4 bookmark tags

TAG IT: Adding tags when you bookmark a page enables you to search using those tags in future

6. Sync your stuff

Firefox 4 can sync bookmarks, passwords and even open tabs across different machines. To set it up, go into Preferences > Sync and click on Create A New Account. You'll need to enter an email address and a password here. Firefox encrypts your stuff so passers-by can't access it, and the Sync setup will create a unique key for you. Take a note of it: you'll need to provide the key so that Firefox can decrypt your data on another machine.

7. Zoom in and out quickly

Another trio of useful keyboard shortcuts: Ctrl and the Plus sign zooms in, Ctrl and minus zooms out, and Ctrl and zero resets to 100%.

8. Search instantly

Looking for something in a hurry? Hit the slash key ("/"), type what you're looking for and the cursor automatically jumps to that point on the currently opened page.

Firefox 4 find

FIND IT: Hit the slash key for instant in-page searching: the cursor will highlight matches as you type

9. Put folders on the Bookmarks Bar

In the Bookmarks Library, organise groups of bookmarks into folders: just select the Bookmarks Toolbar, right-click and select New Folder - or just right-click over the Bookmarks toolbar and select New Folder there. Give it a sensible name and drag existing bookmarks into it; to add a new one, double-click the star icon in the Location Bar and select the appropriate folder from the pop-up menu.

Firefox 4 bookmarks folder

FILE IT: Organising bookmarks into folders on the Bookmarks Toolbar is a good way to keep favourites handy

10. Tame your search history with Smart Folders

If you keep forgetting what you've read, Smart Folders will happily come to the rescue. Bring up your browser history, type your search term(s) and then click on the Save button. This stores the search in your Bookmarks Menu (you can move it like any other bookmark) and runs the search again when you click it.



Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Gary Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," he says. "And there's a lot of crap."