15 handy Firefox 4 tips and tricks

Get the best from Firefox 4 with these useful tips

15 handy Firefox 4 tips and tricks

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.

11. Turn tabs into app tabs

One of our favourite features in Firefox 4 is its Chrome-style App Tabs, which take the idea of pinned tabs and improve it: when you make a tab into an App Tab, its tab glows when it's updated - so for example you might make Gmail or Google Reader into an App Tab to get them out of the way without missing any updates. Simply right-click on the tab and choose Pin as App Tab.

Firefox 4 app tabs

TAB IT: App Tabs enable you to pin apps such as your email out of the way. App Tabs glow when updated

12. Make App Tabs open automatically

Once you've pinned your app tabs, right-click on the tab and choose Bookmark All Tabs. If you want the current tab layout to launch whenever you run Firefox, go into Preferences > General and click on Use Bookmark to change the default home page.

13. Create Tab Groups

If you often find yourself with too many open tabs, organise them into groups. Once you've opened a bunch of tabs, click on the Tab Groups button at the top right of the browser. You'll see Firefox's interface change to a collection of thumbnails.

By default Firefox 4 puts everything into one group; to create another group simply draw it in the blank grey area using the mouse, or drag a thumbnail out of the group into that area. Unfortunately Tab Groups are a per-session feature: while you can get them back after a restart with the Restore Previous Session option, you can't currently save your groups to access them in the future.

Firefox 4 tab groups

GROUP IT: Tab Groups help tame tab overload by enabling you to create multiple groups of open tabs

14. Change the search engine

Fed up with Google or just quickly need to query Amazon? Click on the drop-down next to Google's logo in the search box and you'll see a range of available search engines. Just click on one to choose it. Clicking Manage Search Engines enables you to remove, re-order or add more search engines to the list.

15. Type to switch tabs

Instead of scrolling through dozens of open tabs, quickly find the one you want by starting to type the page's title or domain name. A little "switch to tab" option appears in the suggestions box; select it to switch.

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