Firefox® For Dummies®


by Blake Ross




About the Author

Blake Ross discovered computers when he was 4 and hasn’t had time to eat since then. He began working at Netscape at 14 and cofounded the Firefox project two years later to make the Web easy to use for plain old human beings. He also cofounded the community evangelism project, which has changed the face of software marketing and distribution. Blake was featured on the cover of Wired Magazine in early 2005, and he has since been featured in dozens of international publications and television shows to promote computing simplicity. He is on leave from Stanford University, where he is an undergraduate.

Blake is currently working on a new project with some of the original Firefox team. If you enjoy Firefox, you’ll enjoy what’s coming next, so sign up at to hear when it launches.



For my family, who taught me everything I know. Except the computer stuff.


Author’s Acknowledgments

Many thanks to my family and friends for sticking by me and putting up with my crazy hours (the sun is rising as I write this).

Thanks to Mark Enochs and Steve Hayes at Wiley for reminding me to actually, you know, finish this book, and for putting up with the idiosyncrasies of a first-time For Dummies author. Likewise, this wouldn’t have happened without Virginia Sanders and James Russell, who rigorously reviewed the book and fixed every sentence-ending preposition you can think of. (Almost.)

Many thanks to Jatin Billimoria for helping to plan and write the book when my time was sparse.

Thanks to the MozillaZine community for their generous contributions to the book.

And finally, thanks to everyone at Mozilla who helped take Firefox to the top: Mitchell Baker, Chris Beard, Asa Dotzler, Rafael Ebron, Brendan Eich, Ben Goodger, Joe Hewitt, Chris Hofmann, Dave Hyatt, Dave Hyatt’s closet, Paul Kim, John Lilly, Scott MacGregor, Marcia Knous, Gervase Markham, Stuart Parmenter, Jesse Ruderman, Brian Ryner, Mike Shaver, Boris Zbarsky, and everyone else. On to the next 100 million!


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Mark Enochs

Senior Acquisitions Editor: Steven Hayes

Copy Editor: Virginia Sanders

Technical Editor: James “Kovu” Russell

Editorial Manager: Leah Cameron

Editorial Assistant: Amanda Foxworth

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Adrienne Martinez

Layout and Graphics: Carl Byers, Andrea Dahl, Lauren Goddard, Denny Hager, Barbara Moore, Lynsey Osborn, Heather Ryan

Proofreaders: Leeann Harney, TECHBOOKS Production Services

Indexer: TECHBOOKS Production Services

Publishing and Editorial for Technology Dummies

Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher

Mary Bednarek, Executive Acquisitions Director

Mary C. Corder, Editorial Director

Publishing for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book



Part I : Getting Fired Up

Chapter 1: Why You Should Fire Your Old Browser

What Is a Browser, Anyway?

Why Use Firefox?

Chapter 2: Finding Your Way Around Firefox

Wandering the Web

A Browser Is Not a Search Engine

Using the Firefox Interface

Chapter 3: Setting Up Firefox

System Requirements

Getting Firefox

Installing Firefox with the Setup Wizard

Importing Your Information

Switching from Internet Explorer

Switching from Apple Safari

Reporting Broken Web Sites

Part II : Ready, Aim, Firefox

Chapter 4: Finding Information Online

Searching the Web with Firefox

Finding Text within a Page

Chapter 5: Bookmarking Great Sites

Creating and Accessing Bookmarks

Organizing Your Bookmarks

Importing and Exporting Bookmarks

Chapter 6: Returning to Sites You’ve Visited

Navigating Short-Term History

Delving into Long-Term History

Chapter 7: Browsing with Tabs

Getting Started with Tabs

Super Tabbing: Advanced Tips and Tricks

Chapter 8: Filling In Forms Quickly

Saving Your Sanity with Saved Forms

Saving Login Information for Fast Access to Web Sites

Chapter 9: Blocking Popup Ads

Blocking Popup Windows

Viewing Blocked Popup Windows

Chapter 10: E-Mailing with Thunderbird

Getting Thunderbird

Setting Up Your E-Mail Account

Receiving, Reading, and Searching E-Mail

Composing E-Mails

Creating an Address Book

Blocking Junk Mail

Getting Additional Help with Thunderbird

Chapter 11: Downloading and Saving Files

Downloading Music, Pictures, and Other Files

Saving Web Sites

Using the Download Manager

Chapter 12: Printing Web Pages

Using Print Preview

Configuring Print Options and Printing a Web Site

Chapter 13: Finding Additional Help

Using the Help Window

Getting Help on the Web

Part III : Outfoxing Hackers

Chapter 14: Clearing Your Tracks

Using the Clear Private Data Feature

Working One-on-One with Your Data

Chapter 15: Staying Safe Online

Phishing, Pharming, and Phriends

Using the PwdHash Extension

Preventing Spyware and Viruses

Staying Up-to-Date

Part IV : Dressing Up the Fox

Chapter 16: Setting Your Options

Using the Options Window

Oodles of Options

Chapter 17: Finding Your Dream Theme

Going to the Theme Park

Ensuring Theme Compatibility

Installing and Applying Themes

Updating Themes

Troubleshooting Themes

Uninstalling Themes

Chapter 18: Tailoring Your Toolbars

Changing the Items on Your Toolbars

Adding, Hiding, and Removing Toolbars

Changing the Appearance of Your Toolbar Buttons

Restoring the Default Configuration

Chapter 19: Controlling the Way Web Sites Look

Enlarging and Shrinking Text

Changing Web Site Colors

Changing How Firefox Displays Images

Viewing Web Sites in Full Screen Mode

Chapter 20: Extending Firefox

Finding Great Extensions

Ensuring Extension Compatibility

Installing Extensions

Using Extensions

Managing Your Extensions

Part V : The Part of Tens

Chapter 21: Ten Secrets to a Foxier Web

The Find Bar Can Read Your Mind

Stopping Annoying Web Sites in Their Tracks

Making Your Privacy a One-Button Affair

Put It on My Tab!

Bookmarklets: The Baby Extensions

A Home for Every Occasion

Name That Bookmark!

Enjoying a Speedier Search

Feng Shui for Your Toolbars

The Scroll Wheel: Not Just for Scrolling

Chapter 22: The Ten Best Firefox Extensions

Before Getting Started

Gaining Peace of Mind with SessionSaver

StumbleUpon the Web’s Best Secrets

Kissing Ads Goodbye with AdBlock

A New Way to Surf with Mouse Gestures

Playing Music without Leaving Firefox

The Web Your Way with Greasemonkey

Managing Bookmarks More Efficiently

Keeping an Eye on Your Downloads

Making the World’s Largest Scrapbook

Honey, I Shrunk the Link!

Appendix A: Firefox Menu Reference

The File Menu

The Edit Menu

The View Menu

The Go Menu

The Bookmarks Menu

The Tools Menu

The Help Menu

Appendix B: Firefox Keyboard Reference


Tabbed Browsing

Text Editing and Selection

Searching a Page

Searching the Web

Loading Web Addresses

Opening and Closing Windows and Sidebars


Accessing Web Site Elements with the Keyboard

Appendix C: Firefox Drag-and-Drop Reference

Getting to Know Drag-and-Drop

Getting to the Good Stuff

Extending Drag-and-Drop Further


If you’re the kind of person who walks away from the computer thinking, “That was pleasant! Let me bake some cookies for those kids at MIT,” neither Firefox nor this book is for you.

Firefox was created for people who hate computers; who are fed up with popup ads and an Internet that takes regular coffee breaks; and who are baffled by software that seems to have a mind of its own. In short, Firefox was created for people — not programmers.

The reason a mild-mannered author can make such a bold claim is that underneath this cool exterior, I’m not only an author — I’m also a founder! I helped start Firefox — not to make money (it’s free), or sell a company (it’s non-profit), but for the express purpose of making your life easier. The other developers and I want every Firefox experience to feel like your first foray onto the Net. We want to take you back to a time when the Web was new and exciting, when spam was lunch meat and advertisements were found only in books, on television, throughout public transportation systems, on people . . . you get the idea.

But we wouldn’t turn down cookies.

About This Book

If Firefox is your time machine, Firefox For Dummies is your H.G. Wells. The goal of this book is not just to show you Firefox itself, but to help you have a more enjoyable and productive online experience with Firefox. Remember your high school science fair? We’re not here to blow up celery. We’re here to blow up celery to test the effects of explosives on vegetables. It’s a very strong practical focus, and one I strive to maintain throughout the book.

Along the way, I offer a behind-the-scenes look at Firefox development through sidebars that don’t distract from the main content. Some of these sidebars offer insight into why we made certain product designs. Others are lighthearted anecdotes of the growing pains that occurred as Firefox evolved from a tiny hobbyist project to an international success. (Note: This book is written for Firefox 1.5.)

One great thing about developer-authors is that if anything goes wrong with your Firefox experience, whether the error lies in this book or in the software, it’s my fault. You don’t have to spend any time figuring out who deserves an earful. It’s me, all me. See? Firefox is making your life easier already!

How This Book Is Organized

Like most For Dummies books, this book is organized into parts, which are divided into chapters.

When we began work on Firefox, we identified four key issues to focus on:

bullet Painless transition from other browsers

bullet A simplified browsing experience

bullet Online security and privacy

bullet Personal customization

Likewise, the first four parts of this book focus on those areas, and the fifth part encompasses additional reference material and little-known tips and tricks.

Part I: Getting Fired Up

This part introduces you to the fundamental concepts of the World Wide Web, explains Firefox’s role in the system, and helps you begin using it. If you currently use another Web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari, this part can also help you make a smooth transition to Firefox by explaining terminology differences and showing you how to import your information, such as browsing history and bookmarks.

Part II: Ready, Aim, Firefox

After you’ve gotten your feet wet, this part helps you dive into the core activities you’ll do online everyday — finding and downloading information, bookmarking and revisiting your favorite sites, and printing. This is also your first glimpse of Firefox’s innovative tabbed browsing system, which will forever change the way you surf the Web.

Part III: Outfoxing Hackers

This part explains some basic principles of online safety, outlines how Firefox protects you, and suggests additional steps you can take to protect yourself. It also offers a comprehensive look at the kinds of information Firefox records during your online travels — such as saved passwords and Web site history — and shows you how to clear this information.

Part IV: Dressing Up the Fox

This is the really fun part — the one that shows you how to customize your online experience, both how it looks (with themes) and how it feels (with preferences). If you want your browser to have a particular theme, this is the chapter to visit. As if that weren’t enough, this part also introduces you to Firefox’s powerful extensions system, which allows you to extend Firefox beyond its typical capabilities by installing tiny plug-ins with one click.

Part V: The Part of Tens

The usual cap on most For Dummies books, this part offers the poor geek’s version of David Letterman’s top ten lists, including the top ten ways Firefox makes your life easier and the ten things you don’t know about Firefox but should.

Icons Used in This Book


Tips are helpful Firefox shortcuts that you might not discover on your own. You don’t have to follow any tips to get the job done, but they’ll often save you time.


These icons point out the kind of nuts-and-bolts information that make the geek in me smile, but might be of little interest to you. However, feel free to check them out if your inner geek wants some extra information.


Warnings are in place to prevent you from losing data, revealing your passwords to nosy onlookers, or otherwise doing something most people would consider undesirable and unintended. You should always read and make sure you understand warnings before continuing.


File these rare tidbits of information away in your brain for later reference. They’re sure to come in handy.


Most of this book is written in the English language, which appears to be just fine with you. However, I discuss keyboard shortcuts so frequently that it helps to refer to them in shorthand. As the name suggests, a keyboard shortcut is a quick way to access a program command from the keyboard, and you execute them by pressing two or three keys simultaneously — special keys, such as Control (Ctrl), and a letter, such as C. (This is a common shortcut to copy text.) Rather than spelling out shortcuts each time, I abbreviate them as key +letter (for example, Ctrl+C).

When I suggest or mention keywords that can be entered on-screen as search terms, I put them in italic. When you have to choose commands from menus, I write FileExit when you should choose the Exit command from the File menu.


Firefox — and, by extension, this book — exists because hundreds of people just like you asked for a better Internet experience. Your feedback motivates us to keep working toward that goal. I encourage you to send comments, suggestions, or rants about this book or Firefox itself to me at:
I read and respond to all mail.

Part I

Getting Fired Up

In this part . . .

Adapting to new software can be painful, but Firefox makes it easy to transition away from your current browser. The developers of Firefox have purposely mimicked certain design elements and keyboard shortcuts of Internet Explorer and other browsers, and Firefox can import your settings, bookmarks, browsing history, and saved passwords.

This part opens with a brief overview of why Firefox is worth switching to and then walks you through the brief transition process. The chapters in this part help you on your way to a better browsing experience.