Firefox Web Browser

A better web browser

Everyone is familiar with Microsoft's Internet Explorer because it is included with every version of Windows, but it is not the the only web browser.

A web browser is just a program that renders web pages. It reads HTML or some other programming language from the website and interprets that language into text, pictures, navigation, etc. The standards for that interpretation are set by the World Wide Web Consortium.

For example, our C4S web site home page is actually the following HTML source code:

HTML source

You can view the source code of any web site by clicking on View and Page Source in Firefox.


Microsoft provides Internet Explorer unique extensions or implements the standards in a way different than intended. Often these extensions open up unintended exposures to security. Many large corporations and government agencies have removed Internet Explorer from computers under their control.

As a home user you cannot remove Internet Explorer from your computer. It is required for Windows updates, but you don't have to use it to browse the web, where it is exposed to viruses and other malware.

Other advantages of Firefox is that it is written in a programming language called Java. This means the same program will work on any computer with a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). There are JVM's for nearly every computer - Windows, Apple, Linux, Unix and mainframes. Any computer that attaches to the Internet runs Firefox. If you are familiar with Firefox, you can browse the web from any computer. It's exactly the same on Windows 98, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Apple Macintosh, Sun Solaris, Linux, Unix or a mainframe computer.

Firefox also has a popup blocker, flexible customization, tabbed browsing, Add-on's, enhanced security and privacy features. All of these will be covered below.


Installing Firefox

Firefox is free. Simply look for Firefox 3 like on the front page of C4S and click on it to install Firefox.

This takes you to the Firefox Install page as shown below, then click Download Firefox.

You need to be familiar with the basics of Internet downloads. If you are not, please see our downloads Computer Help here.

Firefox Install


Once you have downloaded the Firefox Installer, click on it to install Firefox on your computer.

When installing Firefox, make it your default browser to use only Firefox for browsing the web and take advantage of its enhanced security and privacy. You can also import all your Favorites from IE to Firefox Bookmarks during the install process.

Changing your home page on Firefox is easy. Simply type the page you want in the Address Bar. Below we have typed in the address bar and press Enter.



This takes us to C4S. You can change the home page the same way you do in IE, by clicking on Tools and Use Current but Firefox makes it even easier.

Simply click on the icon Address Icon to the left of the address bar and drag it to the Home Home icon. Then release.

Firefox on C4S


Customizing Firefox


Customizing Firefox is as easy as changing the home page. Click on View, Toolbars and Customize... This takes you to the Customize Toolbar Menu. Simply drag the icons you want to where you want them on the Firefox Toolbar.

The default toolbar does not have a Print icon, so that is handy. The New Tab icon is handy as is the Bookmarks icon.

Firefox Customize


Here we have added a Separator bar, Bookmarks, New Tab and Print icon to our Firefox Toolbar.

Customized Toolbar


Now that the toolbar is customized, we will customize the behavior of Firefox.

Click on Tools and Options...


Main Options



This takes us to the Options Menu. If not at the Main tab click on Main.


Here we can set our Home Page as in IE and set where programs will be downloaded.

I find that selecting the place to download a file is handy.

If you follow our Downloads Help, you might want to save all downloads into the My Stuff Folder.


Firefox allows numerous Add-on programs. Firefox Sync is particularly useful if you have multiple computers. It allows one to synchronize bookmarks between computers. That way when you change the bookmarks on one computer it changes on all computers.

Also handy is ForecastFox. This puts a Weather Forecast at your fingertips.

Look at the full screen view of C4S above. The add-ons are shown in the status bar at the bottom of the screen.

Add-on's are covered here.



Firefox Tabs




Now click on the Tabs tab. The second tab on the Options menu.

Tabs allow Firefox to open multiple web pages in as tabs in a single browser window. This is a more efficient approach than starting multiple browser sessions. Each tab acts like a separate browser session. The forwards and backwards arrows only apply to that tab.

Check the boxes as shown. You can always change them later when you better understand tabbed browsing.










Firefox Content


This is the Content Options tab.

Here you can eliminate those annoying pop-up ad windows by simply checking the box.

Some web sites like your bank or brokerage firm need pop-up windows to access your account. You can make exceptions to your rule by clicking the Exceptions... button and specifying what sites from which you will allow pop-up windows.


You can also specify whether or not you want images loaded automatically. The only reason not to allow images is a slow dial-up Internet connection. Leave it checked.

You also want to leave Java Script Enabled. Firefox uses the authentic Sun Microsystems JavaScript. Unlike Internet Explorer Java, the Sun Java does not have a read or write operand. Therefore Sun Java cannot read or write any personal data on your system.One of the big security advantages in Firefox.

You can also change the default font and size. Firefox has an easier way to change the Font size. Simply hold down the Crtl key and press + to make the font larger or - to make it smaller.



Firefox Applications










These will make more sense as you learn about Firefox.


Ignore it for now.


And go on to Privacy.








Firefox Privacy



The Privacy Menu is shown at the left.


Here you can specify how or if your browsing history is saved.

You can also specify the length of saving your browsing history.

And whether to save downloads and cookies.

Cookies are not all bad. You need cookies for convenience. For example, Your bank may want to set a cookie to remember all your accounts so that you don't have to enter it every time. TV Guide will set cookie to remember your Cable Provider or area.

Any time that you want information related to your preferences a cookie in needed.

For a complete description of a Cookie go to Wikipedia here

You can also clear your history every time you close Firefox.


Shown at left are the Privacy settings that I find most convenient.


Firefox Security



This takes us to the Security Menu.


Where we control the level of security we want.

It's not a good idea for any web site to install any add-on. That add-on could be a virus or malware.

It's always a good solution to use your own judgment and ask every time a site tries to install something.


It's also a good practice to block Attack Sites and Forgeries.


You can also choose how you want to handle passwords. You can save them or not save them or use a master password.

The Master Password allows you to use a single password for all sites. Convenient, but not all that secure.

Please see the C4S Computer Help topic on Passwords found here.




Firefox General Advanced



This is the Advanced, General tab.

It is helpful for Firefox to check spelling and to autoscroll as shown.


There are numerous other activities controlled in the Advanced Options. As you use Firefox these will become apparent and you can change Firefox behavior to meet your needs.













Firefox Updates




A few items that are helpful are on the Update tab. Allow everything to update automatically as well as Automatically download and install updates.







Leave all the other Advanced Options at their default values.









Installing Firefox Add-on's


Firefox Add-ons are small programs that enhance browsing. We will talk about two here. ForecastFox and Firefox Sync.

There are hundreds of other Add-ons.

To get started with Add-ons, click on Tools and Add-ons.


Firefox Add-ons


This takes you to the Add-ons menu as shown. You can search through all the Add-ons here.

Since we are looking for a weather Add-on, type weather into the search box and press enter to display all the weather Add-ons. Scroll down and locate ForcastFox and click + Add To Firefox.

If it is not in the list click See all results at the bottom of the list.

This will take you to the Firefox Add-ons Web page. Locate ForecastFox and click + Add to Firefox.

Then follow the install instructions.

You will need to enter your Zip Code or City and State.







Firefox Sync is an Extension to Firefox. Click on Tools, Add-ons.

Firefox Extensions









Then click the Extensions tab.

Scroll down and locate Firefox Sync.

Download and install Firefox Sync.











Give Firefox a try. It is a better web browser, runs on every computer, and is more secure.