HOW TO: Make Firefox Your Productivity Machine!

We won’t mention Internet Explorer here. Nor Opera or even Google’s Chrome browser (disclaimer: I may write this post for Chrome in a few months once they have extensions available). Today, we’re going to take a look at Firefox - the browser we all are should be using.

In my endless pursuit of the ultimate productivity system, technology always seems to get in the way. Last week, we looked at how you can stay productive inside of Twitter; a place many of us seem to be spending a lot of time lately. Today I want to try and summarize some of the greatest productivity bits that the Firefox browser has to offer. You may be surprised that many of these don’t even require an extension!

Be sure to let us know in the comments what Firefox productivity bits you use on a daily basis!

1. Learn the shortcut! I know, there are too many programs to learn keyboard shortcuts for! I agree. But I’ll argue that if you’re going to learn shortcuts for just one thing - make it Firefox. If you’re mainly using web apps for mail, documents and the like - you’re spending most of your day staring at the curled orange fox anyway - you might as well get more done while you’re there.

My most-used shortcuts:

F6 or Ctrl+L : Gets you right up into the Address/URL bar.
F5 : Reload the page.
Ctrl+F : Find what you’re looking for on the page. I also just learned you can “quick search” by using just the / key!
Ctrl+T : Opens a new tab. If you’re spending time clicking the new tab icon all day, you’re missing out!
Ctrl+K : Takes you to the Firefox search box.
Ctrl+U : View the page’s source.
F11 : View the page in full-screen mode.
Ctrl+W : Closes the active tab.
Ctrl+= : Increases font size.
Ctrl+- : Decreases font size.
Ctrl+Shift+T : Opens the last closed tab. No more right-clicking and asking Firefox to open the tab you accidentally closed!

There are obviously many more shortcuts built-in to Firefox, but these are the ones I use every single day.

2. Search anything with one letter Did you know you can create a shortcut for ANY search box on the web? Let me give you an example:

I use to download sheet music (I play a little piano sometimes). Instead of typing in the URL, clicking into the search box, and typing out my search I can just do this: F6, mn, “search term”

1. F6 (goes to the address bar)
2. mn (the shortcut I’ve assigned Musicnotes’ search)
3. Enter search term + Enter

To set this up, go to any website that has a search box. Right-click the search box and select “Add a Keyword for This Search…” In the box that displays next, you can name the search, enter your shortcut (Keyword) term, and click Add.

musicnotes_screenshotThat’s it! Now you just need to remember all of your keyword shortcut terms…

3. Edit images quick and easy So bloggers out there: how often do you find yourself looking for an image to use in a post, downloading the file, opening up a photo editor, editing, re-saving, and then uploading back to your blog? For me, it was VERY often.

Enter Picnik.

Picnik is not only a great web-based photo editor, it also has the slickest Firefox plugin that simply allows you to “Edit in Picnik.” Find an image online, right click it, and select “Edit in Picnik.” Now you can resize, crop, even add effects without all the downloading and multiple program fuss - all for free!

4. The sidebar sidekick There are plugins that open things like Facebook, Twitter, etc in your sidebar. You can obviously also view your bookmarks (Ctrl+B) and browsing history (Ctrl+Shift+H) there as well.

We want to do more with our sidebar! Built into Firefox is the ability to allow you to open any bookmark you create into the sidebar… this works PERFECT with mobile sites!

We’re going to take one of my favorite to-do applications, Remember The Milk, and make it more useful:

1. Instead of the full URL, we’ll go to (the mobile version) and login.
2. Then, bookmark this page to your menu bar.
3. Right click your new bookmark and select “Properties.”
4. Check the box that says “Load this bookmark in the sidebar.”

elliotts-tasksNow, every time you click the link - it won’t take you to a new page, but just open up the mobile version of the site right into your sidebar!

Remember, this works well with almost ANY mobile or iPhone version of a website! Add in the comments which sites you love working with in the sidebar.

5. Become Ubiquitous In August of 2008, Mozilla announced Ubiquity, a kind of interface for the entire web. I don’t know if the project is near where they want it to be yet, but I’ve found it interesting at a minimum, and useful enough at times to warrant a mention here.

You can see the introduction to Ubiquity on their site right here because it can be a little hard to “get” without seeing. Let’s just say this: I think the goal is to get you to ask a question to Ubiquity instead of searching for something on Google. Something like, “Get directions from Madison to Austin and email them to Bill.” Ideally, Ubiquity would actually carry out that command for you.


6. You’re not cool if you type full URLs Next time you want to get to (or any .com domain for that matter), did you know all you need to do is type in “mashable” and then Ctrl+Enter? Try it: F6, mashable, Ctrl+Enter.

If you wanted to get to the About page on Mashable, you could type: mashable/about then Ctrl+Enter - Firefox will actually insert the .com before the /about.

Slick as shhhoe shine!

7. Stop procrastinating with procrastato One of my favorite fun Firefox plugins that can have a big impact on your productivity is Procrastato. Simply add some website URLs into the extension, and if you spend too much time browsing those sites (you tell it what’s too long) - the plugin pops up a message telling you to get back to work!

I have to admit, I tried this for a couple days and started getting upset at myself for wasting too much time.  The plugin is now disabled.  ;)

8. Firefox extensions I’d pay for Last, but definitely not least, I’d like to mention a handful of plugins I use every day and would most likely pay for (attention extension developers: do not send emails asking me to pay):

evernote-web-clipper- Evernote - The Firefox plug-in from Evernote allows you to highlight and clip text or entire pages to your notebooks.

- Sharaholic - If you use Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, and similar sites - save yourself the hassle of having plugins for each site and just use Sharaholic to spread all your link love around.

- Web Developer & Firebug - For web developers out there, if you’re not using one or both of these — how are you getting by?

- Greasemonkey & Stylish - By using and and these two plugins, you can customize virtually every popular website out there.

Make it your machine Look, we all have different ways of using the web - it’s the way it should be. But make sure to do yourself a favor and look for Firefox extensions for the sites you’re already using. There are ways to make every site you visit more productive if you just take the time to do it.

Elliott Kosmicki is a web developer and marketing specialist for an Internet Retailer Hot 100 company in Madison, WI. When he’s not absorbing marketing strategy and personal development material, you can find him writing for Good Plum - a productivity and personal development blog focused on the thoughts of home business owners, freelancers, and dreamers. You can also find Elliott on his personal summary page, and on Twitter.

2009-02-23 14:32:18


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