Mozilla Firefox is a great choice for your default browser no matter what operating system you’re running, but it’s especially handy if you’re running Windows 10 since it takes control of Cortana’s Bing addiction with no effort on your part. Beyond that, the browser’s doing a lot of interesting pro-user privacy things these days, such as instituting a truly private Private Browsing mode that blocks tracking ads, and rolling out ads that actually respect user preferences.
Firefox also offers many of the advantages that Chrome does, including cloud-based capabilities that sync your bookmarks, browsing history, and open tabs across devices.
Here’s how to set up Firefox the right way so you can get the most of this fantastic open source browser. This tutorial is based on version 41.0.1.
Sync is Mozilla’s answer to Chrome’s cross-platform service that lets you sync your bookmarks, browsing history, installed add-ons, and open tabs across your PCs and other devices.
To use Sync you need to sign-up for a Firefox account, which you can do right from your browser.
Click on the “hamburger” menu icon in the upper right corner and select “Sign in to Sync” towards the bottom. This will open a tab where you can create a Firefox account. Fill it out as you would anything else, and then click Sign up.
Mozilla will then send you a verification email that you’ll need to click before you can continue. Once that’s done, Firefox will start syncing your data to Mozilla’s servers so you can access it with Firefox on other PCs, and with Firefox for Android.
By default, Sync saves your tabs, bookmarks, passwords, history, installed add-ons, and preferences. If you’d like to change any of that, open a new tab in Firefox and type
about:preferences#sync. Then uncheck any boxes under “Sync” that you don’t want saved. Personally, I don’t bother syncing passwords since I use a password manager.
To turn off Firefox’s feature for saving passwords, type in
about:preferences#security in a new tab then under “Passwords” uncheck “Remember passwords for sites.”
When you first install Firefox you’re given the option then to install bookmarks from other browsers installed on your system. If you missed that boat, you can still do it after the initial set up process. First, check out instructions online for how to export bookmarks from Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari.
If given the choice, export your bookmarks as a .HTML file and save it somewhere on your PC that you’ll be able to find again, such as the desktop or your documents folder.
Now open Firefox and type Ctrl + Shift + B to open the Bookmarks Manager. A new window will open; at the top, click the Import and Backup button and select Import Bookmarks from HTML… Select the HTML file you exported from your old browser in the previous step and Firefox will do the rest.
Must have add-ons
Like Chrome, Firefox has a healthy add-ons catalog that enhance the capabilities of your browser. To start installing add-ons, type
about:addons into a new tab and hit Enter.
Another privacy favorite is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s HTTPS Everywhere. This add-on forces most popular sites to connect to you over a more secure HTTPS connection if an HTTPS connection is available for the site. This makes it much harder for anyone to snoop on your online activity. You may not think reading the news or your favorite blog is important enough to keep private, but that kind of activity can betray your political leanings, interests, and religious views (or lack thereof) to name just a few data points you may want to keep private.
Another great tool is Download Manager Tweak, an add-on that adds some power to Firefox’s download manager. You can open the manager in a tab or sidebar, delete a downloaded file, and re-download files.
Firefox also comes with the add-on from read-it-later service Pocket built-in.
If you want to take a look at more Firefox add-ons, check out our look at 25 browser add-ons that make your life easier.