Timesavers: Firefox Goodies

Friday, May 1, 2009

This is part of an ongoing series on Timesavers. The goal is simple: short, easily-digestible posts designed to help developers get faster and more productive

This Timesaver is a quickie for some of the ways I stay fast in Firefox. I’m purposely leaving out Firebug, Greasemonkey, and any other add-ons for now. This is just native Firefox stuff.

Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Ctrl-T to open a new tab
  • Ctrl-L to focus on the address bar. I probably use this more times during the day than any other shortcut
  • Ctrl-Enter to prefix with www and suffix with .com. For example, I’ll ctrl-L to the address bar, type facebook, then ctrl-enter. This could be shortened even further by adding a bookmark for facebook and giving it a keyword, like “fb”. Then I’d just type “fb” in the address bar and off I’d go to waste more time.
  • Ctrl-F to find. I am amazed at how many times I see developers use the mouse to pop up the find box in Firefox and IE.
  • “/” to start finding text right away without hitting ctrl-F
  • ‘ to start finding links right away. That’s an apostrophe if you couldn’t make it out. This is fast because if you have an idea of the links you’re searching for, like “contact”, you can hit apostrophe, then start typing “cont…” and then when it focuses on the link, you hit “enter”
  • Backspace to go Back. Shift Backspace to go forward
  • Ctrl-page-down to go to the next tab. Ctrl-page-up to go backwards through the tabs
  • Ctrl-+ to zoom in. I need this because so many of the young hipster bloggers these days think it’s cool to write in 5 pt verdana. Ctr- - to zoom out (that’s control minus). And Ctrl-0 to return everything to normal.

The full list of shortcuts is here: http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Keyboard+shortcuts

Substitutions in Bookmarks

You know how when you focus in the address bar, and you type “google cat pictures”, and it does a Google search on cat pictures? It’s doing that with substitutions. Or try this -- Add this bookmark: "http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/%s" and give that bookmark a keyword of "dict". Then, Ctrl-L to your location bar and type “dict pedantic”. It’ll do a Dictionary search for the word pedantic. All that’s happening is that there’s a link stored in a bookmark, and somewhere in the link is “%s”. And the bookmark has a keyword assigned to it. So when you type the keyword -- “dict” for example – it loads that bookmark. Then, it sees the %s and expects something to come after the “dict”. so whatever else comes after the keyword in the address bar, Firefox will substitute for the %s.

Where I work, this is particularly useful for loading URLs with a well-known pattern whose identifiers only differ by some ID number. Let's say I have a bookmark for executing the "build PDF" function in one of our applications. We'll give it a bookmark of http://app.foo.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=build&id=%s. I'll give it a keyword of "build". Then, to execute it in the url, I would type "build 1041", and it'd replace %s with "1041".

Think of all the URLs you visit that differ only by some word or ID or whatever... they're prime candidates for keyword substitution.

Something I'm missing

I wish Firefox had a shortcut for "Send Link...". I know, I know... this is being rather pedantic. After all, you can just hit alt-f-e and do it the normal old windows shortcut start-with-alt-and-follow-the-letters way. But that feels cheap. I wish I could assign keys, so that I could do Ctrl-M.

What are some of your favorite built-in Firefox timesavers?


jarcud said...

speaking of shortcuts, how about that New Tab King addon - gives you just about everything you need when you "ctrl+t".

Erik Vold said...

You missed Ubiquity! =] the greatest FF time saver of all, here is proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjAtyQNaTAE

Marc Esher said...

I've been wondering what all the hubbub was about with Ubiquity. I'll give it a whirl. What are your favorite things about it? Like... what wouldn't you want to do without?