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The Best Firefox Shortcuts

Firefox is my window into the Internet Collective. It's like a second level of the operating system, and I spend probably half of my time on the computer, both at work and home, in this browser. I've tried other browsers but never felt as comfortable in them as Firefox. People have their reasons why this or that browser is better and why you should switch, but that isn't going to work on me.

My reasons for using Firefox are personal. I'm too used to how it works and how to get work done in it. I can't use Chrome or Opera or Internet Explorer (can anyone?). I'm committed to Firefox, and the main reason why is that I use plenty of shortcuts that I don't have to think about. I think of what I want to do, and my fingers type the required keys automatically. Some of these shortcuts are the same in other browsers, but not all of them. Any time the shortcut key is different or the behavior is slightly different, it screws me up and slows me down.

Here they are, the best Firefox shortcuts that I use everyday. Learn them, use them, and you'll be as dependent on Firefox as I am.

New Tab <CTRL-T> – This is the workhorse of all of the Firefox shortcuts. Open a new tab, switch the focus to this new tab, and have the cursor placed in the address bar, ready to type in the website you want to go to.

Close Tab <CTRL-W> – The compliment of opening a new tab is to close a tab. If you just opened the tab that you're closing, you'll move back to the previous tab you were at. That's very useful when you're opening a tab to look something up quickly and then closing it to get back to what you were doing. If you open more than one tab in a row, you'll move to the next tab to the right as you close them, or if you're at the end of the tabs, you'll stay at the end as you close them. That's good to know when closing a bunch of tabs. Start at the furthest left tab and hit <CTRL-W> a bunch of times to close them all.

Reopen a Closed Tab <CTRL-SHIFT-T> – Shouldn't have closed that tab? Forgot something you needed a few closed tabs back? You can reopen closed tabs with this shortcut. It's like an undo for tabs! The history is surprisingly long, too.

Open Link in New Tab <CTRL-click> – When you want to read something later, after you've finished with what you're currently reading, you can hold CTRL and click a link to open the link in a new tab, but keep the focus on your current tab. If you open more than one link this way, the new tabs will all be inserted and lined up directly to the right of your current tab in the order that you opened them.

Highlight the Address Bar <CTRL-L> – Done with the site you're viewing and want to go somewhere else? Use <CTRL-L> to highlight what's in the address bar, and start typing the new address to clear the old one away and start the new one. I also use this shortcut to quickly copy an address to make a link for blog posts or emails. Type <CTRL-L-C-W> to copy the address bar contents and close the tab all in one swift motion. You can even start with a <CTRL-T>, start typing the address you're looking for, and hit enter when it pops up in the autocomplete list to load an address into the address bar for copying. Key combos are the next level of browser Kung Fu.

A is for Amazon – This isn't a shortcut that will be the same for everyone. The address bar will learn what your most frequently visited websites are, and when you type in the first few letters, it will autocomplete the website so you can hit enter to get there. To get to my most frequently visited websites, I just have to type one letter and <Enter> to get there. To go to Amazon.com, all I have to do is type <CTRL-T>, a, <Enter>. Google.com is <CTRL-T>, g, <Enter>. You get the idea.

Google Search – Even faster than going to Google first, you can use the address bar to do a Google search. If you know exactly what you're searching for and don't need to use Google Suggest, then you can type <CTRL-T> or <CTRL-L>, depending on if you want a new tab or not, and type in your search (e.g. "ruby array" to look up Ruby's Array documentation). You'll be taken directly to a Google results page for your search.

Search This Page – Want to search the current page for a word or phrase? Just start typing. No need for a <CTRL-F> to start it. To find the next instance of the search phrase, hit <F3>. To go backwards through the search, hit <SHIFT-F3>. I love this feature!

Surf Through Open Tabs <CTRL-PgUp> and <CTRL-PgDn> – Move left and right, respectively, through your open tabs with these shortcuts. It's convenient when you're a few tabs away from something you need, and you don't want to reach for your mouse.

Back <Backspace> and Forward <SHIFT-Backspace> – Navigate through the history for the tab you're currently in without your mouse as well. As you've probably noticed, many commands have compliments that are accessed by adding a <SHIFT> to the shortcut.

Refresh <F5> or <CTRL-R> – I use <F5> out of habit to refresh a page, but <CTRL-R> works just as well. Refreshing is a surprisingly common operation on some websites.

Open Bookmarks <CTRL-B> – If you want to browse through your bookmarks to look for something you stashed away for safe keeping, you can quickly get a hierarchical view of your bookmarks with this shortcut.

Save a Bookmark <CTRL-D> – Even faster than hitting that star in the upper right area of the icon bar, this shortcut will open a drop down menu so you can change the title of the bookmark and file it in a folder right away.

View Source <CTRL-U> – When I need to look up something in a page's source, I can quickly get to it with this shortcut, then close it with <CTRL-W>. Many other shortcuts work within the View Source window, too. In particular, you can search the source by just typing what you're looking for.

Toggle Tools <CTRL-SHIFT-I> – This shortcut opens and closes the developer tools for Firefox. They're really useful when developing or debugging web pages, and each tab of the tool window has its own shortcut. This one is the best, though, because it will open and close the tools for quick uses, while the others will only open the tools.

There are many more shortcuts for all of the features of Firefox, but these are the ones I use every day. I feel slow and inept without them, and they keep me hooked on Firefox over all other browsers. What are your favorite Firefox shortcuts?