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Operating Systems

Boost your productivity in Firefox, IE

A few simple changes--and some useful keyboard shortcuts--let you work faster and smarter in your browser.

I can live without Microsoft Word, and I'm confident I could manage well enough if you removed Excel from my PC. Even my favorite e-mail app is a nonessential.

But take away my browser, and I might as well not even start up my PC.

Mozilla Firefox is the first program I open and the last one I close each workday (or worknight, as the case may be). I found some great time-savers for the program. And since many of you prefer Internet Explorer, I've got some productivity-enhancing keyboard shortcuts for both browsers.

Reset Firefox's Javascript options
Many of the Web's best features are powered by Javascript, but like every technology, it can be a real troublemaker in the wrong hands. Firefox gives you some control over how much power Javascripts have when you activate them. Click Tools*Options*Content, and choose the Advanced button next to Enable JavaScript. If you're using Firefox 1.5, the options checked by default are "Move or resize existing windows," "Raise or lower windows," and "Disable or replace context menus." The first allows Javascripts to change the size or position of the current window. The second lets a script place a window above or below the current window. The third makes it possible for a script to disable or change your right-click (context) menus.

In Firefox 2.0, only the first and third of these options is checked by default. The last two options in this dialog box let Javascripts hide the status bar at the bottom of the browser window, or change its text to allow scrolling-text messages. I leave options 1 and 3 checked, but you may want to give Javascripts more or less control.

Mozilla Firefox's Advanced JavaScript Settings dialog box
Change how much control Javascripts have in the Firefox browser.

Get more control Over Javascripts
You can disable other Javascript window features by using Firefox's about:config settings. To access them, type about:config in the address field and press Enter. To ensure that all pop-up windows are resizable, scroll to dom.disable_window_open_feature.resizable and double-click it to set it to "true." To allow all pop-ups to be minimized, double-click dom.disable_window_open_feature.minimizable. Do the same to dom.disable_window_open_feature.menubar to keep menus visible in pop-ups. To keep the navigation toolbar showing, double-click dom.disable_window_open_feature.location. And to retain scrollbars on pop-ups, double-click dom.disable_window_open_feature.scrollbars to reset this option to true.

Mozilla Firefox's about:config options
Get more control over Javascripts in Firefox by changing these options in about:config.

Time-saving keyboard shortcuts for Internet Explorer, Firefox
Bookmark the current page by pressing Ctrl-D and then Enter.
Open your bookmarks in Firefox by pressing Ctrl-B; open IE's Favorites by pressing Ctrl-I.
Open a new tab by pressing Ctrl-T. Move to the next tab by pressing Ctrl-Tab. If you have lots of tabs open, move between them quickly by pressing Ctrl and the numbers 1 through 9, based on their order in the toolbar.
To close a tab, press Ctrl-W. To close a window, press Ctrl-Shift-W.
Increase the size of the page's font by pressing Ctrl-+; decrease it by pressing Ctrl-- (the hyphen or minus sign).
View the page without the browser border by pressing F11. Press it again to revert to the standard browser view.
Press F5 (or Ctrl-R) to reload the current page, and Ctrl-F5 (or Ctrl-Shift-R) to reload it ignoring the cache.
Press the Backspace key to reload the previous page, or Shift-Backspace to go forward one page.
Press Alt-D to highlight the text in the address box.
Finally, press Ctrl-K in Firefox, or Ctrl-E in IE, to move the cursor to the search box.

Wednesday: A free Firefox add-on that lets you browse text-only, minus images, Javascript, and CSS.