Making Firefox your own with add-ons

Note: This post applies primarily to Mozilla Firefox.

One of the greatest strengths of Firefox is its customizability. Many options are available by default, but Firefox also allows even more personalization through what are called “add-ons.” An add-on is a little bit of code that changes how something runs. It usually isn’t a program all by itself, but it enhances another program. You can think of an add-on like a sidecar for a motorcycle. It isn’t strictly necessary, but can be very useful.

Safer add-ons can be downloaded from Mozilla’s add-on site.


What can I do by default?

By default, Firefox allows you to move things around, change what buttons you want to have, and more. All of this is done by clicking on the three horizontal lines in the top right corner of Firefox, then clicking on “Customize.”

The window will change to the customization screen. From here, you can drag and drop almost everything to make it where you want it to be. The area on the left is the menu that appears after you click those three lines, and you can move things in and out of it as you please. You can even show or hide some of the toolbars (those rows of things at the top) with the menu at the bottom. Try dragging things around a little to suit your needs. If you think you’ve made a change you really don’t like and you don’t know how to undo it, click the “Restore Defaults” button at the bottom to move everything back the way it was.


How do I install add-ons?

Add-ons for Firefox are very easy to install and manage. You can see if you have any add-ons installed right now by clicking on the three lines again and clicking the puzzle piece that says “Add-ons” underneath it. In the page that opens up, you will see five things: “Get Add-ons,” “Extensions,” “Appearance,” “Plugins,” and “Services.” The last four are all types of add-on.

  • Extensions allow you to do something Firefox can’t by default. They give Firefox more functionality.
  • Appearance add-ons change how Firefox looks. These are also called “Themes.”
  • Plugins are like extensions, but they aren’t specific to Firefox. Plugins are outside of your web browser and cannot be maintained by Firefox like extensions can.
  • Services are things like social media feeds that can be displayed in the sidebar.

Extensions and themes (under Appearance) are the two primary add-on types. Plugins, while useful, are external to Firefox and generally do their own thing. Both extensions and themes can be downloaded from Mozilla’s add-on site. (You can also go to the “Get Add-ons” section of the add-ons page.) There you can find lots of add-ons to do lots of things. I would recommend just starting by clicking on “Themes” at the top and going through a few of those to see what you want your Firefox to look like.

If you’re looking for specific add-on recommendations, we’ll get there. There’s too many to properly discuss in a single blog post.


What else do I need to know?

Please don’t just install every extension that catches your eye. Choose carefully and sparingly. Having too many add-ons, especially if they’re extensions, can slow down Firefox or even make it crash and shut off. If you notice Firefox not working right, try disabling or uninstalling some of your add-ons through the add-on page you just visited.

Also, and this is important, don’t install add-ons from sources you don’t trust. Add-ons found on the official site linked above (that aren’t labeled “Experimental”) have been reviewed by Mozilla and shouldn’t contain anything harmful.


Tip of the Week:
Be patient with your computer.

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