Firefox: Browsing with Firefox

Lesson 2: Browsing with Firefox


Browsing with Firefox

Firefox makes browsing the web quick and easy. In this lesson, we'll talk about navigating to websites in Firefox. You'll also learn how use tabs, access your browsing history, and view your downloads.

If you don't have much experience using a web browser, you may want to review our lesson on Using a Web Browser, which covers the basic points of Internet browsing in more detail.

Watch the video below to learn the basics of browsing with Firefox. 

To navigate to a website:

  1. Enter a web address—also known as a URL—into the address bar, then press Enter.
  2. The website will appear.

To search the web:

Firefox makes it easy to search the Web for the information you need. Rather than navigating to a search engine like Google or Bing, you can perform a Web search directly from the search box.

  1. In the search box to the right of the address bar, type a search term, then press Enter or click the Search icon.
  2. The search results will appear.

You can click the magnifying glass icon to select a different search engine, or click Change Search Settings to add or remove search engines.

Navigating in Firefox

Firefox uses four main buttons for navigation: the Back, Forward, Refresh, and Home buttons.

  • The Back button allows you to move back through pages you have recently viewed. Click and hold the Back button to see your recent history.
  • When you click the Back button, the Forward button will appear next to it. You can use it to navigate forward in your recent history.
  • The Refresh button will reload the current page. If a website stops working, try using the Refresh button. When a website is loading, the Refresh button will temporarily become the Stop button, which you can click to stop a webpage from loading.
  • Clicking the Home button will take you directly to your homepage.

By default, the Home button will navigate to the Firefox start page. Review our lesson on Customizing Firefox to learn how to choose your own homepage.

Windows and tabs

Like all browsers, Firefox allows you to open new windows to view different pages. Firefox also allows you to open multiple websites in the same window using tabs. Tabs are usually more convenient than opening several windows at the same time.

To open a new window:

  1. Click the menu button in the top-right corner of the browser, then select New Window. Alternatively, press Ctrl+N on your keyboard.
  2. The new window will appear.

To open a new tab:

  1. Click the plus sign (+) to the right of the open tab. Alternatively, press Ctrl+T on your keyboard.
  2. The new tab will appear. Type an address and press Enter to navigate to a new page.
  3. The website will appear in the new tab.

Whenever you open a new tab, the New Tab page will appear. The New Tab page will show thumbnails of the websites you visit most frequently. You can click any thumbnail to navigate to that page.

To switch between tabs:

  1. Click any tab that is not currently selected.
  2. The tab will be selected.

You can also press Ctrl+Tab on your keyboard to switch between open tabs.

To close a tab:

  • To close a tab, hover the mouse over any tab and click the Close tab button. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl+W on your keyboard to close the current tab.

To open a link in a new tab:

Tabs can also make it easier to browse the web. If you find a link to a website, you can open that link in a new tab. This allows you to open the site without losing your place on the original page.

  1. Right-click the link you want to open, and select Open Link in New Tab from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, hover the mouse over the link, then press the scroll wheel on your mouse.
  2. The website will open in a new tab.
  3. Click the tab to view the website.

Managing tabs

Tabs can be moved, pulled in and out of windows, and pinned into place for easy access.

To move tabs:

  1. Click and drag the tab you want to move.
  2. Release the mouse when you have moved the tab to the desired position.

To pull tabs:

If you want to view two tabs at the same time, it's easy to pull a tab to its own window.

  1. Click and drag the tab you want to pull out of the window. A transparent preview of the new window will appear.
  2. Release the mouse. The tab will now appear in its own window.
  3. To put a tab back into a window, click and drag the tab over the desired window. Release the mouse when a small arrow appears on the tab bar.

To pin tabs:

If there are some pages you use every time you open your browser, like your email or calendar, you might consider pinning the tab. Pinned tabs will open automatically whenever you start Firefox, making your favorite pages easy to access.

  1. Right-click the desired tab, then select Pin Tab from the drop-down menu.
  2. The pinned tab will appear as a smaller tab in the top-left corner of the browser.
  3. To unpin a tab, right-click it, then select Unpin Tab from the drop-down menu.

Browsing history

Like all browsers, Firefox keeps a record of the websites you visit, which is known as your browsing history. Firefox allows you to search your history to find a previously viewed page and delete your history for the sake of privacy.

To view your browsing history:

  1. Click the menu button in the top-right corner of the browser, select History, then select Show All History.
  2. The Library will appear in a new window with your recent browsing history. The history includes every site you've viewed in the last week. The list is sorted by date, so the most recent history appears at the top of the page. If you want to return to a website, simply double-click the link.
  3. If you can't remember the exact address or name of a webpage you've visited before, you can try searching the history. Enter a search term or website into the search bar. A list of results will appear automatically.

Review our lesson on Firefox Security and Privacy to learn how to delete your browser history.

Downloading files

Firefox can display many different types of documents, media, and other files, including PDF and MP3 files. But there may be times when you'll want to access a file outside of the browser. To do this, you'll need to download the file directly to your computer.

For example, let's say you need to complete and print a form you find online. You could download it to your computer, then open it with the appropriate program (such as Microsoft Word) to edit it.

To download a file:

If you click a link to a file, it may download automatically. However, depending on the file type, it may just open within the browser. To prevent a file from opening in Firefox, you can use Save Link As to download it to your computer.

  1. Right-click the file you want to download, then select Save Link As...
  2. A dialog box will appear. Select the location where you want to save the file, enter a file name, and click Save. Your Downloads folder will be selected by default.
  3. The file will begin downloading, and the download progress will appear in the top-right corner of the browser under the Downloads button. When the download is complete, click the file to open it.

For various reasons, many websites do not allow you to download content. For example, YouTube does not offer a way to download its videos.

To access your downloads:

Firefox makes it easy to view and manage all of your downloads.

  1. Click the Downloads button, then select Show All Downloads.
  2. The Library will appear in a new window with a list of all of your downloaded files. From here, you can open previously downloaded files, search for downloads, and clear your list of downloads.