Firefox and Thunderbird

[This page was last updated 2010.12.6]

See also the Running from a flash drive tutorial on installing FirefoxPortable software to run from a flash drive.



The latest posts on this topic are available by clicking here.

Firefox is an open source web browser, the latest version of the browser which used to be just called Mozilla, which is being recommended as being as good or better, and safer, than Microsoft Internet Explorer by many expert sources. Since it keeps close to the standards set for web browsers, it tends to be more predictable in how it displays web sites than Internet Explorer, unless those sites have been customized to only display properly for Internet Explorer (such as some on the Microsoft web pages). For an example, try viewing this page in Firefox, and then in Internet Explorer — you may see some differences.
Because it is open source with many different people contributing to it, when a security flaw is found within Firefox, it is usually fixed by an update within a week or two, while a browser maintained by a company may take longer to be fixed, due to having a limited staff to work on it. This generally makes it safer and more stable to use.

Firefox is available online as well as on the Library Software CDROM, available for overnight checkout at the Library’s circulation desk.

Firefox is kept relatively small by leaving out a lot which you might not need (but get the Java mentioned below, anyway!). For example, there is no built-in email program (see Thunderbird instead, elsewhere on this page).For a more full-functioned browser/email/chat/web editor, consider Seamonkey from Mozilla.

For a very objective analysis of whether or not you should switch from Microsoft Internet Explorer to Firefox 2.x, read the article from Gizmo’s Support Alert Newsletter.

The Boreham Library strongly recommends that you add Firefox as well as Microsoft Internet Explorer or other browser on your computer. There are times when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, for one reason or another, is not able to view or print certain things, including from the Library’s own Electronic Reserves, as well as other sites. Having Firefox available gives you another way to do the same thing, and in the library staff’s experience, usually gets around the limits of Internet Explorer. It’s used on the computers in the Boreham Library and many other places across campus.

You can download the latest version of Firefox (you want version 3.something).
Firefox is much smaller than Netscape, partly because it does not come with E-mail (or a lot of other plugins) included.
IMPORTANT: download Java here if you don’t already have it, and install it to use the UA Fort Smith web site and many other web sites properly.
This is also on the Library Software CD-ROM, available at the Boreham Library circulation desk.

Firefox Settings

Tip: second line of the top toolbar has the search engine box. You can add other search engines to this, and make any one your default. Just click on the search engine logo, and select Add engines. Then select your favorite(s) from the list.

Settings are whatever you want — Firefox is very flexible.  The following are just suggestions.  In Firefox, click on the Tools drop-down menu, select Options, and consider the following:

Main tab:  set Downloads to ask you where to download every time.   Sometimes it can be difficult to find where a download is located.  Sometimes you want to hang onto the file, especially documents and recordings.  This is also where you set your home page.

Tabs tab: set this to open a new tab instead of a new window each time.  If you use the Tab Mix Plus extension below, you can set this to open most things in new tabs instead of opening a bunch of windows.

Content tab: be sure to allow popups on * sites so we can alert you as needed.  We promise not to abuse the privilege.  Other sites are up to you.  Check the box and allow Java (you can limit this with other extensions, but please allow it for * sites so they work properly for you).

Privacy tab: please allow cookies for us by entering the Exceptions and putting * in the list and click on Allow.

Security tab: uncheck the box to remember passwords.  This is not secure enough and should not be used, especially on public computers! Use a good password program or service instead.

Advanced tab, Update tab: check to Automatically download and install and Warn me about updates.  This should allow you to handle updates during the first loading of Firefox, instead of being interrupted later (in many cases, anyway).  Firefox, unlike Internet Explorer, is not likely to insist on rebooting — at most, a reloading of Firefox is needed.

Firefox Extentions

Tip: Firefox may block, for security reasons, a site from installing an extension the first time you visit that site, even though it may be quite safe. You’ll see a yellow alert bar across the top of the web site view that alerts you. Give permission here, and then try again to install. It should work.
You can go into Tools, Options, Content and select Warn me when web sites try to install extensions or themes. Open the Exceptions view and add the trusted web sites that you often use for extensions or themes, so you won’t have this problem in the future.

Tip: for security’s sake, use only extensions available from (a) the Mozilla site itself, (b) sites that certify all programs as spyware/adware/malware-free, or else — if you downloaded a separate file — (c) scan the extensions with your security software before installing them.

One of the great things about Firefox is that many people can create extensions, which are specialized programs that add all sorts of useful features. Here are some favorites you might like to add. Just go to the Extensions page and search. Once you find one you like, click the Install Now button (usually green), wait for the countdown, and then click on the Install Now button in the popup window.

Mozilla lets you register (free!) and then create your own list of favorites that make installing them faster any time you need them.

You can find lots of “top” lists of add-ons on the Web, such as the TechRepublic one.

Windows Genuine Advantage Plug-In allows you to get Microsoft updates using Firefox, instead of being forced to use Internet Explorer.

For creating web sites, there are some that are especially useful. Here are some examples.

Boreham Library Favorite Firefox Extensions

Note that some of these may not work with your current version of Firefox.  Keep checking — the creators often come back and update them later.

  • Update Notifier – will notify you when updates are available for your extensions and themes. This is VERY important add-on to have!
  • Tab Mix Plus – this allows you to open tabs across your one Firefox screen, for each new page you open, instead of opening multiple Firefox copies. It makes it much easier to go back and forth between web pages for comparisons, handling several tasks, etc.
    Note: while some of these features are now built into Firefox 2.x, TabMix Plus still has some additional useful options. Go to Tools, Add-ons, and find the Tab Mix Plus section and click on it, and then click on Options for it. Under Events, select Tab Opening tab and checkmark all the Open Tabs From boxes.
  • IE Tab – this allows you to open those web pages in Firefox which still insist on using non-standard MS Internet Explorer-specific coding — the ones that don’t appear properly in Firefox and other non-IE browsers. You don’t have to leave Firefox to see them, and by setting them in the list in IE Tab, you can automatically view them in IE Tab next time you visit those pages.
    Note: you CAN use Microsoft’s Windows Update with Firefox, with the instructions here.
  • GButts shows all the Google services in a pick-from menu.
  • PDF Download is a substitute for the sometimes-erratic Adobe Acrobat Reader. Select the PDF Opening tab, then PDF file opening, then set it to Use PDF plugin. This is especially useful for the netLibrary ebooks that otherwise may only load one page at a time in Acrobat Reader.
  • User Agent Switcher is recommended by Windows Secrets : “User Agent Switcher adds a menu and a toolbar button that let you switch the way the browser identifies itself to Web sites. According to Mozilla’s Web site, User Agent Switcher is designed for Firefox, Flock, Mozilla, and Seamonkey. The add-on will run on any platform that these browsers support, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. It supports Firefox versions 1.0 through 2.0.0.x…. To add the User Agent Switcher button to your Firefox toolbar, right-click the toolbar and choose Customize. Drag the User Agent icon to where you want it. When selected, it offers a drop-down menu from which you can choose the browser you want to report. Windows Update can reportedly be fooled by this into letting users update Windows while using Firefox.
  • Forecastfox – This is a weather status and forecast that you can place several places on your page (such as the toolbar-menubar, at the top of your screen), configure to show your local forecast, show a radar map, and lots of features. Current temperature, predicted temperature, forecast for today and the next several days, severe weather alerts, sound alarm or not, and more features are included.
  • Sage – Wondering about RSS feeds? This is one of several extensions for getting them in Firefox, and it will even search a web page to find the feed and let you install it easily if you like. This is only one method of using RSS on Firefox. Sage and other RSS reader extensions for Firefox are covered by this article in SPECIAL NOTE: for Firefox 3.5 and later, click here for Sage Too.
  • is the social bookmarking service that puts your bookmarks online for others to see. With this extention, you can add a new bookmark easily and quickly.
  • XMarks lets you synchronize booksmarks on Firefox, IE and Safari, on multiple computers (wherever you install it).
  • Firefox Sync allows you to synchronize the bookmarks on Firefox on one PC to another PC.   This is especially useful if you are using more than one computer!
  • Adblock Plus filters out the annoying ads from many web pages. However, it may, in a few cases, block an ad you want to see.
  • Web Developer adds a toolbar with a lot of useful features for people creating web sites, including details on the code, CSS, and lots of analytical tools.
  • Firebug is another website development tool for debugging problems, editing, checking how things work.
  • Another website development aid is MeasureIt which gives you a ruler to measure in pixels on a web page, such as the space available for a graphic element.
  • Download Statusbar is a detailed view of how your downloaded file is coming through, with percentages, details on the file, time to complete, and lets you have more control.
  • L2 is great for use with library catalogs (including the UA Fort Smith Boreham Library catalog!) and other book services. When an ISBN is found on a page, L2 automatically pops up a box for the option to search this in Amazon, and present the reviews and information there, if available. Requires you to install the Greasemonkey extension first.
  • Book Burro pops up when a book is being viewed and lets you search a number of book services for the best price, or the WorldCat library catalog (specify your zip code). Note: this is from a separate organization, so you’ll need to tell Firefox to allow it to install from this site.
  • Firedoodle creates a whiteboard function, which lets you mark up a webpage as if you had a set of colored markers — make arrows, circle things, make notes. Useful for tutorials.
  • FireFTP provides FTP capability for transferring files to and from other computers. It can also be used with FireFTPbutton to add a toolbar button.
  • All-In-One Sidebar (AiOS) is an award-winning sidebar control, inspired by Opera’s. It lets you quickly switch between sidebar panels, view dialog windows such as downloads, extensions, and more in the sidebar, or view source or websites in the sidebar. Click on the left edge of your browser window to open the sidebar and get easy access to all your panels.
  • Leechblock is not marketed as a popup blocker, but it works as one.  Just add the first part of the URL of a popup (use an asterisk for the part before the first dot, and stop after the first slash) and set it to work all the time.
  • Addons for microformat hCards (to pull this information into your address book or contact list) are Tails Export and Operator.
  • Search plugins extend or specialize the searching functions of Firefox.
  • Security plugins are covered by this article at

Other Extensions

  • OpenOffice users can get the OpenOffice extension, which “adds a new main menu with list of related URLs, plus a context menu with links to the OOo Advanced Search page, Google, OOo IssueTtracker and the Wikipedia page.”
  • Accessibar is intended to make Firefox easier to use for those with visual or motion problems. You can change the colors, font size, whether or not to view graphics, use the keyboard instead of the mouse, and other aids.

Firefox Customizing


Firefox will automatically update itself and the extensions you use with the right settings.

The most convenient way is to have Firefox check before it loads, so it can do the updates and then load (instead of doing it afterwards and then needing to be restarted).

To have Firefox check and update before it loads:

  1. click on Tools on the toolbar at the top
  2. click on Options
  3. click on Advanced
  4. select the Update tab
  5. check all three boxes under “Automatically check for updates to:”
  6. select the Automatically download and install and Warn me


The layout of the top of Firefox is customizable. Much of this is in the userChrome.css file. Information courtesy of Lifehacker for Firefox 3.



Thunderbird is the email product from Mozilla (since email is not included in Firefox, to keep it small — you can use Thunderbird or any other popular email package instead, as you prefer).

Windows Secrets e-letter recommends Thunderbird as an alternative to Microsoft Outlook, with advantages over Outlook.

Thunderbird, like Outlook, is a sort of intermediary program between you and your online email service (LionsLink, Cox, Yahoo, Gmail, Alltel, etc.) which makes it much easier and more convenient to use.  You can even use it for several different services together, if you like (see the instructions below).

The latest posts on this topic are available by clicking here.

Thunderbird Extensions

Like Firefox, many people have developed specialized extensions that add useful features to Thunderbird.

While in Thunderbird, go to the Tools drop-down menu, select Addons, then use the Get extensions link to search for them (that’s why the extensions below aren’t linked – you need to search from inside Thunderbird).  Save them to your computer (remember where!), then use the Install button to find them and install them.  Then restart Thunderbird to start them working.

Here are a few you might like to add:

  • Update Notifier – will notify you when updates are available for your extensions and themes.
  • Contacts Sidebar – displays your email contacts in a sidebar, so you can easily choose an address to add to an email you are creating.
  • Unselect Message – getting a lot of spam? This avoids Thunderbird automatically opening the next message after you close or delete one. Just opening a spam message can alert the spammer (when the email downloads a graphic, say) that you have received the message and your address is valid to spam to again.
  • Mailtagger lets you add those smilie graphics into your email.
  • XNote lets you add sticky notes to specific emails (when that subject line just isn’t enough!).
  • Lightning is a calendar function that works with Thunderbird, much like the one in Microsoft Outlook.
  • Thunderbrowse lets you click on a link inside an email and browse without leaving Thunderbird or loading a browser.
  • Thunderbird Biff will notify you when you’re working in Firefox, with a popup for new email arriving — but you must also install the connecting extension inside Firefox.
  • Provider for Google Calendar will sync Lightning with your Google Calendar data.

Thunderbird Techniques

To create folders in Thunderbird to click-and-drag emails to, go to File, choose New, choose Folder, and be sure the folder is created as a subfolder of your Inbox for your account.

To check or change settings for the account, use Tools, select Account Settings, and pick the account.

More than one Email Account in Thunderbird

Thunderbird can handle multiple accounts (for example, your LionsLink and your Yahoo and your Gmail and … many!). You can set up more accounts, and check them all from Thunderbird. This is especially handy if you use one account for the University, and another for personal use at home.

If you set up more accounts, Thunderbird may expect to use the same incoming and outgoing servers. Just allow it to do that, and then go back in to edit the servers afterward using the Tools, Account Settings functions.

Calendar functions with Thunderbird

Looking for something closer to Microsoft Outlook than just an email program? Try adding Lightning to Thunderbird. Lightning combines the Sunbird calendar system with Thunderbird.

Configuring Thunderbird for popular email providers

Mozilla has instructions for AT&T, Cox, Gmail, Hotmail,, Verizon, Yahoo and others.

Configuring Thunderbird for Microsoft Exchange

Ubuntu has instructions here on how to set up Thunderbird to work with Microsoft Exchange Email servers.

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2 Responses to “Firefox and Thunderbird”

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I can receive email from uafs but can’t send using thunderbird. does anyone know the outgoing email server?

Check with the Help Desk 788-7460.

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