Even though not many people know this, the Firefox settings menu offers only a fragment of customization options available for users. Mozilla's browser hides the bulk of its configuration options in a secret location called the "about:" pages, which can't be reached by clicking around or by accident. In case you spend a lot of time using this browser, here's a short guide on how to take full control over Firefox from its "about:" pages.
What can you do from the "about:" pages?
There are many "about:" pages, but the "config" one is the one that you will visit the most often. Though it's not visually pleasing or even user-friendly, the "about:config" page is, basically, a long list of options that you can scroll through and modify one by one. From there, you can perform a wide variety of tasks such as reviewing the performance information, UI customizations, etc. If you want a few examples, here are three about:config tweaks that I like to use:
- Change the number of suggestions that appear when you're typing an URL address - when you start typing an address, Firefox automatically displays a list of sites that match what you're writing. The browser.urlbar.maxRichResults setting allows you to decide how many suggestions should be displayed. Simply double-click the entry and type the number that you want.
- Spellchecking in every field - by default, Firefox will not check your spelling when you're filling out single-line fields. However, if you go to the layout.spellcheckDefault setting and change the value to 2, the spellchecker will become active in all the text fields (setting the value to 0 will completely disable the spellchecker).
- Automatic new tab for Search Box results - if you want to, you can instruct the browser to automatically open the results that you get from your search box query into a new tab. To do this, just go to the browser.search.openintab option and set the value to True.
Why are the "about:" pages hidden?
Mozilla has decided to hide these options because they contain advanced settings that can render your browser completely inoperable and even cause your operating system to crash. Furthermore, the options listed aren't easy-to-understand and figuring out what most of them do can be quite difficult. Actually, Firefox even warns you about the possible risks as soon as you open the "about:config" page and asks you to confirm that you know what you're doing. If you want my advice, feel free to look around, but I would strongly recommend not to work with the settings that you do not understand.
How do I get to the "about:" pages?
There are two very easy ways of going to the about pages. If you're here just for a few basic settings and don't plan to visit very often, then the simplest solution is to type "about:config" (without quotes) in the address bar, then press Enter and confirm that you know what you're doing. In case you're going to revisit the "about:" pages quite often or plan on checking out more than just the config page, I recommend installing a nifty add-on called "ViewAbout" , which lets you access any of the pages with a few simple mouse clicks.
Now, when you've learned how to take full control of Firefox from the "about:" pages, you might also want to check out some of our older articles related to Mozilla's browser such as: "Top 6 add-ons to help you keep Firefox organized", "The best privacy add-ons for Firefox", "Easy keyboard navigation for Firefox" or "Best add-ons to reduce Firefox's resource consumption".