There's no right way (or, of course, wrong way) to design a Web browser, but some operations start to seem "right" after you've used them thousands of times.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Firefox keyboard shortcuts make it easy to use

October 14, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   In my workshops about Internet safety, I make a big point about using a safe Web browser. I tell Windows users they should switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox (a free browser from www.mozilla.com).
   Some of them tell me they've already switched. But others say they're worried about learning how to do things a different way. And some tell me they're afraid they'd lose all their Internet Explorer bookmarks, which Microsoft calls "favorites."
   An Internet safety zealot might argue that learning something new or having to recreate bookmarks are small prices to pay for the added security of Firefox, which was designed to avoid the problems of Internet Explorer. But I would disagree. I think we're all basically alike in those two ways -- we'd always rather stick with something we've already learned how to use, and we just plain don't want to lose stuff we've spent a lot of time collecting.
   The second worry doesn't have to bother any of you. When you install Firefox, the installation software picks up your Internet Explorer favorites and turns them into Firefox bookmarks. You won't lose any of them. (And you might find, as I have, that Firefox has a better method of handling bookmarks than Internet Explorer does. It's an added surprise.)
   But the first concern is a serious problem. There's no right way (or, of course, wrong way) to design a Web browser, but some operations start to seem "right" after you've used them thousands of times. A good example is the way Internet Explorer uses the keyboard in Windows. To go back to the previous page, you can do what every browser lets you do -- you click the "Back" button at the top -- but it's far easier to use an Internet Explorer invention, the Backspace key. It's one of my favorite keyboard shortcuts, and it's been picked up by other browsers, including Apple's Safari.
   Mouse operations work very much the same in Firefox as they do in all other browsers. But keyboard shortcuts sometimes work differently. (The Backspace trick is the same, however.) To help Internet Explorer users get used to Firefox's way of doing things, I've compiled a list of keyboard shortcuts. These work in Firefox for Windows and Linux. If you substitute the Control key for Apple's Command key in most cases, they work in Firefox for the Mac, too.
   You'll note that most of these are the same in IE (Internet Explorer). That should make Firefox an easy switch if you're used to using keyboard equivalents.
   Selected Firefox keyboard shortcuts
   Page Down (scroll one page down) -- Same as IE
   Page Up (scroll one page up) -- Same as IE
   Ctrl D (bookmark current page) -- Same as IE
   F5 (reload current page) -- Same as IE
   Ctrl W (close current tab or window)
   Ctrl K (Web search)
   Ctrl L (go to address bar)
   Ctrl + (increase screen text size) -- Same as IE
   Ctrl - (decrease screen text size) -- Same as IE
   Ctrl F (find text) -- Same as IE
   Ctrl N (new window) -- Same as IE