Switching to Firefox

So you’re ready to make the big switch. You’ve set up an account with a new service provider so you won’t lose your Web connection, you’ve saved your AOL email, Favorites and AOL Address Book, and you want to call AOL soon to cancel your account.

In the meantime, you’re looking to get rid of AOL’s software and on the lookout for a way to get on the Web that’s fresh, fast, and fun. Maybe a friend or co-worker told you about Firefox and you’re intrigued. You should be. Nearly 25% of web users worldwide are devoted to Firefox, with it’s clean, simple look, exceptional speed, excellent pop-up controls, and awesome private browsing features. (Edit, 12-21-2009: Firefox 3.5 is now the most popular browser in the world.) This article will help you make the switch.

Wait…what is Firefox?

Firefox replaces AOL’s program with a much lighter, slimmer one called a “browser” that you can surf the Web with. It doesn’t include an email or IM program (a fact I’d really like to change), but with so many free online email and instant messaging services to choose from, and tons of free, high-quality email and IM clients that are just a click away once you install them, that’s no big deal.

Where is it?

The latest and greatest copy of Firefox is always right here. To get started, just download Firefox and run it’s installer program. Once the installer is done, keep the check box filled for “Run Firefox now” so you can start surfing right way.

Where’s what I use in AOL?

The difference between using AOL or IE and Firefox goes like this:

  • Instead of clicking View – Refresh to reload a page, in Firefox you’ll click View – Reload.
  • Instead of saving pages in Favorites in AOL or IE, in Firefox, you’ll save pages in Bookmarks. The Firefox Bookmarks offer tons of helpful sorting and tracking tools, and there are many add-ons (I’ll get to those in a bit) that can help you do even more with them.
  • Unlike the way you clear cookies and “tracks” in AOL or IE, in Firefox you can clear them manually whenever you want or clear them automatically at browser shutdown.
  • Instead of clicking a “Search” button to search the Web in AOL or IE, in Firefox you’ll use a tiny search box that’s always visible in the upper-right hand corner. Firefox is set to search Google by default, but if you want to try another search site (or try them all) you can do that.
  • Unlike the way search results open in the same page of the AOL Search window, in Firefox, your search results will open in a new page; you can just use the Back Button to return to the page you were on.
  • Instead of using clunky pop-up dialogs for downloads in AOL or IE, in Firefox you just use a Download Manager. You can start installing or viewing downloads right away from Firefox’s Download Manager, or get to them whenever you like from the folder they’re saved to on your computer.

Flyin’ Now

Once you start surfing the Web with Firefox, you’ll notice web pages look better than they do in AOL or IE, websites load faster, a lot of content that’s blocked or unusable in AOL or IE will finally show up and look just the way you want it to, and you’ll feel cool knowing Firefox is one of the safest, most secure browsers on Earth.


Firefox is made with “open source” code that anyone can draw up, so anyone (yes, even you!) can create an “add-on” to add to how Firefox looks and feels. Luckily, there are so many add-ons (estimates say maybe tens of thousands!) that you don’t have to make your own to get every sort of cool thing you could want. You can find and download all the free, high-quality add-ons you want here.

There’s also a set of steps for how Firefox runs that you can see by typing “about:config” into Firefox’s address bar. You can change any of those steps so Firefox will work just the way you want it to.

For more on what you can do with Firefox, here’s some posts on the Web that go on where I’ll leave off:

Want to see my Firefox add-ons? (I think I have over 60 of them!) They’re here.