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Firefox Profiles for Increased Productivity

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I know this is a personal finance site, but occasionally I like to write about my first love... technology. One of my favorite pieces of technology is the Firefox web browser. I like to root for the underdog company for more competition leading to more choice for consumers. For that reason, I've never been a fan of Internet Explorer, even when it looked like Netscape was dead. Thus I have been using Firefox's main code back when it was Mozilla 0.7 (who remembers Phoenix and Firebird? Anyone?).

A few weeks ago, that came very close to changing. Firefox had started to slow on my computer. On a lark, I loaded up Google Chrome and found that it was really fast. So it seems like a no-brainer to switch, right? Well not so fast. I have a lot of extensions for Firefox and I couldn't work the same way with Chrome. Right as I was about to bite the bullet and switch to Chrome, I had an idea. What if Firefox is a little like Windows... the more you use it, the more it slows down with extra junk sticking around pulling resources? If Firefox is like that, perhaps I could clean it. I thought about deleting all history, cookies, many plugins, etc., but then I had a better idea.

I remembered that back in the old days Firefox had something called "profiles". Everyone using Firefox had a profile, but they are often not aware of it. These are kind of like users in Windows. However, Windows shares a single registry and most of the "extra junk" goes there. What was slowing me down was the information in my Firefox profile. Solution: Create a new, clean profile and use that. The result was a fast new Firefox again. The article that I used to help me get started with profiles mentioned that it might be best to have different profiles for different tasks. That's exactly what I decided to do. I created one for general browsing. I then created one for blogging, web development, work, and one that I just label as "fast". The blogging one has bookmarks, saved passwords, and extensions that help me blog more efficiently. The web development one has a number of web development extensions.

There are three main advantages to Firefox Profiles:

  • Faster Performance - My "extra junk" is now divided amongst 6 segmented profiles. The general browsing one still gets the most junk, but it's not nearly as bad.
  • Increased Focus - Because my work profile is all work-related, I'm not tempted by Evil Mike Reiss and his continuous coverage of the New England Patriots.
  • Multiple Gmails at the Same Time - One of my biggest issues with web applications of all kinds is that it's hard be logged into multiple personas at the same time. Want to Tweet about your personal and business life in two different accounts? You'll be logging in and out of Twitter quite a bit. Have a couple of Gmail accounts that you want to keep separate? Same thing. With different profiles, there is a whole new instance of the browser. I can be logged into a Gmail account in my work profile and an entirely different Gmail account in my blogging profile.

The day after setting up my profiles, Lifehacker published this very helpful guide on Firefox profiles. My timing is, as always, very poor. The big take-away in this guide is to get the Profile Switcher plugin. It's a must-have for getting the most out of Firefox profiles.

(Note: Yes, I'm realize that I'm ripping of Lifehacker's title a bit, but I had already started this article before Lifehacker published that guide. I'm sticking with what I had.)

Posted on March 19, 2010.

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7 Responses to “Firefox Profiles for Increased Productivity”

  1. “Want to Tweet about your personal and business life in two different accounts? You’ll be logging in and out of Twitter quite a bit.”

    ??? Just use a Twitter client that supports multiple accounts. No one I know who has multiple accounts uses the Twitter website. Even the smartphone Twitter clients support multiple accounts these days.


  2. Lazy Man says:

    I think you took my example a little too literally, but to explain a little more, I’m an old school, but very light Twitter user (about an hour or two a week). I’ve used TweetDeck, but it’s quite a bit of a memory hog . I’m sure there are probably 100 other Twitter clients that might do it well, but it’s a situation where too much choice prevents me making one… especially when I don’t use Twitter that much.

  3. Revanche says:

    Here’s the funny thing: I’m 10X more likely to have gotten the information you than from LifeHacker. And I’ve been lamenting the slowdown and imminent crashes on Firefox for *weeks*. Thanks for posting about it! :) *off to figure out profiles*

  4. Revanche says:

    oops “I’m 10X more likely to have gotten the information FROM you than from LifeHacker.”

  5. Cos says:

    multiple gmails/google apps accounts do work within a single browser instance. I’ve been doing this for a while, I have a dedicated Firefox window with a tab each for my new business, my deprecated business and my personal domain email … all separate google apps accounts. every once in a while i’ll pop another tab for an actual gmail account i use from time to time, also doesn’t conflict.

    profiles are very nice to use simply to manage the distraction aspect you mentioned. a “work” profile that doesn’t have all the fun stuff can do wonders for productivity.

    good call.

  6. Lazy Man says:

    Yes, separate Google App accounts work (it’s what I had been doing for the most part), but separate logins for “gmail.com” itself don’t work. The average non-technical user isn’t going to set up separate google app accounts.

  7. I was having the Firefox slowdown and switched to chrome. I can do multiple profiles with different email addresses, tied to my websites and imported to gmail. tweet deck is good for multiple tweets, although I like bit.ly best. In the end, it’s whatever works for you, but I found that Chrome has everything I ever wanted out of Firefox at twice the speed and have the glitchiness.

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