If you're the kind of person who walks away from the computer thinking, "That was pleasant! Let me bake some cookies for those kids at MIT," neither Firefox nor this book is for you.

Firefox was created for people who hate computers; who are fed up with popup ads and an Internet that takes regular coffee breaks; and who are baffled by software that seems to have a mind of its own. In short, Firefox was created for people — not programmers.

The reason a mild-mannered author can make such a bold claim is that underneath this cool exterior, I'm not only an author — I'm also a founder! I helped start Firefox — not to make money (it's free), or sell a company (it's non-profit), but for the express purpose of making your life easier. The other developers and I want every Firefox experience to feel like your first foray onto the Net. We want to take you back to a time when the Web was new and exciting, when spam was lunch meat and advertisements were found only in books, on television, throughout public transportation systems, on people you get the idea.

But we wouldn't turn down cookies.

About This Book

If Firefox is your time machine, Firefox For Dummies is your H.G. Wells. The goal of this book is not just to show you Firefox itself, but to help you have a more enjoyable and productive online experience with Firefox. Remember your high school science fair? We're not here to blow up celery. We're here to blow up celery to test the effects of explosives on vegetables. It's a very strong practical focus, and one I strive to maintain throughout the book.

Along the way, I offer a behind-the-scenes look at Firefox development through sidebars that don't distract from the main content. Some of these sidebars offer insight into why we made certain product designs. Others are lighthearted anecdotes of the growing pains that occurred as Firefox evolved from a tiny hobbyist project to an international success. (Note: This book is written for Firefox 1.5.)

One great thing about developer-authors is that if anything goes wrong with your Firefox experience, whether the error lies in this book or in the software, it's my fault. You don't have to spend any time figuring out who deserves an earful. It's me, all me. See? Firefox is making your life easier already!

How This Book Is Organized

Like most For Dummies books, this book is organized into parts, which are divided into chapters.

When we began work on Firefox, we identified four key issues to focus on:

  • Painless transition from other browsers

  • A simplified browsing experience

  • Online security and privacy

  • Personal customization

Likewise, the first four parts of this book focus on those areas, and the fifth part encompasses additional reference material and little-known tips and tricks.

Part I: Getting Fired Up

This part introduces you to the fundamental concepts of the World Wide Web, explains Firefox's role in the system, and helps you begin using it. If you currently use another Web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari, this part can also help you make a smooth transition to Firefox by explaining terminology differences and showing you how to import your information, such as browsing history and bookmarks.

Part II: Ready, Aim, Firefox

After you've gotten your feet wet, this part helps you dive into the core activities you'll do online everyday — finding and downloading information, book-marking and revisiting your favorite sites, and printing. This is also your first glimpse of Firefox's innovative tabbed browsing system, which will forever change the way you surf the Web.

Part III: Outfoxing Hackers

This part explains some basic principles of online safety, outlines how Firefox protects you, and suggests additional steps you can take to protect yourself. It also offers a comprehensive look at the kinds of information Firefox records during your online travels — such as saved passwords and Web site history — and shows you how to clear this information.

Part IV: Dressing Up the Fox

This is the really fun part — the one that shows you how to customize your online experience, both how it looks (with themes) and how it feels (with preferences). If you want your browser to have a particular theme, this is the chapter to visit. As if that weren't enough, this part also introduces you to Firefox's powerful extensions system, which allows you to extend Firefox beyond its typical capabilities by installing tiny plug-ins with one click.

Part V: The Part of Tens

The usual cap on most For Dummies books, this part offers the poor geek's version of David Letterman's top ten lists, including the top ten ways Firefox makes your life easier and the ten things you don't know about Firefox but should.