You've gotten Firefox installed on your computer, and you've seen how to configure some of the basic options. The last thing you need to know before I throw you into deeper water in the next chapter (it's only up to your knees, so don't worry) is a few ways to get help.
Accessing Firefox Help
As with any other program, the very first place to look for information is the program help files themselves. Go to Help | Help Contents. The main Firefox help screen (shown in Figure 1-7) appears.
Figure 1-7. The main Firefox help screen.
The online help files contain pretty good help for using Firefox and understanding the features. You can use the help's table of contents (shown in Figure 1-7), search for a specific term or phrase throughout the help files, look up items in the help index, or check terms in the glossary (a sample of which is shown in Figure 1-8).
Figure 1-8. Firefox help's glossary.
When You Need More Detailed Help
The basic online help included with Firefox probably will give you the answers you need about three-fourths of the time, but sooner or later you'll have a complex question that needs a more detailed answer than you can get locally. Fortunately, there are a lot of places you can go for more detailed information and even expert assistance.
Websites and Web Forums
The first place to check for more help is, obviously, the web. In addition to the documentation, release notes, and breaking-news releases about Firefox available through the Mozilla website (http://www.mozilla.org) and the online Firefox support wing (http://www.mozilla.org/support/firefox), there are a number of great places to find information about Firefox. If you're interested in a development group, look at http://www.mozilla.org/community/developer-forums.html.
One of the best websites for Firefox information is the MozillaZine forum (use the hot link on the main page of the online help to get there, or go to http://www.mozillazine.org or http://forums.mozillazine.org). There are online forums discussing every possible aspect of Firefox. You can loft a question and frequently get an answer from half a dozen people within hours. The forums are also searchable, so you can check to see if someone else has already run into the same situation as you have (probably) and see what kinds of suggestions were made. Figure 1-9 shows part of a typical conversation thread on a Firefox question.
Figure 1-9. The MozillaZine Firefox forums.
Although most people tend to think of the Internet as being just websites and email, there are other ways of getting information, such as newsgroups. Newsgroups (also known as Usenet groups) are a bit like large cork bulletin boards on a wall on which you can post messages (known in newsgroup parlance as articles, or posts), ask questions, and get files, including the latest versions of software, documents, HTML files, and other information.
Newsgroups provide an enormous amount of information on virtually any subject you can imagine (and many you probably can't), with new newsgroups being created all the time. Currently, several dozen newsgroups focus specifically on Firefox and Thunderbird. To explore newsgroups, you need a newsreader, a program that lets you read newsgroups and post articles to them. The newsreader displays the newsgroups in one window and the articles within the selected newsgroup in another. The content of the selected article appears in a third window. Most newsreaders have features that let you search and sort newsgroups and individual articles.
If you don't already have a newsreader that can handle newsgroups, start by checking for Firefox extensions that let you read newsgroups directly. (Extensions are discussed in Chapter 7, "Customizing Firefox with Third-Party Extensions and Themes." Plenty of free and shareware newsreaders are available, such as Free Agent for Windows (www.forteinc.com), Simon Fraser's MT-NewsWatcher for the Mac (www.smfr.org), and tin for Linux (www.tin.org).
Here's a list of newsgroups you can look in for help:
In addition to the newsgroups listed here, dozens more newsgroups of a much more technical nature will probably bore the shoes off you unless you're really into the nuts and bolts of programming or XML or things like that. Newsgroups are added all the time, so be sure to check periodically for new newsgroups that have words like "mozilla," "firefox," and "thunderbird" in the group's name. You can also look for "open source," "browser," and "email client," but the pickings are slimmer for information specific to Firefox and Thunderbird. If you're not sure which groups might be the most helpful, start with the most general groups and work your way in.
As with the MozillaZine forums, you can frequently get responses to your questions within hours.
If you want to interact directly with people, you can try out IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and talk to real, live people and get an answer in as little as a few minutes.
To access IRC channels, you need an IRC client. There are a couple of good IRC extensions for Firefox, my favorite of which is ChatZilla. (ChatZilla is described in Chapter 7.) If you prefer a standalone application, you can also use mIRC or some other third-party production.
When you have an IRC client set up, connect to the irc.mozilla.org domain and join the #mozillazine channel as your first stop. You'll find a lot of people who are passionate about Firefox and Thunderbird. For a more developercentric group, try #firefox. There are certainly other channels that focus on Firefox and/or Thunderbird; as with newsgroups, be sure to look for channels in other domains that have words like "mozilla," "firefox," and "thunderbird" in the group's name.
Third-Party Support Options
Still not satisfied with the options for getting help? If you just cannot wait for information and want a guaranteed answer, there are a few companies that provide third-party support for Firefox and Thunderbird for a fee. DecisionOne (http://www.decisiononecorporate.com) and MozSource Support (http://support.mozsource.com) both offer extensive support options for a relatively small amount of money per incident.
So now you know a bit about Firefox and how it evolved from Netscape and Mozilla. You can even install Firefox on your computer and do some basic configuration. If you're feeling adventurous, you could romp off on your own at this point and use Firefox... but you'd miss out on how to take advantage of a lot of the really dazzling features that make Firefox so cool.
Are you ready to learn ways to protect your security and privacy on the web? Great! Then move on to the next chapter, where you'll see ways to avoid spyware, how to use Firefox's built-in password manager, and how to manage web cookies. You'll also learn how to use web form information and how to manage your cache for complete web-surfing privacy.