Browse PDFs and organize bookmarks in Firefox 3

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If you’re using the just-released Firefox 3, here are a couple tips that you may find useful. I’ve been using Firefox 3 since the earliest public betas, and it’s presently my preferred browser, though that status on my machine is always a tenuous one—I switch browsers nearly as often as I switch channels on the TV!

There is, however, one glaring hole in Firefox 3’s abilities. If you’re using an Intel-powered Mac, you can’t view PDFs directly in the browser; they always download when clicked. Adobe’s Reader plug-in won’t work with Firefox, and Manfred Schubert’s excellent PDF Browser Plugin is PowerPC only, so you’d have to tell Firefox to run in Rosetta mode to use it.

Thankfully, there’s a new PDF plug-in available for Firefox 3; the firefox-mac-pdf plug-in (which, oddly, is actually named Quartz PDF Plugin in the Firefox Extensions screen) is free and works on OS X 10.4 and 10.5, on both PowerPC and Intel Macs. To install it, visit the site and click the Install link, then click the Allow button you’ll see at the top of your browser window—Firefox will block installation of the plug-in until you specifically allow it. Restart Firefox, and you’ll now be able to view PDFs directly in the browser.

This plug-in uses Apple’s own PDFKit to display PDFs, so it’s not relying on any undocumented features or third-party tools to get the job done. While viewing a PDF, you can control-clcik on it to access a contextual menu with a number of viewing options, including zoom level and viewing mode. You can also use Firefox’s built-in zoom features (in the View menu, or via their keyboard shortcuts) to zoom in and out, and the arrow keys and Page Up/Down all work as expected. I’ve been using this plug-in fairly extensively on both PowerPC and Intel Macs, and haven’t had any issues with it as of yet.

Our second Firefox tip may strike some as a bug, as it’s decidedly non-Mac-like in its behavior, but it can be very useful. Like most any modern browser, Firefox allows you to place folders of bookmarks in the bookmarks toolbar—the area of the browser above the tab bar and page content, but below the URL bar. When you click on the folder, it displays a list of the bookmarks within, making it easy to pick one bookmark from the list.

Unlike any other Mac browser I’ve used, however, Firefox allows you to rearrange the entries within a folder on the bookmarks toolbar directly from that folder’s pop-up menu. To do so, just click on the folder whose bookmarks you wish to rearrange, then click-and-drag on the bookmark you’d like to relocate. As you drag, you’ll see a small line highlight the target location, as seen in the image at right. Drop the bookmark when the small line is where you’d like the bookmark to wind up.

Note that you can’t move bookmarks into sub-folders using this trick. To do that, you’ll need to use either the bookmark organizer in the sidebar (View -> Sidebar -> Bookmarks), or the full bookmarks organizer (Bookmarks -> Organize Bookmarks).

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