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Why Firefox Rocks on Linux: Great Firefox Tricks, Part III

Unix-style Middlemouse Paste, One-Click Shortcuts

  • November 6, 2008
  • By Akkana Peck

If you've used Firefox on platforms other than Linux, you've probably noticed it looks pretty much the same everywhere. That's part of the Firefox philosophy: make the browser look familiar everywhere, so that it's easy to move from one platform to another.

That's all very well. But it's the little power user features that make an application you look forward to using all day every day. And Firefox has a lot of special features that are written specifically for Linux users. Here are a few of my favorites.

Long-time Linux users know how powerful the X copy/paste model is, but it's something that confuses a lot of users coming from other platforms.

Linux offers Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V paste just like Windows and Mac (Cmd-C/Cmd-V on Mac). But it also has a second way of copying and pasting: anything you highlight with the mouse is automatically copied into X's "Primary" selection buffer -- which doesn't change whatever you might have copied with Ctrl-C -- and you can paste it pretty much anywhere by clicking the middle mouse button. If you're on a laptop and don't have a middle button, try clicking the left and right buttons together. If you've been using Linux for a while, you probably already knew all that.

What a lot of people may not know is that Firefox, and most other Linux browsers, give you a shortcut for pasting URLs. Instead of the three step process of clearing the URLbar, middlemouse pasting, and hitting Return, just click your middle button with the mouse somewhere in the content area -- the main part of the browser window. Firefox will go straight to whatever URL you've selected with the mouse.

It's very handy for URLs you encounter in places where they aren't clickable -- plain text documents, blog and forum comments, some mail messages. The only tricky part is that you have to make sure the mouse isn't over a link in Firefox -- if it is, middle clicking will open the link in a new tab or window. Select a URL in any document, find some part of the current Firefox page that's empty space, maybe between paragraphs or in the left or right margin, and middle-click there. You'll find it a fast, easy way to go places.

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