How to Use Firefox for Mac

Tired of Safari? Check out Mozilla's browser option

Firefox v65.0.2 Running on macOS Mojave

Microsoft Edge represents an improvement over the venerable Internet Explorer, yet many consider Apple's Safari easier to use and more compatible than these Windows offerings.

There are many browser options available for Mac, including the current leader in web browsing, Google Chrome, but Mozilla's Firefox for Mac should be a candidate for anyone looking for an alternative to Safari. Let's take a look at its merits in the sections below, as well as show you how to install it.

Why Consider Firefox for Mac?

The growing number of tasks we perform on the web today, as compared to desktop applications, make your choice of browser important. Here are some reasons you might consider Firefox:

  • Maturity: Firefox has been around longer than Safari. While both are mature products, Firefox may have an upper hand in some areas. One example is extensions: the Firefox extension library has been around for longer, and likely has a wider selection of add-ons. It also has a larger portion of the market (second only to Chrome), so developers are more likely to consider Firefox for their extensions than Safari.
  • Freedom: The Mozilla Corporation operates as a not-for-profit, and Firefox itself is open source software. If freedom and privacy are important to you, Firefox's development process is more transparent, and there isn't a for-profit company making decisions about it.
  • Privacy: Firefox's private browsing feature goes beyond just not recording your history, and will actually prevent websites from tracking you.
  • Compatibility: In terms of compatibility, both Firefox and Safari (and Chrome, for that matter) are pretty compliant with web standards. But if there's a website that just won't work right for you in Safari, the Quantum rendering engine from Mozilla may iron things out for you.
  • Customizability: One feature Safari lacks, due to some design decisions by Apple, is the ability to customize the interface. You can't re-arrange toolbars, or make other adjustments to your tastes. Firefox allows you to make some of these tweaks.
  • Security: While other browsers will warn you if you land on a suspicious website, Firefox will actually block downloads it deems malicious. Safari will let you go through with the download if you ignore all the warnings.

Bear in mind, this isn't an either-or decision. Both Safari and Firefox will happily coincide on your Mac. Now, if one or more of the above reasons have convinced you, it's time to install Firefox on your macOS Mojave.

How to Install Firefox on macOS

  1. Go to the Mozilla website, and click Download Firefox in the header.

    Click the "Download Firefox" Button on the Mozilla Website
  2. The .DMG archive should start downloading automatically, but if not, there's a link on the page where you can retry it. There's also a field to provide your email, but you don't need to provide that to use Firefox.

  3. Double-click the .DMG to open it as usual.

  4. The .DMG contains Firefox in .APP format. Just drag and drop this into your Applications folder.

    Drag and Drop Firefox into Your Applications Folder
  5. Firefox's files will begin copying to your Mac.

    Firefox Will Copy to Your Mac in Short Order
  6. Click the Firefox icon to launch the browser.

Now that you have Firefox running, you'll find that your standard browsing activities are much the same as other browsers. So here we'll explore some of the unique features that set it apart from Safari.

Managing Extensions for Firefox on macOS

Firefox's vast library of Extensions are one of its biggest strengths. To start using them:

  1. Click the hamburger menu at the far-right of the Main toolbar, then click Add-ons.

    The Add-ons Item in the Firefox Main Toolbar Overflow Menu
  2. From the Add-ons Manager page, click Extensions on the left.

    Extensions Is an Option in the Add-on Manager.
  3. This will show you a list of Extensions you might have installed, as well as a Settings menu giving you the option to find more, or update the ones you have currently.

    Managing Extensions within the Add-on Manager.

    Check out our overview of what Firefox Extensions are, how to get them, and how to install them.

  4. That's it!

How to Customize Firefox Toolbars on macOS

You have the ability to customize the Main toolbar to your needs. By default, it will contain the following:

  • Forward and back navigation icons
  • A refresh icon
  • A link to your home page
  • The search/URL bar
  • A downloads icon
  • A Library icon (the Library is basically a sub-menu of content you gather, including Downloads, synced tabs, and/or articles you've added to Pocket).
  • A Sidebars toggle
  • The Overflow menu (i.e. "hamburger" menu) where you can stash other tools and menu items.
The Customize Screen for Firefox's Main Toolbar

Right-click the Main toolbar and click Customize to choose which items appear in which toolbars. For example, the Library contains a link to Downloads, so why do we need the separate Downloads button? Simply drag it from the toolbar back to the main area of the page, and it won't appear anymore. Click Done to finalize your changes. You can likewise grab items from the center of the page and drop them onto the toolbar or its Overflow menu

You can also turn the Bookmarks toolbar on and off. Simple right-click, then select/deselect the corresponding option. Use these customizations to create a Firefox interface that's as plain or fancy as you like.

Content Blocking in Firefox on macOS

Private Browsing Mode on most browsers protects your privacy by:

  • Not recording your history as you're browsing
  • Not accepting cookie files websites can use to track you
  • Not keeping temporary copies of pages or files, which may be malicious

Beyond this, Firefox uses a Content Blocking feature to block the tracking systems some websites use. Firefox is updated with new tracking system information as part of newer versions.

To fine-tune this feature:

  1. Click the Hamburger menu, then click Content Blocking.

    Content Blocking in Firefox.
  2. Content Blocking is labeled "Standard" by default, which will only block tracking systems when you're in Private Browsing Mode. However, you can click Strict Mode to block them all the time, or click Custom to create your own settings.

    Firefox's Content Blocking Preference Section.
  3. As blocking these systems can cause issues with some websites, click Manage Exceptions to add those specific websites and exempt them from your content blocking settings.

    Add Exceptions to Firefox's Content Blocking.
  4. Click Save Changes once you're finished adding exceptions to your content blocking.