Multiple Firefox Profiles

Master Multiple Firefox Profiles for more Productive Browsing

One of the most powerful features in Firefox is also one too few people know about: the ability to create and use more than one profile at the same time. Here’s how to streamline and reap the benefits of multiple browsing profiles.

Instead of installing every single extension for every task into the same Firefox profile, why not separate them into separate profiles, organized by task? Think of Firefox like an Operating System for the web, and each profile as a separate application — one profile is used for basic web browsing, another for writing, another for web development or research, and so on.

I also use different profiles for writing, researching, and personal browsing on a daily basis. It keeps my Firefox instances running smoother, and each profile is streamlined for accomplishing the kind of things you want to accomplish with that profile.

Setting Up Separate Firefox Profiles

Creating a new profile is a lot easier than you might think, but there’s no default menu item that allows you to open the profile manager easily. If you install the ProfileSwitcher extension in the “Switching Profiles the Easy Way” section below, you can use it to create new profiles via a menu item; if you want to go that route, skip down to that section; either way, here’s how to do it without the extension: You’ll need to pop open a command prompt, switch to the Firefox directory by typing

“cd %programfiles%\Mozilla Firefox\”

(without quotes, this should work),

and then launch Firefox with a command line switch: type the exact phrase between brackets-

[firefox -profilemanager -no-remote] or [firefox -p -no-remote]

If you don’t like using the command prompt, you can simply create a shortcut to Firefox.exe (or copy your current one), and then add the arguments to the end of the Target line.

The first argument clearly indicates that you want the profile manager, but the second –no-remote argument means that you want to open a separate copy of Firefox at the same time as having the first one open. This is the magic switch that will allow you to run more than one profile at the same time, and it also allows you to open the profile manager without closing your current browser window.

Once you’ve created a new profile, you can make a separate Firefox shortcut, and modify the Target line to include a few extra arguments, making it look something like this:

firefox.exe –P profilename –no-remote

Switching Profiles the Easy Way

If you’d rather not mess with command line arguments and new shortcuts, you can switch between profiles or launch the profile manager the easy way with the “ProfileSwitcher” extension.

Once you’ve installed the extension, you can simply use the File menu to access the new profile switching options and access the profile manager directly from there. Once you’ve chosen one of the other profiles, you’ll be prompted on whether you want to switch to that profile or keep the current profile open and open the second profile at the same time.

Sync Your Profile Passwords and Bookmarks

The biggest problem with maintaining multiple profiles is utilizing the same passwords, bookmarks, and settings across the various profiles, and Firefox addon Firefox Sync can do just that. Once you’ve setup Weave in each profile, you can sync your bookmarks, passwords, history, preferences, and even your open tabs if you felt like it. Weave isn’t the only game in town, though, as you can use Xmarks to sync your bookmarks and passwords across other browsers as well, but it comes with additional “discovery” services that you might want to turn off.


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