Firefox tips, plus a warning: Protect those passwords

Follow these tips to make scrolling in Mozilla Firefox much smoother

It's been a while since I've covered tips for my favorite browser, Mozilla Firefox tips (read "Quick Tips for Speeding Up Mozilla Firefox" for my last installment). So this week I thought I'd toss you a couple tips for scrolling through long Web pages in Firefox. But first -- a public service announcement.

The Wrong Way to Manage Your Passwords

Last weekend I went camping with some buddies, and somehow the subject of computer passwords came up. I asked everyone how they manage theirs, and all six of them said the same thing: They store them in a text file, spreadsheet, or some other similarly unprotected document.

The horror!

That's a disaster waiting to happen. If a hacker ever finds his way onto one of their PCs, those passwords will be easier to steal than a whiff of chocolate at the Hershey factory. What's more, if one of my amigos ever needs access to those passwords while traveling, he's out of luck. Same goes for a hard-drive crash: it'll take down that password list along with everything else.

My advice to them and everyone else on the planet: use a password manager, ideally, one that can sync with a smartphone and/or the cloud. These tools offer both simplicity and convenience. You just enter in the details of the various sites and services you use -- user ID, password, Web address, and so on -- and the program stores them in a simple, secure, password-protected database. In other words, you need to remember only one password to gain access to all your other passwords.

As for convenience, the better managers can sync with, say, your iPhone or Android phone, as well as a secure Web site for easy access on any PC. I also like the ones that can automatically generate secure passwords on your behalf (useful for those folks who still think "123456" is a safe choice).

So, which password manager should you use? I'd say it doesn't matter, so long as you use one. For some good options, read "Best Password Managers: Top 4 Reviewed." Personally, I'm partial to LastPass.

Firefox Tip: Turn on 'Smooth Scrolling'

To my thinking, the scroll wheel is the single best invention since, well, the mouse. (If you're still clicking and dragging the scroll bar on the right side of your browser, word processor, or whatever, you're making life unnecessarily hard on yourself.)

Much as I like scrolling with the scroll wheel, however, I dislike the way Firefox moves the page up and down in little jumps. It's distracting, and often causes me to "land" at a different spot on the page than I'd like. Luckily, there's a way to make scrolling more pleasant:

Start Firefox. Select Tools, Options. Click the Advanced icon, then look in the Browsing section. Select the Use smooth scrolling check box, then click OK.

Now try scrolling with your mouse wheel. Much smoother, no? Your mileage may vary, but I find this a much better way to scroll in Firefox.

Firefox Add-on SmoothWheel Makes Scrolling Even Smoother

I love it when I learn things from readers. (It happens more often than you might think.) For example, reader Hijohnhi recently turned me on to SmoothWheel -- a Firefox add-on that he says delivers "the optimum smooth scrolling experience." And you know what? He's right!

By default, a turn of the mouse's scroll wheel scrolls your page x distance at a fixed rate of movement. SmoothWheel makes scrolling speed-sensitive, meaning if you turn the wheel slowly, the page scrolls slowly -- and if you turn it quickly, the page scrolls quickly. This may not sound like a big deal, but for sites like Facebook, which require a lot of scrolling, SmoothWheel does indeed make for a much better experience.

I especially like the keyboard enhancements: if you hold down the Shift key while turning the mouse wheel, the page scrolls in smaller "steps." Hold down Alt for larger steps. Of course, SmoothWheel also makes scrolling look smoother, so you can more easily read a page while scanning down it. I definitely recommend taking it for a spin (sorry).

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get -- and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .

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