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My Digital Identity

Sharp Perspectives on Identity, Security, and Privacy

Put your browser to work to make things easy

An ongoing online theme is how to have it all – both a secure site that protects privacy and something that is quick and easy to access and share information. When I hear people complaining that the web address (Universal Resource Locater URL to use the technical term) is too confusing/too long or that username/password access is too difficult I am reminded that you can never make anything too easy. Ease of use should be at the forefront as the computer and the programs that run on it are meant to be the servants to make things as easy as possible for the user. The complaints are also probably a hint that a refresher on how to put your browser to work to make Internet access easy and efficient could be helpful. After all what good is a servant if you don’t know how to get it to do things for you to make it easy.

Bookmarks are your friend

Of course you should rarely have to remember and type in an address (URL) to get to a web site or blog since all Internet browsers let you save the address as a bookmark. In the Firefox browser there is a menu item called Bookmarks that lets you save a web site address as a bookmark and organize your bookmarks into folders if you like. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser has the same features but inexplicably uses a different name – Favorites. Use this feature to save bookmarks of the sites you want to go back to so you can select them from the menu and never have to type in a web site address again. Your really favorite bookmarks can even be saved in the browser toolbar so you don’t even have to select them from the menu – they are one click away. As an added tip note that you can name the bookmark whatever is meaningful to you – you don’t have to use the default web page name so you can make it easy to pick out the site in your menu or toolbar.

If you want to get fancy and you happen to use more than one computer there are a couple of tools to make your precious bookmarks available wherever you go. The Foxmarks Firefox addon can be installed into Firefox and it synchronizes your bookmarks on all the computers you have (that have Firefox with the Foxmarks addon installed). An even more universal approach is to save your bookmarks in the cloud (on the Internet) using a service like This not only makes your bookmarks available to you from any computer but also any browser and you can even be social about it and share your wonderful site selections with friends.

Your browser has memory and can type

Tired of trying to remember usernames and passwords and having to do all that tedious typing over and over again. Now that you don’t type in URLs anymore why should you type in usernames and passwords? Firefox (what a wonderful browser to download) has a feature where it remembers your site information and enters your username and password for you. You just have to tell it that you want it to do the work for you.

To tell Firefox your preferences you select Preferences in the Firefox menu and you will see the following if you click on the security icon.


While we are in the security preferences panel you might as well check all the boxes to get your full value (make your browser work hard since after all you are the boss). You want to remember passwords for sites and it is a very good idea to use a master password especially if other people are sometimes on your computer. If you don’t set a master password anyone who uses your computer can get into all your sites. If you setup a master password every once in a while the browser will ask for it to confirm it is you but you only have to remember one password instead of a different one for each site. If you have a master password for your account and never let anyone else use your account then you probably don’t need your browser to ask extra questions about who you are and can leave Use a master password unchecked.

Once you have these security settings saved in Firefox you only need to enter the username and password the first time you visit a site. Then you will get the following question from your Firefox servant:

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Of course in most cases you will click Remember since the whole point is to put your browser to work. Now you will never have to remember passwords again and you can take that yellow sticky note off the side of your monitor. On the off chance you grow nostalgic and want to check on the passwords you set back in the old days you can always go back to the Firefox preferences panel and click the Saved Passwords… button. If you created a master password you will have to enter that and then you can see all your passwords conveniently organized by site. You can even do searches if you have so many that you don’t want to look through them all.

What if you are using the Internet Explorer browser? Well it has similar features but haven’t you downloaded Firefox yet?

Let me know how I can make it easier or what else you would like your browser to do for you in the comments.