In case you haven’t used Chrome or Opera, the ‘speed dial’ New Tab page is what you see when you open a new tab – it’s designed to get you to your most frequently visited sites as quickly as possible.
Instead of a blank New Tab page, thumbnails of the websites you visit most often are shown – you just click a thumbnail to visit that site.
Although this feature is due for release in Firefox 13, users of the current Firefox 12 can get the new ‘New Tab’ page right now.
Get The New Tab Functionality In Firefox 12 – Open Firefox and type about:config in the address bar and press Enter. Click the “I’ll be careful I Promise” warning button (if it appears) – a long list of preferences used in Firefox is displayed.
Tip: You can scroll down the list of preferences but the quickest way to find the right one is to type part of the preference name into the Filter bar at the top of the config page e.g. type newtab to narrow down the list to only display preferences containing that text.
Double click the browser.newtabpage.enabled entry to change it to a value of true (default is false)
Double click the browser.newtab.url entry and change the String Value text to about:newtab (default is about:blank – the traditional blank page)
Close Firefox and reopen it – now, when you open a new tab it should show up to 9 thumbnails of your most frequently visited web pages as shown in the example below:
To pin (or unpin) a website thumbnail to its current position, click the pin icon in the top left of the thumbnail.
To delete a website thumbnail from the New Tab page, click the cross in the top right of the thumbnail – the next most visited site will automatically be added to the page.
Making ‘New Tab’ The Home Page
It is easy to make the New Tab feature your home page if you wish to see it whenever you start Firefox or click on the Home icon.
Click Tools \ Options \ General from the Firefox menu bar.
In the Startup section make sure that ‘Show My Home Page’ is selected. In the Home Page section type in about:newtab and press the OK button to save.
The New Tab page should now appear when you open Firefox or click the Home icon
How To Revert Back To A Blank New Tab
If you don’t like this New Tab feature it is easy to revert back to the old blank new tab page. Just perform the same steps in about:config as before but this time change the two entries back to their defaults then restart Firefox.
Tip: an easy way to change a preference back to its default is to right click on it and choose ‘Reset’.
To reset the home page, click the ‘Restore To Default’ button in Options \ General (or type a different website address or click Use Current Page if preferred).
Why Is This Change Already In Firefox 12?
Although it is still scheduled for release in Firefox 13, the core functionality for New Tab is already included in Firefox 12 but obviously requires a bit of tweaking to enable it.
The release notes promise that this new feature “can be easily configured and disabled” – presumably via a new entry in Tools \ Options.
My guess is that Mozilla haven’t finished this user interface change yet so could not roll out the New Tab feature automatically in Firefox 12. There may also be changes or improvements to the New Tab page itself but I doubt it as it worked fine in my testing.
Those wanting the Speed Dial feature of Opera/Chrome and unable to wait until June can now use the New Tab feature in Firefox 12.
Whether you prefer the old blank page or new ‘most visited sites’ feature depends on your own usage – but it is easy to revert back to the standard blank page if you decide you don’t like this new feature.