Most Firefox users work only with one Firefox profile. Well, this should not surprise a lot because one profile is, of course, sufficient for most tasks. Plus, the whole profile management functionality is not that highlighted on the frontend at all.
I, however, prefer a different way of working with Firefox. I use several profiles that all aid me in certain situations while I'm using the browser.
It takes an additional second or so to pick a profile instead of starting Firefox directly if you go down that route, but that is not problematic if you use multiple shortcuts for the browser as you eliminate the delay doing so: one that starts the browser normally and one that loads the profile manager to choose a profile to start. You may also run profiles directly using shortcuts to make things even easier.
The four profiles that I use are default, secure, SEO and test. The default profile is the one that I work with most of the time.
It contains some solid add-ons like uBlock Origin but I try to keep these to a bare minimum.
The secure profile is configured for maximum security; it loads add-ons that add security to Firefox. I use that profile only to visit my bank's websites and other secure sites, mostly financial websites but no other sites besides a select few. This is done to separate these sites from regular browsing.
The SEO profile uses several huge add-ons like Firebug, Rank checker, Search Status and some SEO plugins that I use to find out important information about websites. I also use this profile when I change the code or design of one of my websites.
The test profile last but not least is only there to test new add-ons, extensions, plugins and Greasemonkey scripts. I usually install them on the test profile first to see how they work with the other installed add-ons and if they show erratic behavior.
The profiles are independent of each other. This does increase security because I do not visit websites that could attack the browser with the secure profile and it also speeds up regular browsing because I moved all those big SEO and webmaster related add-ons to the SEO profile so that they are not loaded unless I run that profile.
I run different channel versions of Firefox, Nightly and Stable, as well, and they too use different profiles.
May 2019 Update: Mozilla Firefox 67 creates different profiles automatically during creation so that you don't have to do that manually anymore if you install different versions of Firefox on a device.
Before you start you need to close all instances of Firefox. If you do not do this, you cannot start the profile manager. Once that is done you need to open the command prompt by typing Windows-r and cmd.
Now navigate to your Firefox profile, the default location is c:\program files\mozilla firefox\ on 64-bit versions of Windows. This means you enter cd "c:\program files\mozilla firefox"
Firefox installation folders:
Start the profile manager with the command firefox.exe -profilemanager
Tip: Edit the Firefox shortcut directly by adding -p to it to load the profile manager so that you don't have to run it manually from the command line.
Only one profile, the default one will be visible if you just use one installation of Firefox. Just add another profile with a click on the create profile button. All you need to do is to add another unique name, and the new profile will be created. You can move the location of the profile if you like as well.
Repeat the process until you have created all the profiles that you plan to use.
Now that we have the profiles in place, we need a way to select the profiles during startup. One way would be to uncheck the box Don't ask at startup. This has the consequence that Firefox will always display the profile manager when you startup Firefox so that you can select the profile you want to load on each start.
I do prefer a slightly different approach. I usually work with the default profile, and I, therefore, decided to keep the box checked and create a shortcut, a second one, that opens the Firefox profile manager whenever I needed to change the profile.
The easiest way to do this is to right-click the desktop and to select Create Shortcut from the menu. Now enter the path "c:\program files\mozilla firefox\firefox.exe" -profilemanager in the box and you are ready to go. Whenever you double-click that icon, the Firefox profile manager will start.
Note that you may need to adjust the path depending on your operating system and location of firefox.exe.
An even more advanced parameter is to add the profile name to the mix which would start that profile. Just add "Profile Name" after -profilemanager (or its abbrevation -p) to gain that effect.So, to start my Test profile using the shortcut I would run firefox.exe -p Test. The -p is an abbreviation for profilemanager and has the same effect.
Please note that the profile name is case sensitive. You can look up all profile names by loading about:profiles in the Firefox address bar in case you need a full list of what is available.
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