Working with several Firefox profiles

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 really 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 to start a profile instead of starting Firefox directly but that is not problematic if you use two shortcuts for the browser:  one that starts the browser normally and one that loads the profile manager to choose a profile to start.

The four profiles that I'm currently using are default, secure, seo and test. The default profile is the one that I'm working with most of the time.

It contains some solid add-ons like Adblocker, CS Lite and several others that I need during regular browsing and work.

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.

The SEO profile uses several huge add-ons like Firebug, Rankchecker, 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 basically only there to test new add-ons, extensions, plugins and Greasemonkey scripts. I usually install them in the test profile first to see how they work with the other installed add-ons and if they show erratic behavior.

The profiles are independentl 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.

Adding profiles to Firefox:

firefox profile manager

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.

Read also:  Ghacks.net Firefox privacy and security user.js 0.11 is out

Now navigate to your Firefox profile, the default location is c:\program files\mozilla firefox. This means you enter cd "c:\program files\mozilla firefox"

Start the profile manager with the command firefox.exe -profilemanager

Only one profile, the default one will be visible. 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.

Working with Firefox profiles:

Now that we have the profiles we need a way to select the profiles during startup. One way would be to uncheck the box Don't ask at startup. This would have the consequence that Firefox would always display the profile manager when you startup Firefox giving and you would have to select the profile manually.

I do prefer a slightly different approach. I usually work with the default profile and I therefore made the decision to keep the box checked and create a shortcut, a second one, that would open 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 process depending on your operating system and location of firefox.exe.

An even more advanced parameter would be to add the profile name to the mix which would start that profile. Just add "Profile Name" after -profilemanager 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.

Summary
Article Name
Working with several Firefox profiles
Description
Find out how to create multiple profiles in the Firefox browser that you can use for various tasks. Ideal to separate financial tasks from regular browsing.
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Responses to Working with several Firefox profiles

  1. Roman ShaRP April 30, 2008 at 10:01 am #

    I use two profiles - one for Firefox 2, and one for Firefox 3 beta.

    The idea to use some more for different jobs is quite interesting ;) Thanks for it!

  2. Randy April 30, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    I'd love to get a listing of the security-related add-ons that you use/recommend. This profile approach sounds very useful.

  3. Transcontinental April 30, 2008 at 4:50 pm #

    A good feature/extension would be one enabling switching profile from within Firefox itself!

    Need to say, plugins remain common to all FF profiles...

    I have a one and only profile, but now that I read you, Martin, I do consider creating a second profile, should it be only for testing new extensions. Up to now, I would backup FF data in Application Data folder, and restore that data in case of removal of a "heavy" extension. A second profile would make it easier, smarter.

  4. Ken. Mytinger May 1, 2008 at 12:23 am #

    You can open profile manager more quickly by simply typing it into the Command window.

    1a. (if desired) navigate explorer the the Program Files\ Firefox or Application Data\(user)\Mozilla\Firefox folders, etc. as desired.

    1b. Windows Key + R;
    2. Type in "Firefox -p" (without the quotes)

  5. James May 23, 2008 at 4:02 pm #

    I second Randy, and would like to hear more about the security addon that you use, would it be possible to get a listing ?

    Thanks,

  6. Willem June 17, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    I'm also running Fx2 and Fx3.
    I've made schotcuts to start them in the right profile.
    "C:Program FilesMozilla Firefoxfirefox.exe" -p "profilename1" and
    "C:Program FilesMozilla Firefox3firefox.exe" -p "profilename2"
    This way they don't conflict with eachother.
    With "BrowserTraySwitch" you can make Fx2 or Fx3 your standard browser and that will not conflict with applications starting the default browser.

  7. Aron Roberts June 18, 2008 at 4:14 am #

    Transcontinental wrote: "A good feature/extension would be one enabling switching profile from within Firefox itself!"

    There is an extension available that performs that task. At least with two profiles, it's worked well for me, and it seems to work fine - at least so far - with Firefox 3, as well:

    Paolo "Kaosmos"'s ProfileSwitcher add-on for Firefox:

    https://nic-nac-project.org/~kaosmos/profileswitcher-en.html

  8. DMcCunney July 6, 2008 at 5:46 pm #

    I've used multiple profiles for years, starting with the Mozilla suite, and the same approach applies to any Mozilla based product, including Thunderbird.

    My big issue was having multiple Mozilla based browsers with multiple profiles, but wanting them all to use the *same* bookmarks file. In older versions this was easy: I could create a user.js file in the profile directory with a pointer to the desired file. The browser would read the user.js file, what was in it would override the defaults, and the browser would use the desired file. I just copied the user.js file into any new profile I created, and off I went.

    Unfortunately, FF3 breaks that. Bookmarks are in the places.sqlite file, and there is no way within Firefox to specify the location. The Mozilla developers have cited this as a WONTFIX. Under WinXP2 I have a workaround: NTFS5 supports hard links, so I create a link to the desired file in each profile directory. There is also a preference to force FF3 to automatically export to a bookmarks.html file on closing, and the location will be the one pointed to by the user.js file, so if I open an instance of FF2 or older browser based on Mozilla code, they see the latest and greatest. The drawbacks are that hard links can't span file systems, so I can't put the places.sqlite file on a different drive or network share, and changes I make to bookmarks in an older browser don't get propagated back to FF3. I can live with both limitations, but I wish the Mozilla devs would reconsider the inability to specify the bookmark location.

  9. David July 25, 2008 at 7:12 pm #

    One nice feature made available since Firefox 2 is the ability to easily run multiple profiles simultaneously. For example, you may have your default profile and a guest profile. To run the default profile you have a regular shortcut, but the one for the guest profile would look like this:

    firefox.exe -P guest -no-remote

    This will launch Firefox with the guest profile even if other profiles are currently running. Of course, differentiating between each may be tricky which is where an extension like Titlebar Tweaks may come in handy.

  10. Deepak August 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm #

    I have been using profiles for quite some time. Its good feature and could have been better if we could have password. I want to know is there any configuration to make available same addons across different profile?

  11. DMcCunney August 11, 2008 at 5:31 pm #

    @Deepak
    Why do you need a password on a profile? IF you need to do that, you are better served by creating seperate user accounts on the machine, and passwording them.

    No, I don't know a way to make addons common across profiles. In the early days before Extension Manager became part of FF, it was possible to install Extensions globally. Extensions installed that way got put in the Firefox program directory instead of the profile directory, and existed for all users.

    That doesn't seem to exist for FF3, so you'll need to install the desired one in each. Since a different set of add-ons is one of the reasons to have more than one profile, I'll call this desirable.
    ______
    Dennis

  12. Roman ShaRP August 18, 2008 at 11:01 pm #

    FEBE extension make transfer addons (and settings) from one profile to another much simpler.

    With FEBE I created new profile with same (then reduced) extension set in five minutes.

  13. DMcCunney August 18, 2008 at 11:19 pm #

    @Roman ShaRP
    Thanks for the pointer to FEBE. I used to have an extension like this for Firefox 1.X, but didn't know someone had crafted one that worked in FF 3.
    ______
    Dennis

  14. Gravity August 23, 2008 at 1:27 pm #

    works amazing. thnx alot.

  15. Deepak August 23, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    @DMcCunney
    The reason I want password for Profiles is that plain text data available in my profile folder should be encrypted, so even if someone get access to that its secured. Creating separate accounts does not solve this problem.

  16. Roman ShaRP August 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm #

    Deepak, don't you want to try to set up profile on encrypted virtual disk, created with TrueCrypt, for example?

    Firefox profile manager allows to chose any folder for profile, and on encrypted disk all your data will be encrypted.

  17. Deepak August 24, 2008 at 10:46 am #

    Roman, What you suggest might be possible but it could have been great if provided with default functionality. It would be simple and straight forward to have option of password protected profile.

  18. Roman ShaRP August 24, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Deepak, it may be simpler for user, but most of users won't use it, it would increase complexity on programmer's side, and it would add to the executable size.

    If you want to filter tap water - attach filter to the tap, not to the kettle, coffee machine and every other device in the house related to water. So, if you want to add the encryption - attach it to the disk, not to browser, mail client, instant messenger and every other software you want encryption in.

    It would be really simpler ;)

  19. Ibrahim Rabbani October 7, 2008 at 2:32 am #

    Works like a charm mate, many thanks!

  20. Pierre July 18, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    -profilemanager or simply -p

    I have been using this for years.
    The most complicated thing you can imagine...

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