Profile Switcher for Firefox is a brand new open source extension for Firefox to integrate Chromium-like profile switching to the browser.
Firefox has supported profiles for a long time. Basically, what a profile does is separate everything, including visited sites, installed browser extensions, passwords, and user modifications. Profiles are excellent for using Firefox for different tasks, e.g. work, leisure, and research, as they separate the data that accumulates, is added or modified.
Working with several Firefox profiles includes instructions on setting these up.
One of the shortcomings of Firefox's profile system is that it is not really visible in the browser. When you launch the browser, you won't find a visible option to create new profiles or switch between them. While you may load about:profiles to create new profiles, rename and remove them, or make another profile the default, you'd have to know the page exists to open it.
The Firefox add-on Profile Switcher for Firefox changes this, as it adds Chromium-like profile controls to the Firefox toolbar when it is installed. The extension should not be confused with the Profile Switcher add-on, released in 2012, that worked in the classic Firefox browser, or Profilist, which was another add-on to support it.
The new add-on is compatible with all recent versions of Firefox, but it is available for Linux and Windows only at the time. Users need to be aware that it requires a native program, called Firefox Profile Switcher Connector, that needs to run in the background.
The reason for that is that Firefox does not give add-ons access to profiles anymore in the new WebExtensions APIs. The source of the resident program is available on GitHub as well.
Firefox users who don't want to run a native program just for the functionality, may use profile shortcuts instead to launch them from the desktop or taskbar, without having to do so.
Profile Switcher for Firefox requests the permission to exchange messages with third-party programs, but that is the only permission that it requests at the time of writing this article.
A click on the extension icon after installation informs you that you need to install a separate application to complete setup. The link leads to a download page on GitHub, for Firefox Profile Switcher Connector. Downloads are provided for Windows and Linux at the time, and after installing the program, Firefox needs to be restarted.
A click on the icon in the toolbar displays the active profile, direct links to other profiles, and a link to manage the profiles.
You can switch to a listed profile right away, but need to be careful when you are using profiles for different versions of Firefox. The test system had a profile for Stable and Nightly installed, and these may not be fully compatible with each other. If you just use profiles for one version of Firefox, you won't run into these issues.
A click on manage profiles opens a new window with all available profiles, and options to add or edit profiles. Adding works as expected, editing allows you to add an image and a rename the profile. Images are useful to add a visual component to the profiles which the add-on uses.
If you don't want to run an add-on and a native program on your system just for an easier way to switch between profiles, you may create profile shortcuts instead.
Use the parameters -p and -no-remote to launch the profile loader when Firefox starts. You may add the name of a profile, e.g. test, to the command to launch Firefox with that profile directly.
A full command could look like this then on Windows:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -no-remote -p "test"
Note that you need to adjust the path to Firefox. The same method works on Mac and Linux as well.
Profile Switcher for Firefox introduces better profile switching options in Firefox. While that is very useful, the reliance on a native program will keep at least some interested users from installing the extension and its required component.
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