Browser toolbars have come a long way.  They’ve been around since the invention of web browsers and they still fall under the same definition: a series of icons/buttons arranged on a graphical user interface (GUI) strip attached to the top section of your browser window below the URL bar.  But what makes browser toolbars different today, from say even as recent as 2008, is that they’ve become unobtrusive (easily hidden), more useful, more attractive, and more customizable.

The types of toolbars available to you are somewhat dependent on which browser you use.  Below is a brief overview of the toolbars each of the three major browsers offer and how to customize them.

Firefox Tool Bars

In Firefox, nearly all of the toolbars can be shown or hidden depending on your preferences so that you see only the tools you use on a regular basis.  Below are the three standard toolbars Firefox comes with.

  • Navigation Toolbar – This toolbar is the one you’re probably the most familiar with.  It’s got your search bar, location bar, navigation buttons, home button, and bookmarks button.
  • Bookmarks Toolbar – In newer version of Firefox this tool bar is hidden. To view it simply click view > toolbars > bookmarks toolbar.  The bookmarks toolbar allows quick access to often used bookmarks.
  • Add-on Toolbar – The Add-on Toolbar lives at the bottom of your browser window and provides a place for your Add-ons to put shortcuts and other widgets – if provided by the Add-on developer.

How to Customize Firefox Toolbars:

  1. To open the customize toolbar window, command-click on any empty section of the tab strip and select customize.
  2. Now you can customize the toolbar as you see fit
    1. To add an item, drag it from the customize toolbar window to the area you want it to appear.
    2. To remove an item, drag it from the toolbar back into the customize toolbar window.
    3. To rearrange an item, drag it to the spot you want it to appear.

You can also create completely new toolbars by clicking on the “Add New Toolbar” button in the Customize Toolbar Window.  Once in the New Toolbar Window, give your toolbar a name and add new tools to it the same as described above and click done.

Internet Explorer Toolbars

Internet Explorer comes with a number of toolbars, all of which are customizable.  To show or hide these toolbars simply open IE and click on tools > toolbars > and then select the toolbars you want to show or hide.

  • Favorites Toolbar – quick links to your favorite sites.
  • Status Toolbar – shows site specific information such as the progress of a file you’re downloading.
  • Command Tool Bar – located in the upper right hand side of IE and give you access to nearly all of IE’s settings and features.

How to Customize Internet Explorer Toolbars:

Simply right click the toolbar you want to edit, select customize and follow the given prompts to make the desired changes.  For example, if you’re customizing the Command Tool Bar, once you’ve right clicked and selected customize, you will then need to select Add or Remove Buttons and choose from the available list.

Chrome Toolbars

Chrome does not allow toolbars in the same sense that Firefox and Internet Explorer do.  Instead they offer the tools that made their Google Toolbar so popular “baked in” to Chrome and any other tools you might want come one at a time via their Google Chrome Web Store as extensions or apps.  These extensions do live in a toolbar of sorts in the top right hand corner of the browser window in line with the URL bar.

The Added Power of Branded Themes

Above we’ve covered some of the basic toolbars and how to create custom toolbars for the three major browsers.  However, browsers haven’t simply evolved only along the lines of toolbars.  Another development that includes toolbars are browser themes.  In fact, a browser theme is very similar to a toolbar except that it takes the overall experience a toolbar offers and elevates it to an entire new level.

Here is an example of a browser theme for College Humor:

A browser theme not only provides you with a new look to your browser (as you can see in the image above) but it also comes equipped with a toolbar customized to that theme which makes it easier to interact with the content you’re interested in.  And if you’re a content provider yourself, you’ll be excited about what a theme provides that a toolbar doesn’t…

  • Visual Appeal – while changing the cosmetics of your browser is nice just for the sake of having something cool to look at, the visual appeal of a well designed theme captures the attention of its users and encourages more engagement.
  • Live Interactivity – a toolbar may provide handy tools but those tools do not update in real time.  With a browser theme the built in toolbar can feature all sorts of interactive features such as a news feed of posts, quick links to social sites, videos, and more.
  • Constant Engagement – with custom visual branding and tools that make it easier than ever for your fans/followers/users to engage with you in real time, you literally get to go wherever your user goes online.

Whether you’re a casual web surfer or a content producer you can try out browser themes for yourself.  Here are some links that will help:

Or you can build your own browser theme in mere seconds here:



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