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To open an anchor in a tab in the background in Firefox, you hold the Command key (Control on the PC) while clicking the anchor. If you do not hold Command, then the current tab will be refreshed with the response of the HTTP request to the URL of the anchor.

I find that I open pages in background tabs more ofthen than I replace the page in the current tab. Because of this usage pattern, I want to reverse the behaviour of Firefox in relation to opening tabs in the background. Specifically I would like to have it so that clicking without holding the Command key opens the anchor in a background tab and clicking with holding the Command key refreshes the current tab.

How can I accomplish this?

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Although not a complete solution to your specific question, I have found the middle mouse button very useful for this exact reason. When you click the middle mouse button (or the scroll-wheel on many mice) Firefox defaults (at least on Windows) to open the link in a new background tab.

You can customize the middle button's behavior using the about:config configuration editor to edit the following keys:

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You lost me at the end. If the middle button defaults to opening a background tab, why are you editing the config? Anyway the middle button works on Mac OS as well. Thanks for the tip! – hekevintran Jan 17 '10 at 11:05
Sorry... I forgot to mention that on Linux machines it is not the default behavior. You have to change the middlemouse.contentLoadURL in order to make it work. – heavyd Jan 18 '10 at 5:41
I believe it is the default behaviour on linux too. – alfplayer Jan 18 '10 at 18:33

If you just want to go back to having the "Search [selected search engine] for [selected text]" context menu opening tabs in the background use this in about:config and set it to true.

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