Saturday, January 9, 2010

Firefox Tips Part III

In the final installment of my Firefox tips series (links to part 1 and part 2), I'll cover add-ons (or add-ins or extensions as they are sometimes called).

Add-ons are small pieces of software that provide added functionality to a browser. While Firefox and Chrome support an easy add-on model, Microsoft's IE and Apple's Safari require compiling and registering add-ons. Most browsers offer repositories of add-ons, allowing developers to upload their latest creations and the general public to download them. Those repositories provide some peace of mind, usually checking all add-ons for any malware or security issues.

I've already explained how to disable Firefox's compatibility checking mechanism, to allow you to run any add-on, in any FF version. You'll need to use that tip for some of the add-ons on my lists. There's one for my default profile, and one for my web development profile:

Regular add-ons
  1. AdBlock Plus - The first add-on I install every time I install a new version of FF. This add-on uses a list of known advertisers addresses to prevent any ad from being displayed on any page you browse to. This not only makes your browsing experience faster, but safer as well. No doubt the most hated add-on by Google an other advertisers smile.
  2. Coral IE-Tab - though the number of sites that don't render well in FF has dropped significantly over the last few years, you may still need to use IE to view certain sites. But why use IE when you can click one button and the site opens an IE frame in an FF tab? As a bonus, Coral IE Tab also communicates with AdBlock to keep ads out of your IE tab.
  3. Delicious bookmarks - allows me to add bookmarks to my Delicious account for sharing across browsers and machines. Similar versions exist for IE and Chrome as well. You can see what sites I bookmark (usually tips, howtos and programming related sites) at
  4. Download Statusbar - allows you to follow the progress of your download from the status bar of FF, as well as open, locate, or delete the downloaded file.
  5. FoxyProxy - have you ever been frustrated by a message like "this site is blocked in your country"? Happened to me while I visited Israel and tried purchasing an MP3 file on Amazon, and when I tried watching a TV episode on the British Sky site from the US. After downloading this littl add-on, you add addresses of proxy servers, allowing you to pass yourself as a native of other countries. Oh, and it screws up with advertisers as well wink.
  6. Google Redesigned - if you use Google Reader, Calendar and Gmail sites, but get bored by the (lack of) design, this add-on will add some color to your screen:

  7. Greasemonkey - much like the previous add-on, allows on-the-fly redesign of every site on the internet. It also adds functionality to sites and mashes-up information from several sites on a single page. I use it to add the Emoticons (eek,razz) to my posts (it grabs the icons off another site), to render Google Reader posts on the same page and to save Youtube files to my local disk. Scripts are written in JavaScript and are viewable and editable. Go to to grab some scripts.
  8. Personas - a new feature in FF 3.6 (currently at RC1) allows you to change the look-and-feel on the fly, replacing the need to download themes and restart the browser every time. Currently I use the Golden Gate Bridge persona.

  9. SafeHistory - I already reviewed this add-on at length.
Development add-ons (useful for web development - skip if you're not ineterested)
  1. Colorzilla - a color picker, allowing you to get the RGB values of every color on the screen.
  2. DOM Inspector - allows isolation of every element in the DOM (document Object Model) as well as changing it on the fly.
  3. ElasticFox - allows management of Amazon EC2 instances - great for my current project.
  4. FireBug - THE definitive JavaScript debugger, including a DOM inspector, an AJAX inspector and a full debugger.
  5. JSONView - allows analyzing JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) objects.
  6. Modify Headers - allows manipulating HTTP headers on the fly - both outgoing and incoming.
  7. SQLite Manager - allows managing SQLite files. SQLite is an open source, single file database in use by many applications (run a search on your hard disk to see how many *.sqlite files you already have on your machine).
  8. User agent Switcher - allows you to switch your browser type on the fly to test how a web site behaves under different browsers.
  9. Web Developer toolbar - adds a toolbar full of useful web development tools.
You can get most of these add-ons at the Mozilla repository. Drop me a comment if you're using any interesting add-on I should be aware off.

1 comment:

Doug said...

Thanks and happy 2010 to you Guy. Hope all is well with you.

My additional add-ons:
- 1-clickWeather = weather highlights & links in status bar
- affixa = improved drag/drop & selectable attachment handling for Gmail
- all-in-one sidebar = more than just downloads
- cooliris = improved image searching & display
- googlebar lite = no need for all the heavy junk
- java quick starter = not sure if really needed
- memory fox = firefox memory garbage collection. really works!
- smart bookmarks = compressed bookmarks toolbar with hover-expand function
- tab mix plus = improved & customizable tab handling