Firefox Plugins

I thought it may be a good idea to spend some time looking at just why Firefox is such a good browser, and in my opinion is much better than Explorer.

At first glance, it appears no different, just a browser. Then one notices that popup ads are much reduced. There is a built in popup blocker.

The tabbed browsing is my favourite feature. Opera had it too, but I found Opera a bit too clunky in other respects. Admittedly, I have not looked at Opera in about a year.

Firefox has Live Bookmarks. This allows the browser to subscribe to sites with RSS feeds (like this one). By making a live bookmark, when the site updates, your bookmarks for it update. If the page is set up correctly, a small icon should appear to alert you to the possibility of live bookmarks. Of course, you can still use conventional bookmarks. I don't actually use conventional bookmarking anymore - details later.

Firefox has the ability to remember all those logins you use. The passwords can be protected behind a 'master password', and so you can use different passwords for each site, and also complex passwords with impunity.

Firefox has integrated search engines. It is very easy to customise these and add your own search engines. SearchPluginHacks is a useful extension here.

Probably the most potent part of a Firefox installation are the extensions. There are extensions to do almost anything you may want to do. Some add functionality to the browser, some are trivial.

Here are the extensions which I use.

  • Trivial: Just a bit of fun:

    1. Mines, this little extension brings Minesweeper Goodness to Firefox, with hexagonal tiles and multiple mines per tile as options.
    2. SmoothWheel, supposed to make scrolling smoother. To be honest, I find this hard to spot and I would need to see it side by side with the unsmoothed version.
    3. Cards, a variety of card games.
    4. GeoURL, allows browsing of pages by physical location, find the neighbours of the page in 'meatspace'.
  • Looks trivial, but isn't:
    1. Colorful (sic) Tabs, this little plugin colour codes each tab automagically, it seems such a silly little thing, but I would not be without it now.
    2. Image Zoom, allows the user to zoom images in and out with a mouseclick.
    3. Disable Targets for Download, an 'install and forget' extension. This prevents blank window being opened when you download something.
    4. Master Password Timeout, if you use the password storage functions and yet have a habit of walking away from your desk, this will help you to avoid password compromise.
    5. "Password Save (not yet compatible with Fx1.5 - see Nightly Tester), this is potentially dangerous, as it allows the user to save passwords to a plaintext file. Use with care.
  • Useful for various jobs: These can save a lot of hassle. Useful to install:
    1. Ebay Negs (not yet compatible with Fx1.5 - see Nightly Tester), ever scrolled through ebay feedback trying to find out what those negs were for? This does the job for you. There is a fix to make it work with 1.5, but it is not yet official on the mozilla site, and so I have not installed it.
    2. ShowIP, shows the IP address of the website being browsed, and provides easy access to network tools like Whois and Traceroute.
    3. Sage is an RSS reader which is built into Firefox. Personally, I only use sage occasionally, defaulting to Bloglines.
    4. LiveLines, by right clicking on the Live Bookmarks Icon, you can use Livelines to add the RSS feed for a page into your favourite RSS reader. My livelines plugin is set up for Bloglines.
    5. RSS Radio Plugin, this integrates Firefox with the RSSRadio podcast client. This plugin is hosted on the RSSRadio pages, and so you may need to explicitly allow firefox to install it, you will see a message at the top of the window.
  • Useful for me, probably not for many people:
    1. HTML Validator, is a useful tool which provides a visual indication of whether a page is valid HTML. Unfortunately google ads often mess this up!
    2. ColorZilla, this plugin grabs the colour code from any pixel being displayed.
    3. Nightly Tester Tools, this allows the user to run extensions which are not compatible with their current version of Firefox. Useful for people at the bleeding edge, and for running that favoured extension which has not been upgraded yet. It is slightly dangerous though as it may cause instability. There is a reason why extensions don't run by default on the wrong version of Firefox. Please note, that each time Firefox upgrades, most extensions have already been updated, and so it should all be fine.
    4. Web Developer, this is a suite of tools, useful for the curious and for web developers. I don't use this as much as I should!
    5. WML Browser, allows the user to view pages written for wireless devices, such as mobile phones. Here is an example of such a page.
    6. Locale Switcher, this requires language packs to be installed, for version 1.5 the language packs are here. This plugin lets you switch from, say, English-GB to English-US, to French.
  • Absolutely Essential. I'd feel lost without these:
    1. del.icio.us, integrates Firefox and del.icio.us. Yes, del.icio.us has applets to do a similar job, but this is just slicker. I use del.icio.us for all my bookmarking needs. Don't forget to tag!
    2. Super DragAndGo, this extension looks trivial, but it really is a 'once tried, must have' type thing. Instead of clicking a link one can simply 'throw it' onto a blank area of page and it will open in a new tab. APPARENTLY NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
    3. ReloadEvery, I find this is useful when monitoring a breaking news story, or an ebay auction. Using this plugin a page can be set to reload at periodic intervals. Very handy.
    4. SearchPluginHacks, this allows search engines in the toolbar to be removed with a click (previously one had to delete files in the mozilla directory)
    5. Secure Password Generator, generates secure passwords. Most useful when used with a master password.
  • Search Engines: These are what I consider to be essentially additions to the search engines (I usually remove all the defaults)
    1. Google UK
    2. Amazon UK
    3. Ebay UK
    4. MT Lookup (first written by me)
    5. Technorati
    6. Boris Johnson (originally written by me)
    7. ... and of course: Murky.org (originally written by me)
    8. Flickr Tags, find photos
    9. IMDB UK, find movies

The look and feel of can also be changed with a click or two, helper plugins are also available

... and all of this is free