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Miles of Glass

  • December 7, 2005
It's my turn to release my list of favorite Firefox extensions. I recently upgraded, along with the rest of the intelligent web population, to FF1.5. If you are still in the unhappy world of IE, take the time now to explore what Firefox can mean for you. Primarily, it means that the rest of this post has purpose: you will be able to see the amazing benefits of the extensions I'm listing.

I've divided the extensions into two categories: "Must Have" and "Quite Nice". The must-haves are the extensions that I am constantly attempting to use, subconsciously, when on a friend's machine in IE, or on a lab machine, or anywhere that I've been unable to fully customize my browsing experience. Quite-nice extensions are the ones that each make a slight improvement to my productivity. First, I'll be honest; if you end up installing all of these extensions, you will notice one negative effect: FF takes quite a while to load. However, I usually just leave FF running at all times, and I feel the accumulated benefit from the full package is worth the initial wait. Once you've got a copy of FF open, additional tabs and windows are quick and painless.

Must Have Extensions
  • Optimoz Mouse Gestures
    Right-click and drag. Normally, there's very little purpose for this behavior. With mouse gestures, you enter the world of quick access to plenty of tasks with minimal mouse movement. Simply hold the right button, drag the mouse left, and release: this moves your browser back a page. Right-drag to the right and you go forward again. Right-drag and draw an 'h' to go to your home page. That one's a bit silly, but there are plenty more that are very useful.

  • Adblock Plus
    After installing this extension and setting up a filter list, you notice that pages have less clutter ... much less, in some cases (like Fox News). Adblock removes images, frames, scripts, and EMBEDs (like Flash or videos) from pages based on their url. For example, simply add the filter "*/ads/" and any url containing /ads/ will be removed from the page. Once you get the extension, you can download my filter list from here. If you use Adblock and are curious about the "Plus" version, it adds whitelisting, automatic syching with an online filter list, and a nice right-click menu in the status bar.

  • Googlebar Lite
    Firefox comes with a built-in search box in the upper right, but it's pretty limited in its use. You can search for text on any number of engines, but that's about it. There are several toolbars based on the original Google Toolbar, but my favorite is Googlebar Lite. First, you can easily search several Google engines (such as Google Images or Google News) simply by holding Ctrl or Shift when you press Enter to search. Then once you pick a result in Google, the toolbar lists your keywords, which jump to the keyword's location in the page when clicked. There's plenty more, but you have to try it.

  • Flashblock
    Flash videos have their place. One such place is Homestar Runner and another is Making Fiends. However, most news sites really have no reason to use Flash except to throw ads in your face. Adblock, with a good filter list, can take care of most of these, but some still slip through, constantly distracting you with goofy images and annoying sounds. Flashblock replaces all Flash content with a subtle "play" button, which shows the original Flash content when clicked. Favorite sites (like the two listed here) can be whitelisted so that it doesn't intrude if you actually want the Flash content on a regular basis.

  • IE Tab
    Unfortunately, we occasionally come across sites that are stuck in the early 90's, graciously denying content to the enlightened. In these cases, you can easily click the "convert tab to IE" button, which will transform your current tab in Firefox to the IE rendering engine, transparently. It works quite well with existing GUI components, but beware that overuse can get you in the same trouble you'd have with IE itself, like its horrible security glitches. It's important to have the option, but use it sparingly. Also good for developers who want to make sure stone-age web surfers can still view their sites.

Quite Nice Extensions
  • Web Developer
    As a website designer, you may never have realized how useful it would be to immediately disable styles or have quick access to W3C validation pages ... but I'll bet you have. For non-designers, the best feature is the ability to view remote sites/files with the Referer (sic) header disabled, which is quite useful for Google Image searches where silly sites like Angelfire block external referrers. With this extension, they're none the wiser. Of course, it does a ton more, so don't let me belittle the total package.

  • Download Statusbar
    I find the download window in FF to be a bit intrusive. It's better than IE's window-per-download, but it's still not great. This extension moves the download information to a small bar in the bottom of the browser window, giving you realtime access to your downloads' progress without taking up so much space. Once a download is done, a double-click opens it immediately.

  • LastTab
    LastTab simply causes ctrl-tab in Firefox to act as alt-tab does in Windows. Instead of moving through the tabs in left-to-right order, it moves in order of last access. Additionally, it returns you to the most recent tab when you close a tab, instead of moving to the left-most tab by default.

  • Tab Clicking Options
    Made by the same author of Duplicate Tab, my favorite feature of TCO is the ability to double-click a tab to close it. You can also add ctrl, alt, or shift-click options to perform any of the normal tab tasks.

  • Del.icio.us
    If you use Del.icio.us, this helps greatly when you want to tag a new site or get quick access to older bookmarks. It adds two buttons to the main toolbar (optional, of course), and a menu that offers shortcuts to various parts of the Del.icio.us site.

  • SessionSaver
    Like any software, Firefox crashes occasionally. In addition to giving you the ability to explicitly save your entire session (open tabs, tab histories, etc.) SessionSaver will automatically recall your entire session in the case of a crash.

  • FlashGot
    Makes it easy to download content from a page using a download manager like GetRight (my favorite). It automates bulk downloads, such as retrieving all the images or sounds from a page.

  • Duplicate Tab
    Duplicating a tab allows you to open a new tab while maintaining the current page (and history) of the current tab. This can be assigned to a mouse gesture, as well (I use left-right).

  • EditCSS
    Live CSS editing is quite useful for web developers, especially those working with XHTML that has no inline styles. EditCSS presents all relevent CSS files in a sidebar, allowing you to edit them and see the changes immediately. You can even work with remote sites to play around with their styles.

  • ImageZoom
    Adds options to the right-click menu of images to enlarge them synthetically. You can also bind mouse gestures with these actions, making it easier to view tiny images.

  • View Cookies
    When you find that a site is being stubborn due to an old cookie (and you need to delete it), or if you're just curious what a site is remembering about you, this extension is for you. It adds a tab to the Firefox Page Info dialog, listing all the current page's cookies and offering the option to delete any of them.

  • Menu Editor
    True customization for the OCD in everyone. Get rid of useless menu items like "Send link..." or the entire "Go" menu (did you even notice it was there?). The Menu Editor simply lets you rearrange menu items, hide them, or even move them to other menus.

  • LiveHTTPHeaders
    This one is a bit more specific and specialized. It's especially useful for Ajax coders who need to see what's being sent in the background, or for others who want to manipulate POST data sent to a remote website. Watch HTTP requests as they are made, and "replay" them afterward, manually modifying headers to your own will.

  • AutoHide
    When you're in fullscreen mode, you might notice that the address bar and buttons intrude and prevent the browser window from becoming truly "full screen". AutoHide causes any selected toolbars/menus to act like the taskbar in autohide mode: they're completely invisible until you bring your mouse to the top of the screen, causing them to magically appear. Unfortunately IE supports this by default, and I'm not sure why FF doesn't natively.

  • FxIF (Firefox EXIF)
    FxIF is geared more toward photographers who are interested in seeing the data embedded in many JPEGs online, especially when the data is not given by the site itself (like mine, sadly). It adds extra information to the bottom of the Image Properties dialog, such as the camera used and exposure settings. Many JPEGs online include this data even if the author doesn't realize it.

  • User Agent Switcher
    Best for testing sites that have user agent-specific settings, UAS also allows you to trick remote sites into giving you data for other browsers, if that floats your boat.


  • lil sis
  • December 8, 2005
  • 2:14 am
  • Ariel
  • December 8, 2005
  • 4:28 am
  • Tristan
  • December 11, 2005
  • 10:28 pm
nice lens

  • Brooke
  • December 12, 2005
  • 6:20 pm
Oh that lens is AMAZING. *jealous*

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