According to the Mozilla/Firefox crew, extensions are…
Extensions are small add-ons that add new functionality to Firefox. They can add anything from a toolbar button to a completely new feature. They allow the application to be customized to fit the personal needs of each user if they need additional features, while keeping Firefox small to download.
I’m going to discuss my favorite extensions here with you. I’ll be starting with the extensions I feel nobody browsing the web today should be without and then move onto some extensions that are a bit more specialized in their application.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I get very tired of looking at all the various advertisements plastered over the internet. Fortunately, there are extensions for Firefox which help to clean up the web. To block advertisements, I start off with Adblock Plus. This extension lets you setup filters to block just the ads you want to block. The “Plus” version of Adblock also allows you to setup whitelists so you can view ads on the sites you want to support. The only downside, to Adblock Plus, is the time it takes to setup all the filters you want. This is where Adblock Filterset.G Updater comes in. The FiltersetG.Updater grabs a set of preconstructed filters designed to eliminate the majority of Internet advertisements for you. Using these filters alone kills 85-90% of the advertisements out there. But even those two combined don’t catch everything, so I’ve also added in NoScript to the mix.
Another annoying thing some websites do is to link to file you want to download but setup the link in such a way that clicking on it will spawn a new browser window. *grrr* This is something that really pisses me off. Fortunately, there’s the Disable Targets For Downloads extension for Firefox to take care of that problem.
Then there are sites that will write out a URL but not make it a clickable link. Linkification fixes that annoyance for you. It can also color code those links it fixes to let you know when a site is being naughty.
And let’s not forget the annoyance of PDF Files. For whatever reason, some sites will put up content as a PDF file and then your browser will1 load the Acrobat plugin to view the PDF in the browser. ARRRRGGGGHHHH! When I want to view a PDF file, I’ll use a proper PDF viewer and not this plugin crap. PDF Download changes Firefox’s behavior so it asks you what you want to do with a PDF fileL Download, View as PDF, View as HTML or Cancel. The View as HTML feature hasn’t worked for me in a long time, but it’s nice to force Firefox to download the file while still having the option to go insane and want to view it as a PDF file in my browser.
The last of my annoyances with the internet are sites requiring you to register to view their content. I run across this the most when trying to view news articles linked to by Google News. Fortunately, there is BugMeNot to take care of that for me. BugMeNot is both an extension and a service. They maintain lists of usercodes/passwords for various registration only websites to allow people to view the content without filling out yet another registration form and giving out their email yet again. It’s very convenient though I’m sure the sites requiring registration hate it.
In my spare time2, I like to do small amounts of webdevelopment and for that there’s one Firefox extension which is an absolute MUST HAVE, Web Developer. This extension has tons of features to aid you in your webdev work. The features I use the most are: Live CSS editing (let’s you see your changes as you make them), W3C Validation (submits your HTML/CSS to W3C to see if your code is valid) and Resize (resizes Firefox so you have an idea of what people see of your site at various screen resolutions). While those 3 functions don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what this extension can do; they do give you an idea of how useful this extension is in webdevelopment.
Next up is ColorZilla. This extension is great for helping me decide on color schemes. It let’s me visit a website or look at a photo and find the hexcode I need to use in my CSS to have that color. Current versions also have some other functionality (e.g. full page zoom) but I’ve not really looked into those.
When you’re working on a new design and times are not lining up correctly, it can be handy to see how wide something is. MeasureIt helps you get that info.
If the design you are developing is based off some ideas you got from another site, it can be handy to look at a copy of that site’s source code. But sometimes their source code is very confusing and it is difficult to figure out how they accomplished specific effects. The X-Ray extension shows you the HTML tags of a webpage while you’re still viewing the page.
And of course, if you’re working on a website, you are going to be concerned with how well your site is showing up on the various search engines. SEOpen lets you track your site’s ranking (amoung other things).
Foreign Langauge Tools
I only read English and speak a small smattering of other tongues. But I do have a variety of interests including some that tend to get reported online more by non-English speakers. So it’s handy to have the ability to translate the other langauges back to English. Moji is an integrated Japanese dictionary (including kanji). I’m sure when I get ready to start studying to read kanji, this extension will prove very helpful. In the meantime, there’s Translate Page for all my foreign langauge needs.
These extensions either improve on the basic functionality in Firefox and/or add something new to Firefox that trips my trigger. They’re cool, but I’m getting tired of coming up with something to say about all of the extensions I use, so here’s just a list of the remaining ones:
- Header Monitor
- Nightly Tester Tools
- Popup ALT Attribute
- Tabbrowser Preferences
- Google Pagerank Status
I find the default theme for Firefox a bit dull. Fortunately, there’s a wide number of different themes available out there. I generally use the Mostly Crystal theme for Firefox. However there are some other interesting themes out there and below is a short list of ones I like:
1 If you have Adobe Acrobat installed.
2 Which is to say very rarely these days.