I’ll admit that this post is largely self-serving. Having rebuilt two WindowsXP machines (one of them twice) in the past week along with installing Windows 7 on my Toshiba NB205 Netbook, I am tired of trying to keep track of the add-ons that I love every time I install Firefox. Perhaps someday Xmarks or a product like it will synchronize these things across multiple installations, but counting my home PC, laptop, netbook, work PC, etc. I’ve ended up with quite an array of different add-ons on each machine. With any luck, by listing the best ones here along with links, I will be able to more easily manage these things — and if it benefits you as well, that’s great!
So here, in no particular order other than my ability to remember them, are my favorite add-ons for my favorite browser, Firefox:
I wrote at length about Xmarks back in May. Briefly, it is a way to synchronize your bookmarks (and passwords if you choose) across multiple Firefox installations. In the scenario I mentioned above about installing a fresh version of Firefox on a new (or rebuilt) PC, all that is needed to have all your bookmarks is to install this add-on and enter your Xmarks username and password and the bookmarks are downloaded from the Xmarks server to your new machine. All icons are maintained as the order and foldering structure present on your other machines.
I’ve sung the praises in-depth of Adblock Plus before. Disregarding whatever moral issues there might be to blocking ads on sites that are otherwise free, this add-on will make your browsing experience faster and less cluttered. There are very few times that I’ve had to disable Adblock Plus due to “false positives” but it has happened on a couple sites. Even so, turning it off is as simple as clicking the icon in the status bar and choosing from the menu.
I’m pretty sure that Forecastfox was the first add-on I ever used back when I first adopted Firefox as my primary browser. My previous post explains the details of this great tool and it really hasn’t changed much over time, which is just fine.
Normally when you choose to download a file, Firefox pops up a separate window to show the download status and from which you can launch the file when the download is complete. This is interesting behavior given that one of the primary reasons many people first adopted Firefox was because of the pop-up blocker that other browsers lacked. With this add-on, you can eliminate the extra pop-up window and instead monitor and execute downloads from the Firefox status bar.
This add-on is different from others in that by itself it does nothing. Instead, you have to download (or create) Greasemonkey scripts (there are thousands) to make it do whatever it is you desire. A more lengthy post I wrote in May provides more details, but having Greasemonkey is like putting your browser on steroids. Just like there are add-ons for Firefox I find it hard to live without, there are Greasemonkey scripts that I depend on heavily as well. Many of those are listed in the post from May, but I’ll update the list via a new post soon.
CamelCamelCamel.com used to have a Greasemonkey script that worked on Amazon so that you could see historical prices for a given item without having to visit the main CamelCamelCamel site. They have no released a Firefox add-on that does much the same thing except that it now also functions on NewEgg and Best Buy. This is a great way to know if that deal you are eyeing is really a deal and you also have the ability to set price alerts so that you’ll receive an email when the price drops below a certain point. If you enjoy shopping online, this is a must-have add-on.
Download Link: I discovered this add-on when I first got a netbook. Screen real estate is a premium on a small screen and I wanted to turn off the status bar at the bottom of the screen but I missed having the progress bar that shows how much of a page has downloaded. This add-on combines the address bar with the download progress meter at the top of the screen.
Another way to maximize screen real estate on a netbook is to eliminate the menus/links at the top of the browser screen. On my Toshiba NB205 this add-on is indispensable as I wrote about back in August.
Consider Adblock Plus the equivalent of fast-forwarding through the commercials on your DVR. Some ethical arguments could be made against either practice (the advertising pays for the content you are viewing), but in my opinion it is part of the give-and-take among marketplace participants — in this case content creators and content consumers.
This Firefox Add-on blocks nearly all advertisements on most pages and does so without leaving large gaps or noticeably affecting other content as far as I can tell. I have experienced a few webpages where “legitimate” content was blocked by ABP, but it is simple matter to right-click on the stop sign (it looks like when ABP is running) in the status bar of Firefox to turn it off for that particular page or completely .
For an example of what Adblock Plus eliminates, compare the two images below taken from StarTribune.com (you may click on each image to view it on its own). You can see that just on this one page, quite a bit of content is being blocked. Especially for users that are running on slower broadband (or even worse dial-up) Adblock Plus will significantly speed up the browsing experience because a lot of the blocked content consists of bandwidth hogs like images or Flash.
Here are a couple links to check out for more information on Adblock Plus. It installs just like other Firefox Add-ons so if you are familiar with that process it is quite easy. You do need to subscribe to a “filter” that is maintained by others so that ABP will continue to do its job, but that is free and easy as well. The video below walks you through the entire process.