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.
I posted a couple days ago about the Greasemonkey add-on and, as a result, I’ve discovered a companion add-on called Greasefire. If you have Greasefire installed, when you are on a site like StarTribune.com for which there are Greasemonky scripts available, a little “flame” colored icon shows up behind your Greasemonkey icon in your status bar that looks like this: (the “normal” icon looks like this: )
When you see the one with the colored background, you can right-click on the icon and the very top item will tell you how many Greasemonkey scripts are available for that particular site. StarTribune.com, to continue the example, has 3 scripts available, 2 of which I have installed as indicted on the resulting menu shown here.
If you then click on the “XX scripts available” item you will be taken to a screen where the available scripts (userscripts.org is the source of all of the scripts by the way) are organized fairly well with the more useful/popular scripts near the top. For the Strib with only 3 scripts the order doesn’t matter all that much, but for something like Google Reader (or just plain Google even) there may be hundreds of scripts so it becomes important. If (or should I say when) you find a useful script installing it is just a single click away and happens seamlessly from within the Greasefire interface.
Speaking of Google Reader, one of the handy Greasemonkey scripts that I found using Greasefire is one that turns the various feeds in Google Reader different colors making things easier to read, in my opinon. See the sample of that below. There are other scripts that will add favicons to each feed or to each post and there are even some that will join your Gmail and Google Reader screens together so that you can monitor your email and incoming news feeds all in one place.
In short, to really get some usefulness from Greasemonkey you need to install some scripts and Greasefire makes it very easy to find scripts for the sites that you visit most. Visit this link for more information (you have to have Greasemonkey installed first for this to work, of course):