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.
Have you ever sent someone the URL (i.e. “web address” or “web link”) for an interesting webpage only to find out that somewhere along the way the link was broken because a carriage return got inserted because the URL was too long and they couldn’t get it to open? Or maybe you want to post such a link on Twitter and you are limited to only 140 characters but the link you are excited about takes up most/all of the allotted space? That’s where a great service called TinyURL comes in handy. By visiting their website, you can turn any long URL into something more manageable.
For example, say I want to send someone the link for a GPS unit I found on Amazon.
Once you start doing this you will find all kinds of uses, but you’ll soon realize that constantly visiting TinyURL.com isn’t very efficient/quick because it involves so many steps (visiting the page, copying current URL, pasting into textbox on TinyURL site, submitting, etc.).
Luckily there is a Firefox Add-on that you can install to make using TinyURLs quick and easy. Simply visit https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/10586 to grab the Add-on and install it and once you re-launch Firefox you will have a couple different options for creating a TinyURL. Right-clicking on a link on a webpage will add a menu item to the normal menu that appears that will create a TinyURL for you in one step.
If you want to create a TinyURL for the page you are currently viewing there will be an icon at the bottom of the screen that looks like (it will be down by your Ghostscript, Ad-Block Plus, Xmarks, etc. icons if you have those installed). Double-clicking that icon will automatically create a TinyURL for the current page and the icon will indicate success .
In either case (right-click menu or double-clicking the icon) the resulting TinyURL will automatically be copied to your clipboard so that you may paste it elsewhere (like in an email or a Twitter post) immediately.
And if TinyURLs are still too long for you, there are several other URL shorterers out there that result in even fewer characters in the resulting URLs. Examples of these include:
But I’m sticking with TinyURL for now because of the Firefox Add-on that makes it so handy to use. I’m sure at some point similar add-ons will be stable for at least some of these other services but until then 25 characters will have to do. Plus a guy from Blaine created it so it has to be better than the others!