Firefox Add-ons revisted
One of the great things about Firefox and its community of developers is the sheer number of additional applications you can add which extend Firefox’s features (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox). You can also pick and choose those which suit your needs best. So to give you an idea, here’s the current round up of the Add-ons I use and think are either cool and/or useful or essential, as well as one or two worth a mention but I don’t use. I’m also assuming that you are using the most recent version of Firefox (3.0.6 at time of writing)
This rather cool tool allows you to take a snapshot image of webpages, or parts of a web page using its cropping feature, and save these as a JPEG or PNG image. I often find this useful for saving things such as maps.
If you have not already found it, Firefox gives you the option to spell check anything you type or write within the Firefox web browser, underlining any words its does not know with a dotted red line which you can then right click to see spelling options (Tools>Options>Advanced>Browsing: “Check my spelling as I type”). When you installed Firefox it probably installed by default with the English US language pack. This add-on is the British English Language pack for Firefox.
ColorfulTabs is one of those cool add-ons which are more obvious and helps with the browsing experience, particularly if you keep lots of tabs open at the same time. Quite simply it colours each tab you open differently, making it just that little bit easier to find. You can also customise ColorfulTabs to use the colour schemes that you prefer and if you want change the background colour of tab bar itself.
This was formly known as Piclens, but its the same application by the same company, and to my mind its one of the best applications you can add to Firefox. Browsing images just becme much quicker and cooler. Quite simply if you browse lots of images or an album (eg Youtube, Flickr, Facebook, etc) or want to search for images, Cooliris puts these onto an immersive 3D wall for you which you can scroll and take a virtual walk down.
Diigo Bookmarks and Web Annotation
Have you ever come across web pages and wanted to highlight a few words or sections or add a sticky note to the page to remind you about something on it? Or share web pages with others? Well you can with Diigo. You’ll need open a Diigo account – http://www.diigo.com (its free!), but this then opens up a whole new world of being able to share web resources with others (if you want to), finding similar pages or even using as a research tool which you can collaborate with others over. Eg. in a recent project I was working on we would bookmark relevant articles/pages using Diigo and be able to add notes so that when other members of the team found them, they also had our notes. We were using this for an academic project so think what you can do if it was encouraged for use in school work.
If you’re an Ebay user then you’ll probably like this one. It’s developed by Ebay and uses a secure connection with your account to open up a side bar, on your browser, which shows you the current status of all the items you are watching and/or bidding on, without having to open up Ebay in a new browser window.
Foxmarks Bookmark Synchroniser
This is a very useful add-on if you work from several different machines or even if you are likely to go away and want to access your favourite bookmarks from aanother machine, be it at friends or internet cafe. This nifty add-on allows you upload your bookmark list to a central server and then access this from anywhere you like. You’ll need a Foxmarks account (http://www.foxmarks.com/), but your account is private and password protected so only you can see or access your bookmarks. What’s more Foxmarks keeps your bookmarks synchronised with any machine you have the add-on installed. So if you are working from several machines (eg work and home) any bookmarks you add on say your machine at work, will also be available to you at home.
Foxmarks also offers to sychronise your saved password list (if you use this on Firefox), but you can switch this off and I must admit I’m very reluctant to use any such service. Any security can be breached and while my bookmarks are no big secret, somebody else having access to my passwords could be disaster.
In this instance I’ve installed Google Gears to allow a web based task management system “Remember the Milk” (RTM) to be able to work offline.
Very useful extension that lets you copy and paste any snippits or images from web pages (notes) and automatically records the URL of the web page you took it from so you can easily return to the page later. Very simple and very useful.
Almost an essential unforutnately, but not every website renders or works in Firefox. IE Tab allows you view any web page you want as though its in Internet Explorer without having to open up IE itself.
PDF Download is a neat add-on that allows you to choose how you view and download any PDF files on the web, letting you view them in an HTML window or downloading them and opening them with your default PDF file viewer.
Web of Trust (WOT) installs and provides a new icon in your tool bar alerting you to the security of the web site you are visiting, rated by others in the WOT community on Trustworthiness, Vendor Reliability, Privacy and Child Friendliness. You’ll also get an interim warning page which alerts you to when you are about to visit any pages pregarded as being particularly untrustworthy.
Zotero allows you to create your own reference library, built up from the web and files on your own machine. It is one of those brilliant tools for when you are carrying out any sort of research using the net or just collating information for later use. But Zotero does not make the information shareable, so if you prefer workign with others and sharing information you’ll probably prefer Diigo, but Zotero does allow you add normal word documents and pdf files to your Zotero reference library.
More what one would call ‘eye candy’ for Firefox but Fission marries together in Firefox the download progress bar with the address bar, so that the address bar from then on shows the download progress of the web page as well as the URL of the page. Although I found this a neat feature I also found that some internet pages I regularly use, namely Google Calendar, lost some of their functionality. With Google Calendar for instance I found I was no longer able to create a new appointement by simply clicking into the day I wanted it. So unfortunately Fission got uninstalled, but if I remember, I’ll check it out again at a later point to see if it I can use it without it affecting my more essential web applications.