Sunday, August 7, 2011

Firefox Extensions

I started using Firefox a long time ago, back when it was Phoenix.  It was a great day when I discovered it.  The superiority to IE was unquestionable. I'm not sure if I could have spent every waking moment of my life on the internet without it. The two main features that drew me in right away were tabs, and extensions. Tabs are now the norm, and while other browsers allow extensions, Firefox has the advantage of the huge catalog of extensions available already.

Now it seems Firefox's momentum has slowed. While IE continues to be abandoned, Chrome has risen to capture those users. One of the benefits of Firefox was that it was fast and lean. It was just a basic web browser. If you wanted more, that's what extensions were for. Unfortunately, Firefox has fallen victim to the same problem that every successful program has. Feature creep is inevitable in a popular program. The simple fact is, it's more fun to add new features rather than sit around fixing bugs.

Still, I have grown dependent on some extensions, and will likely not switch away from Firefox for a while. I decided to write a post about what extensions I use, so that people can be more like me. I have a page on my site about the programs in general I use, so feel free to install all them too.

Without further ado, here are my currently installed Firefox extensions:
Adblock Plus - This pretty much goes without saying.

Download Statusbar - I've used this for years. Makes downloads just show up in a status bar, instead of a box.

FlashGot - I installed this years ago first as a way to build galleries from predictable image names (ie sequentially numbered images). Now I use it to do two things. First, download all links with a certain extension. Second, to download embedded flash videos (eg Youtube).

Greasemonkey - If you don't know what Greasemonkey is, it is pretty interesting. It is a javascript engine that lets you run scripts on certain pages. In effect it allows for small simple extensions that only run on certain pages, which mainly change the look of sites. I've written a handful of custom ones. Some of the others I use are: Show Just Image - which auto forwards to just the full sized image on the endless array of image hosting sites. Super iGoogle, which removes the worthless stuff (sidebar) from the iGoogle page. And xkcd titles, which displays the "secret" alt text under the image rather than requiring you to hover over it.

Multi Links - Multi Links is an interesting recent addition. It allows you to right click and drag a box which will open any links you cover in new tabs.

NoScript - If you're unaware of NoScript, it blocks javascript from running on certain sites. You can either have it run by default on everything and blacklist sites, or block it by default and whitelist sites. It's great for security and blocking ads and stuff that would autoplay sounds. It's also funny how many sites have some sort of security that is entirely javascript and bypassed with NoScript.

RefControl - RefControl lets you hardcode your referral string, which lets websites know what site you are coming from. I have no idea why I have it installed, no doubt trying to bypass some restriction somewhere.

StumbleUpon - StumbleUpon is probably the greatest invention since the internet. You tell it what interests you have, then click the stumble button and it displays sites that fit those interests. You can thumb up or down sites and that determines how often they are shown to other people, as well as further determining what types of sites you like. Essentially it's a never ending stream of mildly amusing or interesting content.

Tab Mix Plus - Tab Mix Plus allows a ton of customization for how tabs behave and look. Some things which I think it has allowed (some of these may be default behavior): Allow tabs to be very small, and take up multiple rows, great for when you have 100 tabs open. Make new tabs open at the end of the list, instead of near the current tab or whatever the hell the crazy default is. Reload or close all tabs either to the right or left of current tab.

Those are all the extensions I have currently installed. Here are ones that I've had installed previously, but have determined I don't need.
Firebug - A great developer tool. Allows you to examine the CSS and JS on a page and debug it step by step.

Forecastfox - Displays weather in status bar. Don't need it since I've discovered WeatherSpark, and check it 20 times a day.

Nightly Tester Tools - Pretty good set of advanced tools. Really the only things I ever used was the ability to copy extensions to clipboard, and display the build in the title, which does nothing, but makes me feel cool.

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