Review: Ten Extensions Enhance Firefox

By Jim Lynch  |  Posted 2004-11-08 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

How to make a great browser even better. We check out ten extensions that make browsing the web more entertaining and easier for Firefox users.

Firefox is taking the world by storm. Its preview release has already chalked up more than 5,000,000 downloads. And it's even begun (albeit in a small way) to have an impact on the market share of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Firefox is clearly off to a great start and it certainly should be—it's a great browser.

Today is the day that the official, 1.0 release of Firefox is shipping. We looked at the Firefox technology preview back in September, and found a lot to like. Now that the official 1.0 release is out, we thought we'd take a look at some of the more interesting extensions.

As with all things, Firefox could be improved. Firefox, by default, is designed to be a lightweight browser. That means that it doesn't ship with tons of extras. If you want additional features, you'll need to go out and get them yourself. Fortunately, it's easy to upgrade Firefox by installing "extensions."

An extension is simply an add-on that extends Firefox's functionality. You can get lots of different extensions on the Firefox extensions site. Since there are nearly two hundred different extensions currently available, it can take some time to sift through them all on the Firefox site. Extensions are broken down into the following categories for convenient browsing:

  • Appearance
  • Blogging
  • Bookmarks
  • Chat
  • Configuration
  • Contacts
  • Developer Tools
  • Download Tools
  • Games
  • Humor
  • Kiosk Browsing
  • Miscellaneous
  • Mouse Gestures
  • Navigation
  • News
  • Page Display
  • Privacy
  • Search Tools
  • Security
  • Tabbed Browsing

Fortunately for you, we've listed our favorite extensions. We use most of these in our day to day browsing and we think that you'll find them helpful (and in some cases fun) as well. Continued...

Adblock
We all know that some ads on the web can be pushy and downright obnoxious. Spinning, flashing, rotating ads can sometimes make the web seem like one gigantic billboard from hell. Adblock makes it very easy to customize your web experience by removing ads at their source.

After you've installed Adblock, just right-click an offensive ad and choose Adblock from the menu. Then you can block that particular ad or all ads from that domain. It's entirely up to you how you want to handle it. You can also put an overlay on Flash ads.

Don't forget though that many sites depend on ad revenue to stay in business. So if you're a regular visitor to a site, you should consider turning off your ad blocker to help support it financially.

Image Zoom 0.1.7
If you're an image buff, you'll definitely want to install this Image Zoom 0.1.7 . It adds a handy zoom selection to your right-click menu when you right-click on an image. You can choose from a wide range of preset zoom sizes or you can choose to create your own customized size. It makes viewing images a lot more comfortable and convenient when you need to see an image in greater detail. You can also opt to zoom out of an image.. Continued...

FoxyTunes 1.0
Listening to tunes on a computer is something most of us do these days in one form or another. FoxyTunes simplifies your listening experience by building audio controls directly into the bottom of your browser. You can Play, Pause, skip tracks, choose your player, show/hide the player, and do all the usual stuff. If screen space is at a premium on your desktop, or if you just hate switching back and forth between your browser and audio player, then FoxyTunes is worth checking out.

easyGestures
Mouse gestures can add a lot to your Firefox experience but who wants to bother memorizing them? easyGestures provides a handy pie chart that you can access to do common Firefox commands such as Back, Forward, Close Tab, Toggle Bookmarks, Search, Home, etc.

You can drag the easyGestures pie chart around to any comfortable spot in your browser. easyGesture is a great extension for those of us who want the convenience of mouse gestures without having to bother memorizing anything.

Gmail Notifier
Gmail has become our default web mail service. We make no bones about the fact that we're email addicts. We do so much communicating via email these days that we pretty much can't live without and we always want to know when we have new email.

The Gmail Notifier extension makes this simply by installing a small menu that pops up when you have new messages in your Gmail inbox. You can customize Gmail Notifier by choosing how often it checks for new email and you can choose to have it open your mail in the current tab, a new tab, or in a new window. Continued...

Image-Show-Hide 0.1.4.4
If you're on a slow net connection, certain sites with lots of images can slow down your browsing experience. Image-Show-Hide lets you toggle images on or off. Once you've installed this extension, you'll need to enable "auto-reload" when turning images on or off. This will force a page reload when you decide to show or hide images. You'll also need to customize your toolbar to get the Image-Show-Hide icon to appear on it (just drag and drop it via the usual toolbar controls after you install the extension).

Even though we're usually on broadband, we love this extension. Sometimes we simply prefer to have images off while doing our browsing and Image-Show-Hide makes that extremely easy and convenient.

Web Developer .8
Although we aren't web developers per se, we like the tools included in the Web Developer extension. It adds a menu and toolbar that lets you manage images, cookies, CSS, display size, and other things. If you enjoy tweaking web pages or otherwise digging under the hood then you'll love the Web Developer extension.

fireFTP
fireFTP is a robust FTP extension that you activate via the Tools menu in Firefox. You can easily drag and drop files from your local directories to the server. You can choose to operate in Binary Mode, ASCII Mode or Automatic Mode. The fireFTP interface is clean and easy to use. If you do a lot of FTPing, you'll find fireFTP a very helpful application.

WebmailCompose 0.5.7
WebmailCompose is a very simple extension that lets you access your web mail with one click. You can opt to compose a new message or read your web mail. It's a handy, little extension for anybody using web based email, particularly when you want to write a new message but don't have your webmail window already loaded up.. Continued...

Homeland Security Threat Level
The paranoid among us will love this extension. Now, instead of having to check the Department of Homeland Security's site to know what the terrorism threat level is, you can now just glance at the bottom of your browser and you'll know whether or not it's time to panic.

The Homeland Security Threat Level extension places an indicator at the bottom of your browser that is automatically updated. If you click the threat level icon you'll be taken right to the Department of Homeland Security's site. How's that for convenience?

Okay, okay...we're being a bit silly here but we just thought we'd throw this one in here for the heck of it.

Firefox Themes
You can also customize the look and feel of Firefox as well as its functionality. The Firefox site has a whole bunch of themes you can download for free. There are too many to list here, including themes for cat fanciers and themes for kids. So we'll let you make up your own mind as to which ones are attractive and which aren't.

For the record, we opted to go with Noia 2.0 (eXtreme). It's a very colorful, KDE type theme that fits in very well on our Suse 9.2 desktop.

As you can see, extensions and themes are one reason Firefox is developing a following among Internet users. If it was just about security, Firefox would just be another boring browser. But it's the ability to customize Firefox to your hearts content, to make it something of your own, that also accounts for its popularity. If you're a Firefox user, you owe it to yourself to check out these customization tools. You'll wonder how you lived without them.

 
 
 
 
Jim manages the PC Magazine and ExtremeTech forums, and is responsible for building community in the forums on both sites. He started managing PC Mag's forum on ZiffNet on CompuServe many years ago. He then transferred the staff and expertise to the Web. He left ZDNet when it moved to San Francisco and came back to Ziff after the split from ZDNet, right before ExtremeTech launched. You can get more background at his personal site: www.jimlynch.com/profile.htm.

His favorite movies include Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Three Musketeers (1973 version), Dune (Sci Fi Channel version), and gobs of others. He can't live without his iPAQ Pocket PC—,he uses it at the gym and everywhere else—,and his DVD collection features more than 200 films. His favorite game is Tribes (PC), which is more than three years old but he still plays it all the time.

Jim likes interacting with the folks in the forum and the content. 'I Love both of 'em,' says Lynch. 'It's what makes the job fun and interesting.'

You're welcome to visit Jim's site for more information about him.

 
 
 
 
 
























 
 
 
 
 
 

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