Pages

Some cool Firefox add-ons

For the last week and a half I've been trying out Firefox as my primary web browser. Back when I was a Windows guy I switched to Firefox because of the innovations it introduced and most importantly the extensions available for it. Now that I'm exclusively a Mac / Linux guy I figured I would check out the Firefox add-on market and see what's available.

It's important to note that the web browser is more than just a device to view web pages. I personally do a lot of data entry through web pages, mainly with this blog. Since I use Blogger I end up composing these posts using the in-page editor. Obviously if you comment on this blog you will be using a simple text editing surface to enter your comments. This can extend further when you look at online products like those offered from Google, including e-mail, word processing and spreadsheets.

I also do a lot of my development work using a web browser. In some cases it is to simply see the results of the application I am working on and in others I am trying to work out CSS issues or image alignment problems. Fortunately the Firefox add-in space has an extensive library of tools to make life easier.

Given that as an introduction, what follows are the add-ons I found tremendously helpful.

Foxmarks
As I have for many years I use several computers in my daily work. I have my Mac Pro, which is my primary development machine and overall workhorse. I have my new MacBook Pro, which I use when traveling and for taking to meetings. I have a great little Ubuntu workstation that I use for some testing and to host certain external services and goofing around in general. Each of these machines is running Firefox and as a result I have 3 different sets of bookmarks.

Foxmarks is an add-on and free online service that synchronizes your bookmarks. Not only does it keep your bookmarks synchronized it also provides a web site that you can access from anywhere (my.foxmarks.com) where you can view the bookmarks. While this is very similar to the bookmark component that's offered with Mobile Me from Apple, the service is free. Since Mobile Me does not support Firefox bookmarks you now have a way to keep those bookmarks synchronized as well.

BBCode
I spend a fair amount of time in forums and responding to comments in this blog. In these cases being able to insert HTML links, character formatting and image references can be a bit of a pain. BBCode provides some nice context sensitive menu help to formatting. I have used this extension for years and if you spend any time in online forums you will really appreciate it.

Forecastfox
Though I have more sources of weather information than I can shake a stick at I love being able to glance down at the status bar of my current browser window and get a reading on the weather. Forecastfox, something I've used for years, fits that bill perfectly. Not only can I see a little radar view of my area I can click and get access to a detailed AccuWeather forecast.

ColorZilla
One of the challenges in doing web based design is matching up colors perfectly. Sometimes you just need to make sure that your web page's background matches the RGB color of a part of an image. ColorZilla provides a nice little way of "color dropping" any part of your web page and then seeing the RGB value for that.

Once you've selected a color you can copy it in standard formats to the clipboard, making it easy to insert into HTML or CSS.

Firebug
If you do any web development work at all, Firebug is an outstanding addition to Firefox that gives you extensive control over HTML, CSS and Javascript on the web pages you are visiting. Calling this an add-on is a bit misleading; Firebug is so powerful it feels like a full development environment.

So there you have it, my first cut at some great Firefox extensions. I didn't count 1Password, though technically that does appear as an add-on to Firefox. I'm still looking for a decent dictionary reference to replace the fact that Control-Command-D does not work in Firefox. The number of add-ons and themes for Firefox is incredible; well over 5,000 of them. While quantity is no indication of quality, there are several more that I really am looking forward to trying out.

Got a favorite that I didn't include? Let me know!

24 comments:

Chris Howard said...

Web developer is my one absolute essential. You're not a real web developer if you don't have that plugin in Firefox. ;)

David Alison said...

@Chris: Oh no! I'm not a real web developer! I actually used Web Developer back in the Windows days and forgot about it. Thanks Chris - just installed it.

Ryan said...

Since FF3, I've made it exclusively my all in one browser. Here's what I have:

Abduction!: Take's snapshots of ENTIRE webpage, not just what's viewable.

Firebug: Need I say more?

Gmail Manager: Gmail notifier

Google Reader Watcher: RSS notifier

TwitterFox: Twitter notifier

I'm definitely going to check out the Color addon and web developer after posting this. BTW, do you have a Twitter account?

Ed said...

If you get the Beta version of Foxmarks it adds a profile ability. So you could the laptop to only sync some of your bookmarks.

Also.. AdBlock Plus can't live without it...

Jim said...

My indispensable favorites (not in any particular order):

Taboo
Sxipper (replaced 1Password for me)
AdBlock Plus
Gmail Manager (great for multiple gmail accounts)
PicLens
Cooliris Previews
Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer
Thumbstrips
Weatherbug

Jim Harris in Colorado Springs

Hendrik said...

Yes, Adblock in combination with the Filterset.G updater are great.

Also excellent:

The del.icio.us bookmarks plugin which integrates really nicely into the sidebar.

Dictionary Tooltip for quickly looking up words without leaving the web page.

Quartz PDF plugin for viewing PDFs in the browser

"It's all text!" for editing textfields in Textmate (or your editor of choice)

"SQLite manager" (which is really more a separate program and just comes in the form of a Firefox extension) for inspecting SQLite databases.

David Alison said...

@Ryan: Nope, no Twitter account. I post to this blog so often it feels like a Twitter account though!

Pedro Alberto Vera said...

You may want to take a look at Ecto, http://infinite-sushi.com/software/ecto/ . It is much more convenient than the web editor for blogger.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...I use...
Colorful Tabs
Firefox Companion for eBay (great for a seller like myself)
Foxy Tunes
Google Notebook
Google Toolbar (which I then use Google bookmarks)
Safari View
Tab Mix Plus

Like you I like Forecast Fox too.

And finally Greasemonkey...which gives a whole other set of scripts that you can use thru userscripts.org. My fav is Google Reader subscribe. It puts a little box in the lower left corner of the screen when the page you're viewing has a rss feed. You just click it and it adds to your google reader. I find it handy. :)

Pecos Bill said...

NoScript

Anonymous said...

My personal No. 1: Download status bar. I can't stand the firefox download window.

Robin said...

David, you should check out All-In-One Sidebar ( https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1027 ), it really is one of those add-ons that really makes you wonder how you made do without it.

Also, if you're not a fan of Gmail's somewhat old fashioned interface, try out Better Gmail 2 which gives you a very slick and incredibly user-friendly front end to this ubiquitous mail client.

pardo said...

colorzilla is very useful. scribefire has been a life saver for me...

centurion48 said...

David, add Merriam-Webster's dictionary as an additional search engine for instant access to a dictionary.

Anonymous said...

Check out watchmelater.com. It an extension and website that allows you to easily tag online videos to be watched later.

Fred said...

Hi all

and Zotero to manage bibliography, so cool, so efficient, so free (the best alternative to the expensive EndNote)

Works fine with M$WOrd, OpenOffice and NeoOffice

Rgds

Karel said...

Hi,

for bookmark sync is better weave.

weave

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say that but Firefox 3 really sucks. Tabbed browsing was already there with Netspace (Mozilla/Mosaic) it was presented like a new feature and it was not.
Opera have a real feature to wrap to multiple lines. This is really good.

JT said...

Looks like I'm in good company - I use most of the software listed here (except for Ecto - Live Writer in a VM does it for me, Scribefire if I just write a quick one.)

The only other category that seems to have been missed is cookie management - I use CSLite for FF3.0 b/c the last cookie manager wasn't updated.

Oh yeah - for you OpenID folks, I used Verisign's OpenID Seatbelt.

Anonymous said...

I'm a long time ForecastFox user on the Windows side, so immediately installed it when I recently moved to a MacBook Pro. I noticed FireFox was using 20-25% CPU consistently, while Safari used maybe 10% (thanks iStat Pro). I noticed when I uninstalled ForecastFox, FF CPU dropped significantly.

>>Steve

Robert Mills said...

An add-on I would add is FEBE. It's great for moving profiles to different machines. There is a version for FF3 that is still in beta, but even the beta release is pretty solid. This little tool will bring EVERYTHING search history, saved passwords, additional add-ons and their settings. Also has integrated support for a Box.net account so you can access it whenever you have internet.

David Alison said...

@Steve: I'm seeing the same thing on my MacBook Pro as well - looks like the Forecastfox extension is burning an additional 15% on my system. I disabled it and sure enough CPU usage drops to nothing. I didn't notice this on my Mac Pro but that machine has CPU to spare so it's not as big a deal there. I'm pulling it from my MacBook Pro installation though.

luciano991 said...

It looks like Firebug is not available for 3.0. I was glad to get Colorzilla back again though.

David Alison said...

@Luciano991: According to the Firebug page: Firebug 1.2 requires Firefox 3. Firefox 2 users should install the older 1.05 version of Firebug. More information here.