Friday, September 3, 2010

What's on your Browser?

Continuing the theme started with What's on your Pod? and What's on your Mac? I humbly submit this list of browser add-ons that I use.  For those not familiar with the technology, a browser add-on (or plugin or extension) is a small piece of software that works within the framework of the underlying platform (a web browser in this case) to provide some piece of additional functionality or change the way part of the browser looks or feels.  By their nature, add-ons are typically small in size and single purpose.  In fact the best add-ons, in my opinion, do only one thing and do it well.

It wasn't long ago that if you wanted to plug extra functionality into your browser your only option was Firefox.  In fact, I'm still primarily a Firefox user today because of the richness of the add-ons available for this platform.  I really like Safari (especially its Reader function) and I like Chrome's speed and skins.  Both have outstanding HTML5 support as well.  However, unlike recently, neither of them supported add-ons (although both do now).  The moment I can get equivalent add-ons (extensions) for Safari to those below I will likely make a permanent browser switch.

The list below is simply the list of Firefox add-ons that I use or have used recently.  It is by no means an exhaustive list of the popular add-ons available.  For that, you'll have to go take a look for yourself.  Before I start the list, you might be curious whether or not you are running any add-ons.  In Firefox, pull down the Tools menu and select "Add-ons".  This will pop up a window where you can see the list of Extensions (add-ons that provide new features), Themes (add-ons that change how your browser looks and feels), Personas (add-ons that make the browser pretty), and Plugins (add-ons that provide additional content support such as video formats).  I'm going to list my favourite Extensions. 

1Password - This browser extension goes hand-in-hand with the excellent 1Password application that I use on my Macs.  Go to a site and 1Password will fill in the username and password for you.  Supported on all major browsers.

AdBlock Plus - Essential extension that seamless scrubs out banner ads.  AdBlock maintains its own database which you can extend as you go.

Canadian English Dictionary - I need the letter u in all my favourite, colourful, neighbourhood words.

Download Statusbar - This is one of the first extensions I installed way back.  I've tried other download enhancers but I keep coming back to Download Statusbar.  It does its one job and it does it well.

Evernote Web Clipper - This is another extension that goes hand-in-hand with an essential desktop application.  In this case it is Evernote, the essential brain extension.

Firebug - If you do any web development Firebug is an essential debugging tool.  Also allows editing and viewing of CSS, HTML, Javascript, etc.

Firefox Sync - Powerful search engines like Google and Bing have nearly obviated the need for bookmarks.  However, I do have a small set that represent the most frequently visited sites that I go to.  Firefox Sync (formerly Weave) does a decent job ensuring that no matter what machine I'm not, the instance of Firefox there will have my usual set of bookmarks.  It also syncs passwords, preferences, and tabs.  The latter is a little clunky though IMO. 

FireGestures - FireGestures enables you to navigate your browser and web pages using swipes and other mouse gestures rather than clicking on different parts of the browser.  To be honest my Macbook Pro's multitouch trackpad with jitouch installed removes the need for FireGestures.  However, I still find it useful on my iMac.  Windows and Linux users will love it as well.

Forecastfox Weather - This extension puts some discrete weather icons in the bottom right corner if your browser window.  Over time my eyes have been trained to respond to the word/thought "weather" by glancing to the bottom right corner of my browser window.  This is one of the reasons why it is jarring for me to use another browser. 

Tab Mix Plus - If I was stranded on a desert island and could only take one Firefox extension with me it would be Tab Mix Plus.  Sure, all browsers now support tabs but Tab Mix Plus provides many more configuration options and has excellent save/restore functions.

FireTitle (MIA) - FireTitle is one extension that went away after the Firefox 3.6 upgrade and I really wish it would come back.  It allowed the user to set the window title text rather than using the default page title.  I like to group similar tabs in different browser windows each with a topic title.

That's my list.  What about yours?  Do you know of equivalent extensions for Chrome or Safari?  If so, I'd love to have some links.


Kevin Hendry said...

Meh. Beyond the glacial pace of Firefox's innovation of late the extensions have never been a feature that really grabbed me. The only one I liked wat Tabs Mix Plus. Although the sessions are so good on Chrome, I don't miss it. I also find the usability in Chrome leaps and bounds above Firefox. I've tinkered with Chrome extensions as well, but none of them are killer apps as far as I'm concerned. I like the dictionary add on that will provide a pop up dictionary definition of highlighted words as well as the Gmail notifier. But mostly I love the integration of Google search with the address bar. I've grown to hate the extra key strokes to search in other browsers.

The new tab expose like feature in FireFox 4 looks pretty cool though. That is some impressive UX work I must say.

Anonymous said...

Other than those you have listed (Adblock Plus, Firebug, Firefox Sync—which I self-host a server for, and recently switched to from Xmarks—and Tab Mix Plus) here's my list:

BarTab is a lifesaver for me, since I regularly have over a hundred tabs open.

Canadian English Dictionary (no link, as its home page is defunct) because I'm stubborn that way.

Flashblock. 'Nuff said.

Ghostery, to supplement Adblock.

Link Widgets, for easy navigation of sites with sufficient metadata.

Permit Cookies, because I have cookies disabled by default.

RefControl, primarily for my aggregator.

Stylish, to customize sites I visit often (e.g. overriding font selections and removing sections of pages).

YSlow, an addon for Firebug to measure page performance.

Finally, not an addon but a bookmarklet: Readability, which strips inessential fluff from a page and reformats the content more attractively.

By the way, I believe Adblock Plus is now available for Chrome.