tricking out firefox, part 1

I consider Firefox to be pretty indispensable to my work life. I have IE installed, of course, but only for those few times when it is absolutely necessary to use it. I luckily have administrative rights to upload Firefox on my computers, but for those I don’t, I have the PortableApps version installed on my network drive and also on a flash drive.

So, if you want any recommendations for ways to trick out your Firefox, here are the extensions (add-ons) I use.


CustomizeGoogle is a very handy tool for not only tricking out Firefox, but for tricking out your Google experience. I won’t bore you with a detailed description of each and every feature, but the ones I like the best are the ability to block ads and the additional links you can build into your searches, like Wayback Machine links (very useful!) and links to search other engines.

There’s a new feature that works a bit like Google’s SearchMash interface–it will pre-fetch the next set of results and add them to your search. You never need to go to the next page! I am loving this feature–it’s my favorite bit of SearchMash by far, and with CustomizeGoogle both blocking the ads and adding this new streaming feature, there’s not much reason to go to SearchMash beyond merely keeping up with what Google is experimenting with (though the SearchMash video search interface is quite cool–videos load inside the search results, so you never have to leave the search page). (More on SearchMash)

Google Preview

Google Preview is kind of like Snap, but not annoying. Essentially, it shows a little image of each web page next to the Google result. It’s just another one of those little clues that can help you figure out if the result is what you’re looking for, as well as giving some color to your results.


Screengrab! has made major improvements in the last couple of weeks. I had been keeping half of my computers on Firefox 1.5 so that I could use Snapper, the cute little red fish that saved selected portions of a web page as an image, but I was finally able to move on to 2.0 on all of them when Screengrab! added that functionality to its new release.

Screengrab! is essential for anyone doing anything needing images of web sites or portions of web sites. You can grab an image (a png file) of the entire page, the viewable portion of the page, or now, any size selection of the page. Very, very handy for making handouts, instructional web pages, etc. I miss the Snapper icon, but having one extension to do it all is really nice. And, the processing seems to have speeded up a bit since I was last using it.

Google Toolbar

This one goes without saying, right? I use it for a couple of things, but primarily for starting searches, as a substitute for the built in Find, the highlighter, the new translation features, and the Gmail link. I’ve been experimenting with the bookmarking capabilities and haven’t been remotely impressed. I’d like there to be ways to share lists of bookmarks, to export by label/tag, and to batch label/tag.

The new privacy implications of the Toolbar have meant that I have stopped recommending this tool to people attending my Google searching classes. I know that I am savvy enough to turn off PageRank and the Web History, but I am not so sure that everyone else is. I don’t see a whole lot of benefit to the Web History or the Search History, but maybe that is because it just isn’t ingrained into my workflow. I use the Search History occasionally to get back at results from really complicated searches, but more for a laugh and a time-waster when I’m bored.

I like being able to have all of my searches open in new tabs, too–and with Tab Mix Plus, I have it set so that all new searches (and tabs) open in tabs in the background, so I am not always having to jump from page to page as they load.

Everyone who is interested in the new Web History feature and the privacy implications of using the Toolbar should read the Search Engine Land article on it.

Tab Mix Plus

When Firefox 2.0 came out, it integrated a lot of the great features that you used to have to have Tab Mix Plus or its Lite equivalent to use. It at first seemed like maybe Tab Mix Plus was irrelevant for 2.0 users, but I quickly learned that this was not the case. I am particularly fond of the Session Manager (can recover multiple sessions back, not just the most recently closed or crashed one). It basically means that irregardless of my shutting down the computer, I can get Firefox back up and exactly as it was, history, tabs, and everything else intact.

I also like the tab customizations available, such as the ability to have all my new tabs open behind old tabs and so on. There are really too many cool things about Tab Mix Plus to mention here. And to be honest, I have been using it so long, I don’t even remember what all I’ve customized with Firefox itself and what with Tab Mix Plus.

IE Tab and IE View Lite

IE Tab is useful for using web pages that just think they need IE–you just right-click on any page, and voila, it opens a new tab in Firefox that feigns IE well-enough to fool most of those pesky IE only sites. For those that just won’t work outside IE (who DOES that anymore?), IE View Lite comes in handy. You can right-click to open a link in IE itself and set your preferences for certain pages to always open in IE.

More tomorrow…

I realized that I have a lot more add-ons and extensions than I thought, so I will continue writing about them tomorrow!


One response to “tricking out firefox, part 1

  1. You should check out Showcase. Just for giggles. The sidebar view rocks. And hey, how you been?

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