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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best addons for Firefox 3.6

I love my tail! by play4smee from flickr (CC-NC)

Every now and then I reinstall operating system, and what I usually do is use such occasions to update my Firefox addons collection - remove the ones which don't work that well for me, find better
replacements, and try a few new things.

In case you're curious, here are links to my previous post for Firefox 1.5, 2.0, 3.0.

Web annoyances

The first thing we need to do is make web less annoying. Remember year 2000? There were popups, popunders, and big flash ads covering everything on every website. This made people very angry, angry people elected George Bush, and here we are with a global recession. Is it a coincidence that popularity of Firefox and popularity of GOP are inversely correlated? I don't think so. Obnoxious ads are responsible for the Great Recession! It's as good a theory as any other proposed, and has about as much evidence behind it.

So, first let's install AdBlock Plus, and the Easy List, or whatever is the most geographically appropriate block list for your area. That mostly solves the problem, but to make web even more pleasant, you can install extensions to skip forced registration, and wait screens. Much better now.

To keep everything clean, it's a good idea to move adblock plus control icon from toolbar to statusbar, or delete it altogether (it will still be available from menu and from keyboard shortcut on rare occasions that you need it).


Now something more technical. Firefox's awesomeness comes from extensions, and how easy they are to write compared to plugins for other browsers. But they're still relatively heavyweight, and you're unlikely to have more than 10-20 of them. Fortunately there's a Firefox extension for writing very lightweight Firefox mini-extensions, usually for fixing something just on one site.

You'll need to install two addons - Greasemonkey, and Greasefire on top of it. Now it gives you access to a huge library of tiny hacks for particular websites. Not entirely happy about something? Right click on the money icon on the status bar, and it will tell you what sort of mini-extensions are available for it. There seem to be 198 for blogspot, 313 for google, 868 for facebook (18 for Mafia Wars alone), and so on.

I won't give you any particular recommendations, as it depends on which websites you visit, but I'd be really shocked if you didn't find something for yourself. And it's really easy to write your own (would be even easier if Greasemonkey had integrated jQuery...).

Cuddling Snow Leopards by MJIphotos from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

UI enhancements

There are a few things about Firefox user interface which could be better. Moving downloads from a separate window to statusbar is one I find the most essential. Then you can make textareas resizable - were you ever annoyed trying to write a small essay explaining why author was wrong in 4-row comment box? Now it will be much easier.

Other useful UI tweaks are Safari-style progress bar in form of url bar shader, and a Greasemonkey-based addon which redirects all mail: links to your favourite webmail - by default Gmail. It wouldn't hurt to turn this one into a proper extension... Oh well.

One extension which I'm trying out right now - and while I like it now, I'm not really sure if I won't change my mind later - is tree-based view for tabs. I had to tweak its configuration a bit to make it usable, turning off opening new url in new tabs (if I wanted that, I'd press Cmd-T, not Cmd-L you silly extension!), and tree autocollapse (my monitor is big enough to display all tabs, thank you very much). Give it a try - you might love it, or you might hate it. In either case, UI experimentation is what move the web forward.

Website integration

We're all Web 2.0 now, and that means using many complex websites, some of which benefit greatly from an extension or two. Obviously you'll need a webmail notifier  - it also helps if you're not getting too much spam or otherwise useless messages - and fortunately Gmail filters can make sure this is true. If there are some low-value emails that you might want to keep anyway - like let's say build failure notifications, create a filter to label them with something and move straight to archive.

Next, the lovely Twitter - it's probably past its cool days already, and your mum might have started using it, or will do so soon, just as happened with Facebook and countless other social sites before that. Echofon seems like a fairly decent Twitter extension - except you really need to turn off popups, and reduce frequency with which it checks for new tweets, or you'll get ADHD from it, or maybe even Aspergers.

Another Web 2.0 website - actually it might have been the first "Web 2.0" site ever, it's that old - is delicious. They have an official extension, but it tries too many things - so install it, switch to "Classic mode", and remove all its icons from toolbar and statusbar. Much saner this way. Cmd-D will work just like it's supposed to, and everyone searches bookmarks by going to the website anyway.

If you have too much time, you might want to install StumbleUpon. Unlike Reddit, Digg and its likes, it provides decently personalized website recommendations. Even works quite well for porn. Or so I've heard.

Web development

Now a few of you don't develop any websites, in which case just skip this section. If you do, you know you need to install Firebug - and that's about it. I tried a few non-Firebug-based webdev addons like Venkman, but I never really liked them.

There are many extensions you can install on top of Firebug. Probably the most useful is FireQuery (thanks for the pointer @sroussey) - which lets you add jQuery to any website which lacks it. And you know what pain in the ass it is to develop or debug websites without it.

Depending on what you want, there are many many more extensions for Firebug - just pick and choose.


I found one extension of the kind I don't really like that much - one which tries to do way too many completely unrelated things at once - but which I installed anyway as it does some really awesome things. That's FastestFox.

There are two features it provides that I really love. One is AwesomeBar extension to do google search as you type, and add google results as suggestions, mixed with browsing history. It is the best thing since... well, since the AwesomeBar itself.

The second amazing feature is endless pages. You know how back in the days of Web 1.0 you had to click Next to get a few more search results, kitten pictures, or blog posts? Now a few websites like will load more results as you scroll to the bottom - which is absolutely awesome, but still very rarely done - probably because it lowers page view statistics, and results in fewer ads being served. FastestFox adds this functionality to every website. Now it's not as smooth as with sites which support this natively, but I already cannot imagine going back to browsing without it - it's that good.

As I said, FastestFox tries to do ten or so other unrelated things which I don't really care about, so I disabled most of them - but try them out, you might find some of them useful.

And a few final tweaks

I rarely use IRC, but I installed ChatZilla anyway, as it's one of the less-annoying IRC clients for casual use.

Probably more due to being freaked out by EFF Panopticlick - try it yourself too - I installed BetterPrivacy addon, even though I doubt it will do that much.

And finally, there's one Firefox setting which I simply had to change, as defaults were infuriating - I switched browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab in about:config to false - so the Firefox window does not close just because I closed the last tab. Seriously, who had ever thought it would be a good idea?

That's it for today. I'll probably update the list when Firefox 4.0 gets out. Enjoy your Firefox.


wordsandpictures said...

Some nice tips there for addons (and M2TW), which I will probably look in to. You omitted Weave 1.0!

Adam said...


1. Greasemonkey:

jetpack (pagemods) and
ubiquity (pageloadscripts)
(they come with jQuery integrated)

2. UI enhancements(redirects all mail: links to your favourite webmail):
Now built-in. Go to options/preferences (depending on your os), applications, type in filter box "mailto"

I'm the kind of person that tries to install as few extensions as possible, so i have:

nice list though

Anonymous said...

Thank You! With so many available addons at Mozilla, it's kind of hard and a bit confusing to choose which is useful. So, Thanks again for the guidelines.