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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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So one of the beauties of Firefox is that it’s a fast, standards-compliant, light-weight browser. The other real beauty is the ability to build the exact browser you need, no more, no less, with extensions. To this end, I find a number of extensions are critical to enjoy my Firefox experience:

  • Adblock — while I appreciate products like privoxy, I find I prefer the ability to instantly block ads, iframes, and javascript on a given web page. This is especially useful for sites I regularly visit. But, even outside of advertising, it can make things a lot more pleasant — removing large logo splashes, disabling the loading of personal avatar photos in forums, and all sorts of other things that serve to clean up and compact the viewing experience. After all, when I still use the web without seeing it through the lens of an aggregator, I am looking for information — not advertisements, decorative images, javascript mind erasers, and flash hell.
  • Bloglines Toolkit — I use bloglines every day, as having a portable stateless aggregator is appealing; I’ve since thrown away all of my commercial, open-source, and personall-developed solutions to do the same. Having a quick context menu click to subscribe to a new feed (can be done from any page; bloglines will figure out where the feed is) is a huge time-saver. I don’t use any of the notification features, as stuff happens too quick (or I am over-subscribed).
  • del.icio.us — much like bloglines, I like a stateless mobile set of bookmarks, and del.icio.us has been good to me, as I am opposed to the idea of having to fuss with bookmark synchronization. Once again, having the ability to use the context menu to bookmark a page is invaluable — I really hate bookmarklets (nice idea, too much clutter), so this is a perfect solution. I have never taken advantage of the features of this or foxylicious to actually synchronize my bookmarks, as for the reasons above, I find this rather pointless.
  • Web Developer Toolkit (link defunct) can be really handy. As you’ve probably guessed, I tend to get fussy dealing with goofy style sheets, illegible design, and all of the other fuss. It is super-handy to be able to just turn all of that crap off and keep things simple. Sure, it’s a little dull always browsing the web as if there were no images, no colors beyond blue and purple, with everybody using a serif font. On the other hand, it is such a relief to not wait for advertising/hit counting/whatever images to load, not being accosted by sites suffering from serious usability concerns, and being able to actually focus on the content.
  • Compact Menu (link defunct) is nothing more than that – a way to move your entire menu into one selection, and merge it with your various navigation buttons. Having only one bar under my window title and above my tab pane is a great way to leverage screen real estate. Combined with the littlefox (defunct) theme, it’s a match made in heaven.
  • Autocopy is one of those quick hacks that makes my day. Having spent years using X11, I value implicit copy, and the speed and flexibility it offers. A great hack with an intuitive interface, this is perhaps the sort of thing that reminds you just how powerful the extension framework is.
  • conQuery (link defunct) is a nice shortcut to the search input; as I mentioned previously, I hate bookmarklets, because they quickly get out of control; conQuery uses my built-in search selections and lets me use them intelligently with selections on-page. That said, I’ve only been playing with this for a few days, so we’ll see how I feel in the long term.
  • SpellBound is pretty handy. Not perhaps as handy as something that could do it inline in the textarea, but still nice for entering a quick blog entry and wanting to check it.

Then there is the guilty pleasures — stuff that maybe doesn’t belong in my web browser, that adds extra overhead, but that I get too much of a kick out of to ignore. I’ve tried to keep this under control, so that at any given time I only have one such extension:

  • Forecast Fox integrates weather forecasts and current conditions into just about any part of FireFox. Even better, it allows for different profiles, so you can display different information depending on where you are. It would be nice if it allowed multiple profiles to be displayed at the same time, but then most of the time I doubt I would use that functionality.

Of course, there is some stuff that I installed that I thought I would use all the time, but I never do:

  • Search Keys adds keyboard shortcuts with the number keys to the results on things like google, so hitting “1” on the keyboard, for example, would hit the first link of your search results. I really want to love and use this feature, and I tend to prefer being keyboard-bound, (I love you, vim) but I have yet to get myself to use this more than once or twice. I think it’s more a matter of old habits dying hard than anything.
  • McSearchPreview seemed really cool — it shows a picture of each page for your search result, along with a number of other features (automatic links to amazon, social networking sites, automatic inclusion of an amazon merchant link on Amazon links (ok, that is not a good feature) … but I never used it. First off, the thumbnails of web sites are pointless; if there was value to it, I am now pretty confident that google would already include them as an option. Beyond that, the other little cryptic links embedded in the results (yes, it would not be hard to memorize them) never get used. Did I mention that it hacks up some urls for merchant credits and so forth? This is a real pain when I just want to copy and paste from the context menu. I am sure this can be disabled, but I’ve already lost interest. It’s a nice technology demonstrate, and can woo your friends, but it isn’t useful.
  • Linky seems to be widely appreciated, but I never seem to find a good opportunity to use it; again, I think this is more to old habits for control-clicking/right-clicking links rather than using a context menu to expand them. It’s a neat plugin, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t get much attention. Maybe if I were a rampant pornographic image seeker, this would be more useful.