Browser optimize

10 Firefox extensions you can't live without

Whether you want to speed access to the Web sites you regularly visit, keep better tabs on your tabs, or protect your system from potentially dangerous active content, there's a Firefox extension ready to help you out. Jack Wallen shares his list of favorite time-saving, browser-enhancing add-ons.

Whether you want to speed access to the Web sites you regularly visit, keep better tabs on your tabs, or protect your system from potentially dangerous active content, there's a Firefox extension ready to help you out. Jack Wallen shares his list of favorite time-saving, browser-enhancing add-ons.


One of the nicest aspects of Firefox is the ability to add extensions. And there are plenty to choose from. Some do little more than alter the aesthetics. But you'll find others out there that you can't browse without. No matter what your purpose in browsing, there is a killer-app extension just waiting for you. Let's take a look at my top 10 extensions.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Morning Coffee

This extension allows you to set a group of Web sites that will open (each in its own tab) with the click of a button. This will save you from having to roam through your bookmarks (while drinking that first cup of wake-me-up in the morning) to view your favorite sites. And you don't have to limit yourself to personal browsing, either. I also use this extension to open up all the Web-based admin tools for sites I administer. You can even set sites up to open only on certain days (or every day). So news junkies or overworked administrators rejoice: This extension will make your browsing life a little easier.

#2: NoScript

This is one of the best tools for making sure your browsing experience is secure. With NoScript, you can disable active content from any site you don't trust. Unless you configure it to allow JaveaScript, Java, and other executable scripting to run from a site, NoScript will completely block the script, keeping you browser safe from known and unknown exploits. And don't think because you are using FireFox in Linux that you're perfectly safe! Use this extension regardless of platform.

#3: ColorfulTabs

If you're like me, you generally have a LOT of tabs open in Firefox. Sometimes this isn't a problem. But there are times when the tabs can get a bit overwhelming and need a bit of organization. To help with this, ColorfulTabs gives each open tab a different color, making it easier to distinguish between them. With this simple extension, you can color-code tabs either randomly or according to URL. You can also set tabs to fade. Another fun feature is that you can set a background image for tabs.

#4: BBCode

This helpful extension adds BBCode, HTML, and XHTML symbols and formatting to the context menu. BBCode also allows you to add up to 10 custom tags to your menu. This extension shows itself when you're in a forum and you right-click a text area where you can select the tag you want to add from the menu. This extension will make your forum work quite a bit easier, as well as faster.

#5: Buggybar

This extension is invaluable to Bugzilla power users. With this extension, you will have a Bugzilla Chrome sidebar available which will readily show all bugs that relate to a bug list you have created. As of version 0.2, Buggybar works with all instances of Bugzilla.

#6: Clear Cache Button

I don't know about you, but I always set up my browsers to clear their cache at exit. But what about those times you want to clear the cache but not exit the browser? Instead of navigating through the menu structure, you can add this simple extension. It provides a button that gives you complete cache clearing with a single click.

#7: TimeTracker

Okay, this is not really a tool that will aid or better your browsing experience. In fact, this little extension will remind you how much time you spend browsing. I have found this little gem useful in a number of circumstances. Whether you are in need of a quick five-minute break from number crunching or you just need to know how much time you spend on a specific Web site, TimeTracker will keep track of how long you browse. What is nice about this is that the tool times across sessions. So when you close the browser, the timer stops, and when you open the browser back up, the timer starts again. You can reset the timer by right-clicking the status bar timer and selecting Reset.

#8: iMacros

This extension automates pretty much anything you do in Firefox. From opening up sites to filling out forms and even administration work -- you can automate it with iMacros. The iMacros extension has a sidebar that shows favorite macros. It also has a record feature that allows you to create macros by simply clicking Record, going through the motions of the macro to be created, and clicking Save. These macros can be as complex as you need them to be. When you want to run them, you simply navigate to the macro in the iMacros sidebar and click the Play button. The only downfall I have found with this tool is that you can't assign key combinations to run macros. Other than that, this extension is a must-have for power browsers.

#9: Fasterfox

This extension does one thing: It makes Firefox load pages faster. Speed of page loading can be increased by allowing simultaneous connections and prefetching. This extension is currently in the experimental stage because of the release of Firefox 3. To install it, you have to log into a Firefox account to download. The extension is worth the hassle. The speed increase is noticeable.

#10: BlogRovR

We all read blogs. From my TechRepublic Linux and Open Source blog to the countless other blogs available, we all read them daily. And this takes time. Instead of wasting time going to the blogs, let this handy extension fetch them for you. You do have to sign up for an account using this extension (they promise they won't spam you.) and you will be asked to install another sidebar (Stickies), which is not necessary. Once you have this installed, you just enter the blog URL, and BlogRovR will begin fetching the information for you. Warning: If you have NoScript installed, you have to allow the BlogRovR page to run scripts or it won't be able to fetch pages for you.

So that's my list of 10 extensions, from various categories, that will make your Firefox experience better. Some of these extensions are for power users and some are for everyone. What extensions have you found that make your daily browsing better?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

73 comments
Sanghavi
Sanghavi

#10: BlogRovR hassles? try google reader and subscribe to the blog.

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

Somehow I survive with only NoScript from that list - I used to have BBCode, but switched to BBCodeXtra. Morning Coffee strikes me as particularly pointless; having a selected group of sites open in tabs with a single click is easily done without any extension, simply tag the bookmarks for the sites you want and put a bookmark for the tag in the Bookmarks Toolbar.

Rod1994
Rod1994

Perhaps it is my Opera-bias, but I am always using mouse gestures. For instance if you are scolling through this list and have had enough, your only options to close the page are to mouse up to the Tab's "x" or go to keyboard & Ctl-F4. Both waste effort. Using mouse gestures, it's a simple flick of the mouse to either close the page, go Back, Forward, reload, etc. if you do much web browsing, it's a real time & effort saver.

ms.fixit
ms.fixit

How about Remove It Permanently 1.0.6.6? This tool is nice to make lasting changes to, and adjustments of, many kinds of web-pages, after the ads are blocked by hosts files or ad-block, etc. Instead of big empty squares on a page, those items and many more can be removed easily with a right-click. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/521

dyutzy
dyutzy

I found the article interesting at first, but kind of useless because many of the extensions are for older versions of FF only.

wyldwezl
wyldwezl

Not a one on there that I use. Ad Block Plus Download Status Bar Flash Blocker GMail Notifier Tab Click Options Privacy Plus (removes flash supercookies) Spartan? Yep. Though the Morning Coffee one sounds interesting; my usuals are all on the bookmarks toolbar so I can get to 'em easy enough. I used to use Forecast Fox but I got tired of the thing flashing up severe weather alerts on perfectly nice sunny days-- annoying.

gil_gosseyn
gil_gosseyn

I'm so bothered without this extension, I won't upgrade to FF3 until it's available.

patclem
patclem

Xmarks rules. Syncs my bookmarks between work and home. FireFTP - full featured FTP inside the browser tab. Xinia - GUI edit html inside web form fields. It's getting less handy as websites catch up with online gui editors.

rngunter
rngunter

if you visit sites that typically have a good deal of annoying visual ads. I can't explain all the specs but, I believe the general principle is that the ads are blocked based on their domain name or to where they link. It comes with a predefined catalog of ads to be blocked (like adult site ads) and you are able to create your own catalog of ad-blocking. It's very simple to use and it works very well, not to mention the fact that pages load faster when the annoying ads are not loaded.

lbozzay
lbozzay

A list without AdBlock? Oh come on...

smth.anita
smth.anita

I can't live without: - Adblock Plus - FlashGot - Xmarks

dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

CoolPreviews is one very cool FireFox extension. it allows me to read news articles and blog entries without actually going to the website to view them -- a major time saver. Check it out; you won't regret it.

webmistress555
webmistress555

Thank you for the list re: FF add-ons. Started with these, now have a list of my own that are standard (depending on whether or not they are working w/the latest FF version, etc). Maybe wouldn't be a bad idea to re-visit this topic soon, since there are so many new add-ons, FF 3 has come out, etc? Thanks!

eylony
eylony

my #11 addon would have to be www.headup.com This nice addons brings you lots and lots of information with just a click. And it integrates with facebook and twitter and gmail and everything! You have to try it... www.headup.com

nitinmalhotra20
nitinmalhotra20

1. Foxmarks Bookmark Synchroniser - synchronises your bookmarks across ALL your computers. What more, you can also choose to synchronise passwords & ids with this secure and well supported software. This one is the best available firefox add-on ever. 2. TabMix Plus - do more with your tabs than you could imagine. 3. Shareaholic - Share stuff with family & friends right from the browser across popular networking & blogging sites like facebook & twitter. 4. Page Title Eraser - Ever caught someone reading your tab names at work & embarassing you ? One shortcut & remove page titles! Other options along these lines are TabRenamizer & Faviconize - all do similar thing with different outcomes.. although TabRenamizer is perhaps the smartes here as with just one click, it can randomly rename all of your existing tabs. I know to each there own BUT these 4 SHOULD be in MOST TOP 10 lists. My other 6 are - Morning Coffee, Status-bar Scientific Calculator, Dcurrency, Sxipper, Word COunt Plus& Breadcrumbs. + you've got to be kidding me with Colurful Tabs in amongst the top 10 - it sucks & is so girlish. DO you really wanna see pink colour tabs, against the background of your pictures? Man! GOod luck folks. Nitin Malhotra

dulus
dulus

Adblock Filterset.G Updater Adblock Plus Adblock Plus:Element Hiding Helper All-in-One Sidebar (optional) Domain Details Download Statusbar DownloadHelper DownThemAll! Dr.Web anti-virus link checker (optional) external IP FireFTP Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer FoxyProxy Greasemonkey gui:config Html Validator IE Tab Informational Tab Interclue (optional) Link Alert Locationbar2 NoScript PDF Download Secure Login Show IP (optional, cause Domain details do quite the same, but worth installing) Tab Control Tab Scope User Agent Switcher Web Developer and also I have some others installed ..... and of course many Greasemonkey scripts ... also some selfaltered or selfmade ...

techrepublic@
techrepublic@

Agente: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.9.0.1) Gecko/2008072403 Mandriva/3.0.1-1mdv2008.1 (2008.1) Firefox/3.0.1 Build ID: 2008072403 Extens??es ativadas: [36] * Adblock Plus 0.7.5.5 * Calculator 1.1.12 * Custom Download Manager 1.6c * CustomizeGoogle 0.75 * CuteMenus - Crystal SVG 1.9.3 * DevBoi (offline version) 0.5.2 * DevBoi PHP Package 0.1.1 * DevBoi XUL Package 0.1.1 * DOM Inspector 2.0.0 * DownloadHelper 3.2 * DownThemAll! 1.0.3 * Extension Developer 0.3.0.20080526 * Firebug 1.2.0 * Firecookie 0.6 * Firefox Showcase 0.9.4.9 * Greasemonkey 0.8.20080609.0 * keyconfig 20080611 * MeasureIt 0.3.8 * Menu Editor 1.2.6 * MR Tech Toolkit (formerly Local Install) 6.0.1 * NoScript 1.8 * Organize Status Bar 0.6.2 * Screen grab! 0.95 * SecurePassword Generator 0.5.4 * SeoQuake 2.1.10 * SeoQuake Plugin - Ask.com 1.0.5 * SeoQuake Plugin - Del.icio.us 1.0.2 * SubmitToTab 0.3.5 * Tab Mix Plus 0.3.7pre.080721 * Tab Preview 0.3 * User Agent Switcher 0.6.11 * View Source Choice 0.4 * Web Developer 1.1.6 * Wizz RSS News Reader 3.0.0.2 * Xdebug Helper 0.3 * YSlow 0.9.5b2 Total de Extens??es: 36

ray
ray

Agree with the mentions of Noscript and Adblock Plus, but the add-on I always install first is Scrapbook https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/427 I often capture pages for later reading. It also allows capturing of selections as opposed to whole pages, and has options for highlighting, editing, and combining pages.

artlife
artlife

Personally I love this. I usually have alot of tabs open and it makes them easier to see. LOL maybe just because I ain't so young anymore.

xprs2-net
xprs2-net

With the exception of NoScript, these extension are nowhere near my top ten. In my case, some the best extensions that have passed the test of time and make browsing (etc.) more productive every single day include: - Aardvark...Utility for cleaning up a page prior to printing, and for analyzing a page. - Adblock Plus...Ads were so yesterday! - Adblock Plus Element Hiding Helper...Helps you create element hiding rules for Adblock Plus to fight the text ads and just about anything else you'd rather not have on a page. - Area deCoder...Converts North American telephone area codes to localities - autoHideStatusbar...Auto-hides Firefox, Flock or Thunderbird status-bar - Compact Menu...Replaces the menubar with a button or label on the toolbar providing a menu of menus. - Consciousness Bell...Plays a Tibetan bowl chime at random intervals to evoke mindfulness; or, simply to remind you to look away from the screen for a bit. - Cookie Monster...Help with Cookie Management, especially when you reject cookies by default - ErrorZilla Mod...Implements a useful error page when a website cannot be reached. - Extension List Dumper...Dumps a list of the installed extensions (Used to generate this list of extensions from my Firefox add-ons.) - external IP...Shows your current external IP address - Fission 1.0...Progress bar in the address bar (Safari style). - Flagfox...Displays a flag depicting the country of the current server - Forecastfox...Get international weather forecasts and display it in any toolbar or statusbar with this highly customizable extension. - Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer...Synchronizes your bookmarks across machines. - IE Tab...Enables you to use the embedded IE engine within Firefox (you turn a tab into IE when needed) - Image Zoom...Adds zoom functionality for images - Linkification...Converts text links into genuine, clickable links. - Locationbar??...Formats and linkifies addresses in your Location bar. - More Tools Menu...Unclutter the "Tools" menu by moving new items to a "More Tools" menu. - NoScript...Extra protection for Firefox: NoScript allows JavaScript, Java (and other plugins) only for trusted domains of your choice (e.g. your home-banking web site). - Organize Status Bar...Organize your status bar icons. - PDF Download...Allows you to choose what to do with a PDF file: download it, view it with an external viewer or view it as HTML. - Plain Text to Link...Handle highlighted text with a right click! - Platypus...Dynamically create GreaseMonkey scripts, transform pages to what you want. - Popup Resize...Popup windows are always resizable (and related options). - Session Manager...Saves and restores the state of all windows. - Status Buttons...lets you place toolbar buttons in the status bar. (may conflict with Organize Status Bar; but having the functionality of both extensions has been really great) - Tab History...Links opened in a new tab retain their history. - Tab Kit...Tab grouping, multi-rows, tree view, and other tweaks. - TableTools...Sort, filter or copy any table ('ctrl+alt+click' sorts, 'ctrl+shift+click' shows filter, 'ctrl-z-click' etc. allows copying in various formats). - Taboo...The cure for tabitis - Tabs Open Relative...Tabs open to the right of the current one. - Toolbar Buttons...Adds toolbar buttons. - Undo Closed Tabs Button...Add a toolbar and/or tab bar button to undo closed tabs - Unhide Menubar...adds a right-click menu entry for unhiding the menu and toolbars in windows where they have been hidden by javascript. - Zotero...awesome tool for compiling, organizing and actually using research information you collect. These may or may not be extensions that you can't live without; but, for me, they turn Firefox into an even better browser every time I use it.

hammond.nancy
hammond.nancy

I have to put in a plug for KeyScrambler, a lovely little plug-in that encrypts keystrokes between the keyboard and computer. A simple, unobtrusive security enhancement.

joltmans
joltmans

My top 3 are: * TreeTab I love this one and its pretty new. It puts all your tabs in a sidebar, that can be configured to auto-expand or not, and allows you to easily organize all your tabs. I don't need multiple windows anymore after this extension to help me organize my browsing. Now my only problem is that it's way too easy to have over 100+ tabs open. * Aging Tabs This one is priceless as well. As you go about your browsing it "ages" all your unused tabs by cycling the color from a start color to an end color. Makes it easy to see which tabs you've been using and which you haven't and can probably safely close. * Web Developer has clear cache, and clear cookies and LOTS of other nifty features for web developers

nimroad
nimroad

None of those are needed neither to work or home; those necesary got to be: * Adblock Plus * PDF Download * Tab Mix Plus * Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer * IE Tab * WOT

kent5150
kent5150

You didn't mention: AdBlock with the G Filter updater Flashblock NoScript IETab PDF Download Forecast Fox, while not essential, is a nice extention too.

edmicman1
edmicman1

Nice list...my only additions would be AdBlock Plus, and some development extensions like Web Developer Toolbar, Firebug, Y!Slow, and Greasemonkey. Also, why not just use an RSS aggregator/reader like Google Reader instead of BlogRovR?

ehula
ehula

He didn't mention IE Tab or Adblock! They are essential along with NoScript. They are my first three addon installs for a new installation of Firefox.

Jaqui
Jaqui

a single one I can't live without. but then, I figure if the functionality is needed, it is in the browser without any "addons" being crammed in. so I don't use ANY addons.

andrew
andrew

Couple of interesting tips but not as essential reading as previous top 10s.

mail
mail

Guess as a web developer my can't 'live withouts' would be different from general browsing. My list (in no particular order): 1 Firebug (FF2 only at the moment) 2 Live HTTP Headers 3 LORI 4 Server Spy 5 Show IP 6 View Dependencies 7 Web Developer 8 Yellowpipe Lynx Viewer 9 Yslow 10 Either View formatted source or View Source Chart (both FF2 only for now) So, yes, I cheated and had 11 - but the last two do substantially the same job anyway.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I hate scrolling the tab bar left and right. TabMix allows me to wrap the tabs up to three lines. After that, I have to scroll again, but up and down this time. While I do work with multiple tabs, it's rare that I have that many tabs open. FF2 users can install TabMix from here: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1122. There is also a link to the FF3 version (still in development, but reliable for me...so far!) on this page.

darren
darren

The headline is rather hyperbolic. I am a developer, and I have absolutely no use for several of them, and I am not interested in most the rest of them. I agree with other comments that Adblock Plus is much closer to "can't live without" than any of those mentioned in this article.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I reviewed my list of seven or eight plugins. The only ones I would really miss are Flashblock and Feed Sidebar. Feed Sidebar is probably too rudimentary for serious RSS users, but it's the first tool that actually made RSS useful for me.

mavickers
mavickers

Clear cache: ctrl + shift + del. No button necessary.

michael.laborde
michael.laborde

FEBE is a critical extension. It allows you to schedule automatic backups of your extensions, bookmarks, and other FF settings and have several generations of backup so you can restore to an earlier version. And it works with 3.x and 3.5!

V35Flyer
V35Flyer

... weather alerts is probably more a fault of your local weather office than that of Forecastfox. FF is simply the messenger of the local weather office - the weather office is the group responsible for releasing all those, "Snowfall totals are.." alerts after big storms or "The fog alert has been canceled" alert, typically on the sunny day you to which you refer.

V35Flyer
V35Flyer

now called XMarks (just in case someone new is looking for it). XMarks is one of my top ten as well.

paul
paul

An awful lot of those you mention can be handled by TabMixPlus.

dinosaur_z
dinosaur_z

Noscript takes care of 99% of ads by blocking everything that isn't from the current domain. Love these: Forecast Fox, Undo Closed Tabs Button, (just used it) I also like these: - All-in-One Sidebar - find updates, install them, has a "restart FF" button handy, also. - Flashblock (right click Flas button to allow from site) - Safari View (Mac version of IE View) - Update Notifier (notifies you of updates available to all plugins, extentions and themes)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't think IE Tab is compatible with FF 3. I think FF 3 incorporated that functionality so the plug-in isn't necessary any more. I don't have it installed but I can still access those sites I needed it for under FF 2.

jamesgrimes
jamesgrimes

The link you have given is dead. Please fix. Thanks.

Ed H.
Ed H.

Great add-on!

owen
owen

+1 for Flashblock - especially when an accidental mouseover takes over most of your screen!

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

Not one of them. Funny, apparently I *can* live without them. :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

My preference is to not view PDFs as web pages, but to view them separately. Accordingly, both FF and IE are set to automatically open PDFs using Foxit Reader. If I want to keep the document, I can save from there easily enough.