Firefox is my preferred Web browser on Linux, and one of the reasons I like it so much is due to the various extensions that are available for it. Whether you hate or love Firefox itself, the extensions are what usually turn the tide as to whether it is used, and Firefox has some great extensions that really enhance the Web browsing experience. I wanted to share a few of my favorite Firefox extensions, so here goes.

Ads and banners are a staple of the Internet. We know this, and many just try to ignore them as they surf along. And while ad revenue helps out the providers of the site you are visiting, they don’t necessarily help you — often they will hinder you because waiting for those ads to load tends to slow down the entire page. AdBlock Plus is a great add-on to get rid of them. When you first install it you will get to choose a subscription list to use, which is a list of filters to block. The “EasyList (English)” list, if you do your browsing in English, is a very good list of filters that auto-updates and should cover the majority of your needs.

One of the biggest problems with Web safety is JavaScript and, conversely, it is also one of the Web’s greatest assets in terms of how it can really enhance a Web site. But, used in the wrong hands, JavaScript is associated with any number of buzzword evils: cross-site scripting (XSS), click-jacking, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and others are all possible if you are visiting a site with a vulnerability, and you have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Disabling JavaScript is one way to work around it, but not a very convenient one as many Web sites (legitimately) require the use of JavaScript. This makes the Firefox NoScript extension so appealing. When it is installed, and you are visiting an untrusted site, NoScript gives you the details of the page you are loading: how many scripts have been blocked, how many have been permitted, etc. From here you can also see the status of NoScript (whether it is active or you are visiting a trusted site, etc.) and have easy access to allow or disallow scripts on that site via a convenient Options button.

Another cool extension is the Firefox Showcase extension. On the Mac, I liked the OmniWeb browser because it allowed you to use thumbnails of Web pages as “fat” tabs; Firefox Showcase can do the same thing. With it, you can have a sidebar that displays thumbnails of the Web pages open in existing tabs. Clicking on the thumbnail will shift focus to that tab. If the sidebar isn’t your thing, the showcase can be done in a dedicated tab, or in a separate window.

Finally, another favorite extension is the Greasemonkey extension. It allows you to change the display of Web pages by using little scripts written in JavaScript. If the idea of writing scripts to customize Web pages sounds daunting, don’t worry. The Web site maintains a really amazing collection of scripts for use with Greasemonkey. These scripts do things like force SSL connections on sites that are known to support it, add useful extra widgets to Web pages to perform specific functions, reorganize the layout of a page for better readability — even performing repetitive tasks on Facebook games. With over 51,000 scripts, there is bound to be something for everyone.

As a tinkerer, I like playing with other browsers and I think that some browsers render pages better than Firefox. But when I look at these extensions, it makes me realize that in the end, a better browsing experience can be had with Firefox because it is so extensible. I don’t know how much I would enjoy using the Web anymore without AdBlock Plus, NoScript, and Greasemonkey. Extensions like Firefox Showcase aren’t what keeps me using Firefox, but they are fun to play with.