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FirefoxAs a big fan of “Show and Tell” at school, I thought I would continue the tradition by showing you some web-based applications that I use on a regular basis along with my favourite features, shortcuts, tricks and so on. We’ll start with Mozilla Firefox.

Every newbie Firefox user gets carried away and installs 50 extensions then wonders why the browser is as fast as a Microsoft security patch update. I was definately no exception and when I finally twigged on, I went on a mini-rampage, cutting my extensions to my top ten and removing unneeded functions.

THE TOP BAR

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Say hi to my top bar (there’s nothing to the right, except for the search boxes so I cut that part out of the picture). As you can see, I try to keep the top bar as minimal as possible. Using the excellent Menu Editor, I was able to remove entire menus that I didn’t need, either because I don’t use it or because I can do the same function with a keyboard shortcut – instead of a refresh button, I do CTRL-R instead. Instead of a stop button, I do ESC and instead of a cache menu, I do CTRL-H. You get the idea.

With the two drop-down menus remaining, I also used Menu Editor to remove options I don’t need. That and the extensions for Del.icio.us, eBay and StumbleUpon is all that constitutes my top bar. Uncluttered and easy to navigate. In fact, I am about to remove the bookmarks menu too (the Lesezeichen menu in the picture) as I rarely ever bookmark anything in Firefox. Nearly everything gets bookmarked in my del.icio.us account. I also removed the bookmarklet bar and the Google toolbar to give myself more screen space.

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You should do the same with your top bar. Get Menu Editor and hack away everything you don’t need. Be ruthless. Do you really need two toolbars? With unneeded features deactivated, you should notice a slight improvement in overall Firefox performance plus your browser will feel more pleasant to work with, now the clutter is out of the way.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, the browser theme is Modern Modoki.

THE EXTENSIONS

firefoxxpi.gif Counting them just now, I realised I had creeped up to 12 extensions (so much for my top ten!) but these are ones that I find completely invaluable in my daily work and productivity.

1. Aardvark : removes page elements such as adverts. If I want to email someone the text on a page (for example a news article), I use Aardvark to remove the adverts that are in the way. This results in less printer ink being wasted and a nice neat copy of the text I want to send. This doesn’t remove the adverts entirely (unlike Ad-Block) – the adverts and other deleted elements will return if you close then re-open the browser and the webpage.

2. Better Gmail : a great extension for giving your Gmail an adrenalin shot. Plus it allowed me to uninstall a lot of Gmail-related Greasemonkey scripts. Which brings me to……

3. Greasemonkey : I have drastically cut back on using this in the past few months as some scripts can hinder your Firefox, not help it. But nevertheless, this is still one of my must-haves. Using Greasemonkey, I can search multiple Amazon sites instantly, add an auto-feed for Google Reader and detect duplicates entries on my del.icio.us account.

4. Clippings – you can use this extension to save blocks of text so you don’t have to keep writing repetitive reports, emails and so on. I also use it to store my various email signatures, personal website URL’s and much more. Saves me a ton of time not having to type all that out over and over.

5. Copy Plain Text – this one is so popular that when Firefox updated and the extension suddenly stopped working, everyone emailed the extension author and got an update out double-quick. This is really great if you want to copy and paste text from a webpage without any HTML formatting. This is especially good in emails and Microsoft Word when you are trying to keep the same font.

6. Del.icio.us – one of the most important extensions in my browser and the one that gets the most strenuous daily workout.

7. StumbleUpon – I used to stumble a great deal but now I only occasionally use it if I am bored (I am contemplating uninstalling it).

8. Firefox Companion for eBay – I have been using this since they first released it as a beta product. It is excellent, especially the pop-up notifications.

9. Google Notebook – I have been experimenting with various online notebooks, mainly Zoho, but I always keep coming back to Google. My only complaint about Google Notebook is that it doesn’t save images, only text. But it is still useful if I want to cannibalise information from a webpage.

10. InFormEnter -places a small arrow next to webform input boxes and clicking on that arrow, you can instantly fill that box in with pre-entered information such as your name and address. Saves you a ton of time not having to laboriously fill out online registration forms and then worry if you spelt your email address properly or not. Very similar to Google’s AutoFill function on their toolbar.

11. MeasureIt – as a website builder and blogger, I often need to take screen measurements to see if everything will fit. Measureit is basically a Firefox tape measure that will measure something on your screen by the number of pixels.

12. Menu Editor – as mentioned before. You can deactivate and remove menu options or options on menus. You can also clean up your Firefox right-click menu.

THE SHORTCUTS & TRICKS

Apart from the ones mentioned above, you can also see more at a MakeUseOf article Speed up Firefox Browsing with Keyboard Shortcuts Speed up Firefox Browsing with Keyboard Shortcuts Read More I wrote about Firefox shortcuts. I use shortcuts a lot and it really does save time, ignoring the mouse.

As for tricks, my best one is to uninstall all the Firefox search engines (in the top right search box area) and instead use the URL address bar. Just type in your search term(s) in the URL bar and that will immediately take you to Google. You can also use the tab key to jump from link to link on a page instead of using the mouse.

So that’s Firefox. Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at Google Reader and the shortcuts I use to get through over 200 feeds a day! I will also highlight some RSS feeds you should be looking at in your RSS reader. Stay tuned for that.

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