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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

firefoxheader.gif

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.

  1. Ken
    November 6, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Since installing Linux Mint I no longer have spyware/virus issues and have system stability. I have access to 30,000 open source software programs and it's totally customizable without any restrictions. Don't think I will ever need to go back to Windows.

  2. Tina
    September 5, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    You should ask this question at MakeUseOf Answers: http://www.makeuseof.com/answe...

  3. Ankit_ghava
    September 5, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    In Windows 7 64 bit i have problem i cannot move mouse cursor while using keyboard

    Eg:- in game walking with keyboard and changing screen or direction with mouse not possible pLZ HELP to solve this problem...

  4. Tina
    September 4, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Thanks for spotting the mistake! I didn't realize this limit was dropped and obviously relied on an outdated source of information.

  5. sburkle
    September 3, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Windows 7 Starter doesn't have the three app limit like you mentioned. It was rumored but dropped before Windows 7 was released last year.
    http://www.computerworld.com/s...

  6. Sushi Inbc
    September 3, 2010 at 5:08 am

    I've been using Win7 Home Premium since March and must say I'm totally pleased. My experience is with Photo Editing (Corel), CD Burning(Roxio), Video (ProShow) and of course the web ( Firefox & Chrome). For me all programs work smoothly & quickly. Win7 is a major improvement over Vista. I don't see any reason to move up the Windows ladder.

    Guy in Victoria

  7. RanMan
    December 27, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    I am a extension nut. Every now and then I eliminate some only to find out about another and install. I have 50 ! However, I have eliminated most that relate to bookmarks because I now use "Tidy Favorites". A very cool program that I have 190 bookmarks placed on.

    I also agree with Menu Editor. Works great and removes 80% of the clutter.

  8. Ryan
    October 29, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    My Google Notebook does save pictures -- I have a huge notebook that has about 30 pictures in it. Weird.

  9. Gerrit
    September 23, 2007 at 5:06 am

    Thanks for this interesting post!
    I agree that sometimes - less is more. But as you mentioned a few plugins are must-haves. On my top-list their is another developer extension:

    Firebug - It helps you to edit and debug websites in real-time.

    And yes, I also was one of those install-everything-and-see-whats-happening guys until I realized that there are only a few really essential addons.

  10. Aibek
    September 19, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Yeah, colorful tabs helps only when you have lots of open tabs. I usually have 20-30 tabs running (sometimes up to 90) so it's really invaluable to me.

  11. K-IntheHouse
    September 19, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Mark.. I should try MozBackup anyways just because I love trying new Firefox extensions. Otherwise how would you know if something else is better right? :-)

    About FEBE, the newer versions have been rock solid for me! Since I play with so many extensions, I in fact rely totally on FEBE to dump profiles and recreate new ones with my linux dekstop, work desktop and home computer to sync with my profile in Laptop! Whatever works for us, right? :-)

  12. mark
    September 18, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    K-InTheHouse : If I were you, I would abandon FEBE and use MozBackup instead - http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/back-up-your-firefox-profile-with-mozbackup - I used to use FEBE and when I needed it to restore a Firefox profile, it failed and I lost everything... :-(

    Aibek : I had colorful tabs for ages but in the end, I uninstalled it as it has no real practical use - it's just window dressing. I try to not open so many tabs at once anyway so the color thing didn't really make things better for me.

  13. K-IntheHouse
    September 18, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Oops, I meant 'wear the same hat'!

  14. K-IntheHouse
    September 18, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    I think we were the same hat when it comes to Firefox. :-) I follow pretty much every word you have written but I do have a couple more extensions that I love.

    SimpleDelicious - You won't know your bookmarks are on the web. Classy. Tags becomes your bookmark folders. Easy to add and delete.

    WebSearchPro - One place to search through your own list of sites.

    IE View Lite - Totally rewritten. Small footprint. Adds a context menu.

    FEBE/CLEO - To backup my entire Firefox profile and import my profile into any number of computers. CLEO can create your own xpi file as a collection of your fav extensions.

    ScreenGrab - to get screenshots for blogging.

    Sorry for the long list. But, when it comes to FF I can go on all day. :-) I have to try out Clippings though.

    Cheers!

  15. Aibek
    September 18, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    I liked most of the mentioned extensions, here a couple of my favorites:

    1. Smart Digg Button: See digg status of any webpage (submitted/nr.diggs) in the browser toolbar.

    2. ColorfulTabs: colors every tab in a different color and makes easy to distinguish between the tabs while beautifying the overall appeal.

  16. mark
    September 18, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    I've heard from various people that the IEtab is a drain on the CPU and can slow Firefox down. have you experienced this?

  17. Neil Watson
    September 18, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Nice articleMark. I'd add three more to your list:

    NoScript: It can be a bit noisy, but at least you get to decide which sites can run scripts.

    IETab: Because some sites require Internet Explorer and it's a pain to have to run IE for them.

    Flashblock: Because most of the time Flash animations slow you down even more than Firefox addons!

    I travel a fair amount, so I leave the search box - Google is so clever nowadays that when I google from a hotel in Bahrain I get Google in Arabic. At least with the search box I can be sure I'll get Google UK.

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