When it comes to browsers, I’m on a constant, head-on war with clutter. If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you already know that I have a terrible case of the multiple-tab and multiple-window syndromes, and that I do what I can to minimize any kind of toolbar clutter, even if it means giving up on certain functions.
As much as I hate clutter, though, I’m only human. And humans need quick access to downloads; humans sometimes need to access bookmarks and history; humans, especially those who try to minimize add-ons, need frequent access to their add-on window; and humans definitely need multiple browser windows. At least some of the time. So how, in the name of the browser Gods, do you get easy access to all these things without going crazy on clutter and add-ons?
The secret lies with an old-timer add-on, which I nonetheless discovered only recently: All-in-One Sidebar for Firefox. We already mentioned this brilliant add-on in How To Load Google Search Results In A Preview Panel (On The Same Page), but this article only touched on a very small part of this add-on’s capabilities. While somewhat similar to Vertical Toolbar, All-in-One Sidebar is much more than a toolbar, making Firefox’s most overlooked feature – the sidebar – actually useful.
The Basics Of All-In-One Sidebar
Ready to give it a try? Head over to the add-on’s page to install it. Once that’s done, you’ll find a new vertical toolbar sitting on the left side of your browser window. All-in-One Sidebar, or AiOS as I will refer to it from now on, comes with many options and features, and finding your way around can be a bit confusing at first. So let’s take it step by step, and see what this add-on has to offer.
AiOS comes in two parts: the toolbar and the sidebar. By default, the toolbar comes with six different icons, which you can customize as you would any Firefox toolbar (right click -> customize). The default buttons are: bookmarks, history, downloads, add-ons, MultiPanel, and page info. Each of these opens the sidebar, giving you easy access to some useful information.
The toolbar itself can be customized too. Right click it to change the buttons’ appearance, and to choose the toolbar’s position relative to the sidebar.
Use the button on the top right to toggle the sidebar automatically so it’s never in your way, to open a tab’s content in the sidebar or the sidebar’s content in a tab, and to close the sidebar. Every button on AiOS comes with an informative tooltip, teaching you exactly how to activate each feature.
Making Use of The Sidebar
AiOS brings almost every important Firefox feature to the sidebar. Not only do you get quick access to your bookmarks, history, downloads and add-ons, you can also customize the experience to make it even faster. Click on the Tools button to reveal more relevant options for each section. For bookmarks and history, for example, you can have AiOS remember which folder you were looking at last and automatically focus on it, which can be extremely useful, especially for bookmarks.
The Downloads section is a real life-saver if, like me, you hate the obscurity of the Firefox downloads window. To get it to be more like Chrome, I’ve been using Download StatusBar for ages now, but AiOS takes care of this by giving you quick access to all your downloads right in the sidebar.
You can search within any of the sections to find specific bookmarks, pages you’ve visited, files you’ve download, etc. The search is live, so just start typing to see instant results.
When it comes to add-ons, you can search for, install, disable, and remove add-ons right from the sidebar. If you have any Greasemonkey or Stylish scripts installed, you can access these too from the sidebar.
The MultiPanel option lets you open two websites side by side, one in the sidebar and one in the main tab. You can change the sidebar’s width to fit your needs, or choose the “Small Screen Rendering” option, if the the website supports it. Using this option, you can have your email tab always visible, easily browse search results, etc. You just have to be creative. You can also bring up detailed page information for any webpage you’re viewing, tweak permissions for specific sites, and more.
Each of the available AiOS sections can also be called upon via keyboard shortcuts. Many of these are the same ones you may already be used to from your pre-AiOS days, so there’s not going to be much of a learning curve.
Want the sidebar to appear on the right? Want to open it with mouse hover instead of click? Or maybe you don’t want downloads to open in the sidebar for some reason? You can tweak almost anything you can think of from the Options (Ctrl+Shift+F4 or “All-in-One Sidebar Options” from the top menu).
From here you can also set the sidebar’s default minimum, standard and maximum width, change the keyboard shortcuts, add and remove menu entries, and more. More advances settings are available through the Settings button. All advanced options are marked in red to help you tell the difference.
To make sure you won’t lose your settings after spending valuable time tweaking them, you can export them to a TXT file, and import them into the add-on again on a different computer. This is also a great way to back up your settings, just in case. You can even copy your settings to the clipboard.
I’m not easily impressed with add-ons, but All-in-One Sidebar is an excellent addition to anyone’s Firefox browser. Yes, you shouldn’t install too many browser extensions, but AiOS can easily replace several you’re already using, and comes with so many different functions, I didn’t even come close to describing them all in this post. AiOS feels like an add-on programmed with actual users in mind, and as such, it won’t stop surprising you.
Don’t forget to check out our free Firefox guide for more useful Firefox tips.
Which are your favorite add-ons? What do you think of All-in-One Sidebar?