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May 11, 2008

The Vulpine Metamorphosis

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 12:55 am

These days, anyone claiming that browser-wars are still around tends to sound like a broken record (or Rihanna — eventually the same thing anyway). In reality, the grandmother theorem, which has been around for about three years now, states that “Firefox > Internet Explorer for all Firefox versions >= 0.1 (Pescadero)”.

Nevertheless, as far as I believe, Firefox wouldn’t have been able to provide such a great browsing experience for a diverse range of Internet users without the ever useful addons — the little “extensions” that provide new functionalities or enhance existing ones in the browser. With the choice of these addons being a persistent topic of discussion among the fox-fans, I thought of compiling a list of addons I have been using for over about two year now. These addons have become an integral part of my day-to-day browsing and any Firefox user should at least try them once just to see how convenient they make your internet surfing. Giddy up!

  • CoLT: Suppose you want to copy the text on a hyperlink. The traditional way would be to position your cursor at the start, click and select the link till the end and then Ctrl+C. The shortcoming is pretty obvious, as it is cumbersome to position the cursor at the beginning without it being turned into a “hand”. This extension provides the intuitive solution in the form of a “Copy link text” menu entry when you right-click a hyperlink.
  • DownThemAll!: Forget KGet. Forget Download Accelerator Plus. This extension does everything a download manager should do and does it with style. It can resume, pause, download in chunks, download all the links on a page, filter those links according to a criterion and does all of this with easily customizable settings.
  • File Title: An extension which, IMO, should be pre-compiled in Firefox. When saving webpages, it provides the page titles as the file name instead of the original (usually worthless) file names e.g., “index.html”.
  • Greasemonkey: The grand daddy of ‘em all. No top Firefox extensions’ list can ever be truly complete without Greasemonkey. It’s an extension which allows you to install other tiny “scripts” that work on particular websites. For example, Orkut’s design has this annoying habit of being centered on my screen even when I have more horizontal space available on it. With a Greasemonkey extension, I can change the behavior so that Orkut “stretches” across the screen and spans all the occupied space. Similarly, I can use Greasemonkey to change layout or theme of popular websites. The count of these tiny scripts approaches infinity, as there are even books out there that just document how to write them.
  • Pearl Crescent Page Saver: Another useful addon, this one provides menu and toolbar options for capturing “screenshots” of webpages.
  • Save Session: More often than not, you have to exit Firefox while you’re browsing (e.g., you want to shut-down your PC, the PC wants to shut-down just because “Windows told ya!”, you have installed another addon or your cat is messing with the power-cord etc.). Save Session allows your to save the current “state” of your browsing so that you can later on continue exactly from where you left off. Nifty, isn’t it?
  • SmoothWheel: This addon makes page-scrolling relatively smoother depending on the settings — something Opera addicts shall be delighted to discover in Firefox.
  • Tab Scope: Another “Opera-ish” addon, this one creates pop-up thumbnails of open-tabs when you hover your cursor on them. Very useful for habitual users of tabs.
  • User Agent Switcher: Allows you to switch your user agent string which identifies your browser on the websites you visit. Useful for bypassing “browser checks”, e.g., websites which allow only Internet Explorer access (as brain-dead as that sounds, they do exist).

“And so at last the beast fell and the unbelievers rejoiced. But all was not lost, for from the ash rose a great bird. The bird gazed down upon the unbelievers and cast fire and thunder upon them. For the beast had been reborn with its strength renewed, and the followers of Mammon cowered in horror.” — The Book of Mozilla, 7:15

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