FireFox Extensions

Category: Browsers

I switched to FireFox because I like some of the unique features it offers. I've heard people talk about Firefox extensions that sound really cool, but I'm not sure if they are safe to use, given all the concerns about spyware now. Can you give a list of popular Firefox add-ons and also address the security issue?

firefox extensions add-ons

Customizing FireFox with Extensions and Add-Ons

Because Firefox is open source and was designed to allow third-party add-ons, you can do a lot to trick out your Firefox browser. That's why some people prefer Firefox over Internet Explorer, which is pretty much whatever Microsoft decides to throw out to the masses.

You're smart to be concerned about browser extensions and the possibility that they might contain spyware or other nasties. There have been cases of spyware and viruses masquerading as Firefox extensions, and any time you place new software on your computer, there is a risk.

But there is a place to look for Firefox extensions that have passed the test of public scrutiny and can be regarded as safe to use. The Mozilla Firefox Add-ons page is your starting point for FireFox add-ons, extensions and plugins. It's a clearinghouse for user-written extensions that have become well-known and popular. You can browse a list of popular extensions or search for one that you're looking for.

Popular Firefox Extensions

Here are some of my favorite Firefox add-ons and extensions. All of them can be downloaded via the
Mozilla Firefox Add-ons page.

  • Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer is a great tool to for people who use Firefox on more than one computer. Install it on each computer, and it will keep your bookmarks synchronized.
  • Gmail Space lets you commandeer the 2 GB of space in your Gmail account and use it for remote file storage. Transfer files from your hard drive to Gmail space and share them with friends, or use it as a backup for large files like photos, music and videos.
  • Greasemonkey lets you change how your favorite pages behave and look, by adding snippets of Javascript code. Many scripts are available at UserScripts to customize the look and feel of popular websites, and nerdy javascript mavens can create their own scripts to use and share with others. One popular GreaseMonkey script is Google Counter, which puts numbers next to the Google search results.
  • Flashblock is handy if you're annoyed by those all-singing, all-dancing Flash animations on websites you visit. This extension blocks Flash objects from starting, and lets you click if you DO want to view them.
  • StumbleUpon lets you "channel surf" the Internet for great websites, and get collaborative recommendations according to your interests. You can rate, review or share what you find, and keep an online history of the things you've Stumbled upon.
  • Map+ lets you highlight an address on a web page and quickly pop up a customizable Yahoo map without changing windows or tabs.
  • FireFTP is a secure FTP client that snaps into Firefox and lets you transfer files quickly to remote servers. FireFTP also does directory comparison & synch, to keep your website files in synch with your development local folder.
  • VideoDownloader lets you easily download videos from Youtube, Google, and other video sites that don't have handy download links. In addition to videos, this add-on will also make it possible to grab mp3s, flash, and quicktime files embedded on web pages.

Should I Customize Firefox?

You can add some useful functions to Firefox with extensions. But there can be a downside. I've seen some Firefox users become so used to an extension, that when they use someone else's computer, they don't understand why some things don't work like they expect. And the opposite can be true as well. I was watching a friend give a demo on his highly customized Firefox browser once, and there were several times I had to interrupt him to ask what he had just done. "That's a Firefox extension," he'd explain, or "That's a really cool GreaseMonkey script."

It's kind of like giving a pilot the option to re-organize all the dials and levers in the cockpit, change the look and feel of the console, and add new buttons to make the plane do cool tricks. As long as you're the only pilot on that plane, and you never fly other planes, that's just fine.

Do you have comments about Firefox add-ons, extensions or plugins? Post your thoughts below...

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Most recent comments on "FireFox Extensions"

Posted by:

09 Nov 2006

My 3 favourite extensions are:

1. eBay Negs! - when you right click on an eBay User's name you're shown a list of all negative feedback that that user has received.

2. PDF Download - when a webpage is in pdf format, you're given a choice of what to do (download it, open it with an external viewer or view in HTML

3. NoScript - this extension gives you total control over which sites are permitted to use Javascript and other plugins.

Posted by:

14 Nov 2006

Got a whole bunch of 'em - including FoxClocks (handy because my family is spread out over the globe), IE Tab (solves any issues where a page absolutely insists on only working in IE), Geolocation Plugin (pretty cool, tells you where a host IP is), and my favorite of all, Israel Radio Toolbar, which lets me listen to my favorite stations there while I surf. (There are radio toolbars available for other countries, too.) And then there are various themes to choose from, too, so the interface doesn't get boring. Firefox rules!

Posted by:

14 Nov 2006

I've also added Bookmark search, Evernote, IE tab (view IE inside Firefox), McAfee SiteAdvisor (***), New Tab button on tab bar, Quick Zoom, Resize it, and Web Developer.

Posted by:

14 Nov 2006

I'm a librarian and I'd like to see researchers using the library more. I like the firefox extension LibX very much because it integrates library holdings into web searches, google searches, amazon searches, etc.

Posted by:

14 Nov 2006

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned my favorite Firefox plug-in: Adblock! It's not perfect, but it blocks most of those annoying ads that dance, jump, and slug commercial Web pages. It recognizes all the major ad sources, and lets you block others. Makes browsing much more peaceful!

EDITOR'S NOTE:Have you thought about the ethics of ad blockers? Content creators who provide free quality

materials, who choose not to charge an access or subscription fee, are the ones who suffer. Without

online advertising, I would not be able to provide this service, or TOURBUS. Putting up with ads to gain free access to content is what makes a big part of the Internet work.

Posted by:

14 Nov 2006

I agree about Flashblock and NoScript, although you may need to whitelist a fair number of sites in the former. NoScript is not for beginners: it provides control but you have to know what to let through and do it manually. I sure hope none of these contain spyware!

Posted by:

Giles Cresswell
15 Nov 2006

Another extension I love in this day and age of sites requiring a sign up is the BugMeNot extension.

Rather than going to their site for passwords you can right click on the login form and it will cycle through the submitted IDs until it finds one that works.

Posted by:

Mark W Johnson
22 Apr 2007

I am trying to download some dvd covers from a web site, when I choose the one I want, I click on it, and instead if the cover I get a box with an "X" in it. how do I correct this?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Is that happening after you download? If so, you may not be saving it as the correct filetype. Try JPG if GIF doesn't seem to work.

Posted by:

Cathryn Peters
26 Apr 2007

Just recently I upgraded to the newest version of Firefox, but have not been able to get back the PageRank icon that was there before the upgrade. How do I get that back?

EDITOR'S NOTE: It may be a plugin that's no longer supported. There is another one called SearchStatus that works -- I just installed it a few days ago.

Posted by:

Joan Bright
02 Mar 2010

I cannot find simple, clear instructions quickly on how to move my Explorer 8 Favorites to Firefox. I cannot access all features on my social networking website of choice from Explorer, as of today (yesterday, it worked fine, and so I re-downloaded Firefox, which I gave up on several versions ago, after using IT for a while and moving away from Explorer, because I wanted to try Firefox. Got used to FF, then it started crashing every single time I clicked a link in any email from Gmail. Gave up, went back to Explorer. So I have a lot of Favorites marked in Explorer. I tried to "Export" Favorites from Explorer to FF. Don't see them in Bookmarks, don't know where the heck they went to. Help! They don't have the software/extension you list in your article and I don't think it will help, anyway. Downloaded Xmarks, I can't figure out what it's good for, frankly. Joan

Posted by:

green thumb 7
01 Apr 2011

The final release of Firefox 4 is available for download. It now looks more like Google Chrome. Cool add-ons I like in Firefox (they work in both 3.x and 4 versions): "Flagfox" (you can see location of the server where your web page is, you can see its IP address, you can ping it and a few more), "Read it Later" (you can choose to read a web page later by just one click) and Web of Trust (WOT) which shows a color-coded circle beside web page links so that you can know if people have reported bad things about a web page and allows you to add your own ranking.

Posted by:

Andre Chenier
22 Jul 2011

The one FF add-on I would not do without is Speed Dial which presents the user with a "chequer board" page, each square being a link to a favorite site.

BTW, talking about ethics, how about making a small donation to developers whose products are tools that make frequent "donations" to the quality of your internet usage? (NO, I am not an add-on developer!)

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