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?
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.
- 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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Oct 2006
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- FireFox Extensions (Posted: 25 Oct 2006)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved