For the last week and a half I’ve been trying out Firefox as my primary web browser. Back when I was a Windows guy I switched to Firefox because of the innovations it introduced and most importantly the extensions available for it. Now that I’m exclusively a Mac / Linux guy I figured I would check out the Firefox add-on market and see what’s available.
It’s important to note that the web browser is more than just a device to view web pages. I personally do a lot of data entry through web pages, mainly with this blog. Since I use Blogger I end up composing these posts using the in-page editor. Obviously if you comment on this blog you will be using a simple text editing surface to enter your comments. This can extend further when you look at online products like those offered from Google, including e-mail, word processing and spreadsheets.
I also do a lot of my development work using a web browser. In some cases it is to simply see the results of the application I am working on and in others I am trying to work out CSS issues or image alignment problems. Fortunately the Firefox add-in space has an extensive library of tools to make life easier.
Given that as an introduction, what follows are the add-ons I found tremendously helpful.
As I have for many years I use several computers in my daily work. I have my Mac Pro, which is my primary development machine and overall workhorse. I have my new MacBook Pro, which I use when traveling and for taking to meetings. I have a great little Ubuntu workstation that I use for some testing and to host certain external services and goofing around in general. Each of these machines is running Firefox and as a result I have 3 different sets of bookmarks.
Foxmarks is an add-on and free online service that synchronizes your bookmarks. Not only does it keep your bookmarks synchronized it also provides a web site that you can access from anywhere (my.foxmarks.com) where you can view the bookmarks. While this is very similar to the bookmark component that’s offered with Mobile Me from Apple, the service is free. Since Mobile Me does not support Firefox bookmarks you now have a way to keep those bookmarks synchronized as well.
I spend a fair amount of time in forums and responding to comments in this blog. In these cases being able to insert HTML links, character formatting and image references can be a bit of a pain. BBCode provides some nice context sensitive menu help to formatting. I have used this extension for years and if you spend any time in online forums you will really appreciate it.
Though I have more sources of weather information than I can shake a stick at I love being able to glance down at the status bar of my current browser window and get a reading on the weather. Forecastfox, something I’ve used for years, fits that bill perfectly. Not only can I see a little radar view of my area I can click and get access to a detailed AccuWeather forecast.
One of the challenges in doing web based design is matching up colors perfectly. Sometimes you just need to make sure that your web page’s background matches the RGB color of a part of an image. ColorZilla provides a nice little way of "color dropping" any part of your web page and then seeing the RGB value for that.
Once you’ve selected a color you can copy it in standard formats to the clipboard, making it easy to insert into HTML or CSS.
So there you have it, my first cut at some great Firefox extensions. I didn’t count 1Password, though technically that does appear as an add-on to Firefox. I’m still looking for a decent dictionary reference to replace the fact that Control-Command-D does not work in Firefox. The number of add-ons and themes for Firefox is incredible; well over 5,000 of them. While quantity is no indication of quality, there are several more that I really am looking forward to trying out.
Got a favorite that I didn’t include? Let me know!