This page was last updated on 8 Sep., 2017
Mozilla Firefox is a popular, free, open source web browser that is extremely configurable and easy to use. Somewhat bare out of the box however, its functionality is easily extended with add-ons, or extensions if you prefer, of which there are many thousands.
With so many add-ons, most of which are free, the casual user might be tempted to install a large number of them, however i would highly recommend installing only the add-ons you really like or need since the potential to break things and compromise browser security and your privacy increases with every add-on that is installed.
Another issue that should be considered is unethical add-on developers that sometimes package unwanted and unnecessary components which may include provisions for tracking your web activities or other behavior that is not relevant to the expected function of the add-on. Although Mozilla limits what an add-on developer is allowed to do, user tracking and advertising is permitted and so i would highly recommend that you take the following precautions before installing any add-on:
- Be very wary of any add-on which is packaged in the form of a tool-bar. Many/most of these contain 3rd party spyware components which are employed by the developer to monetize their add-on.
- Read the Permissions to learn what capabilities the extension requires. Older add-ons which were not ported to WebExtensions are known as Legacy add-ons and may access all browser functions. Given a choice, i would suggest using WebExtension add-ons wherever possible and only those which require the permissions necessary to accomplish the functionality you expect from it.
- Check the user reviews to see how well an add-on is liked and be wary if it is rated at 3 or less stars, or not rated at all.
- Even if the add-on is rated 4 or more stars, check the comments of the people that gave it the lowest rating to see if their gripe may be legitimate. Several very popular add-ons contain unwanted functionality such as user profiling/tracking including Abduction, a screen capture utility; Quick Locale Switcher, a language switcher; FasterFox Lite, a largely useless utility which claims to speed-up Firefox; BlockSite, a content blocker; Google’s Search By Image, a reverse image search utility, and many others.
- Visit the developer website if one is available and see what kind of content is there. Look for marketing hype and be wary of dot com domains. I would also suggest being weary of developers that provide neither a website where the add-on code is hosted nor a method to submit support requests.
It was always very important for me to be honest and fair to the users. I had very good offers to sell the extension, but I didn’t want to see that AiOS turn into adware or spyware.
My favorite Firefox add-ons
There are a few very popular add-ons that are absent here, including NoScript, Adblock Plus (or Adblock Edge), Ghostery, etc.. While this may seem odd to some, the functionality offered by these extensions is largely covered by uBlock Origin and uMatrix. See my Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs article for more information.
Regarding the Adobe Flash Player, i do not install the Flash extension since you can watch most videos without it and therefore i have no need to worry about the security and privacy risks associated with it. If you have trouble watching some videos without Flash, try the EmbedUpdater add-on below.
|Adds new functionality||Enhances existing functionality||Fixes a problem or restores removed functionality||Privacy related||Security related|
|BetterStop extends the functionality of the Esc key (or Stop button) with options to stop page loading and network activity. Very simple and transparent with no added toolbar icons or fuss.|
|Not happy with the new Australis interface for Firefox? I don’t blame you, but if you want the latest gizmo’s and security fixes, you’re stuck with it. Unfortunately, yet another add-on is necessary to re-add the functionality that the wizards at Mozilla think you don’t need, and that add-on is Classic Theme Restorer. In addition to its many settings for manipulating the appearance of Firefox, CTR also makes is easy to disable some of the “features” which rely on 3rd party services, including the Hello and Pocket features.|
|The highly configurable Easy Copy add-on provides the ability to copy various content, such as hyperlink text, page titles and their links, excerpts and more, in various formats. For example it makes it easy to copy both a page title and link which is formatted for posting on a forum.|
|While many popular video websites now serve video using the HTML5 format, many videos that are embedded on 3rd party sites do not. EmbedUpdater aims to solve that problem, thus reducing the need to have the ever-vulnerable Adobe Flash Player plug-in installed.|
|Exif Viewer does nothing more than allow you to view the EXIF metadata stored in many JPEG images, including the camera and exposure info and, when available, the GPS location of the image.|
|Flagfox is a neat utility that adds an icon to the address bar which represents the flag of the country in which the web server is located. When the icon is right-clicked, a context menu is revealed with many more tools, such as a WHOIS lookup, URL shortening services and more. You can also add your own services.||If you choose to display the menu icons, they are not stored locally and have to be fetched the first time you open the menu|
|Greasemonkey is for running user created scripts which are typically used to change how a website functions and/or looks. Some of the most popular scripts allow you to download videos from sites like YouTube, or enhance the functionality of sites like Facebook and Google. You can even find some proof of concept scripts for defeating CAPTCHA’s, though they don’t appear to be fully baked just yet. For a selection of scripts that i personally find useful, see the bottom of this page.||Installing user scripts is a security and stability risk! While this holds true for extensions as well, scripts are generally not scrutinized to the degree extensions are when download from Mozilla. Some sites that host scripts do not preform any security checks at all. Be sure to read the feedback from others, as well as the history of the developer, before installing any script.|
|Load from Cache simply forces resources to be loaded from cache when possible instead of re-fetching them. This helps with tracking and privacy, especially when the requested resource is from a CDN. Load from Cache is an install-it-and-forget-it add-on.|
|Menu Filter makes it easy to disable unwanted items in the browsers various context menus.|
|If you read a lot of syndicated feeds (RSS/ATOM) NewsFox is, in my opinion, the best extension for reading and managing your news feeds within Firefox, even given the caveats i have listed. It offers a lot of configuration options for reading, organizing and marking the status of feeds, and it has a clean, intuitive, customizable, 3 pane interface.||NewsFox can briefly hang the Firefox GUI while checking feeds. The problem worsens as more threads are enabled in the settings. I don’t like that you cannot create sub-folders within a folder.|
|Reverse Image Search can use either the TinEye or Google Images to help you find alternate versions of an image. Reverse image searching is a handy tool when trying to locate a better quality version of an image or when and where an image was first published.|
|A fork of the original ScrapBook extension, ScrapBook X is a very handy tool for storing and organizing scraps of text, web pages or images that you want to save. I use it often when i research subject matter, such as when i wrote the NPR article. You can import, combine and export your scrap book, including exporting as HTML. If you need more power, try Zotero.|
|Scroll Up Folder, a fairly nice little extension which makes it super simple to navigate within a domain by moving up or down the URL structure by hovering over the address bar and using your mouse wheel. For example, you can go from ||For some reason the author coded this extension so that it adds “www.” to the domain when navigating up to the root domain even when there is no “www.”, though i’ve never yet had any problems with this.|
|Search Site is a great little extension that adds another icon in the right side of the Search Bar that, when clicked, will search only the current website for your search terms. Though there are others like it, i particularly like the way it’s integrated. If another icon is too much for you, you can hide it and just use Ctrl+Enter instead.|
|Status-4-Evar restores the absent functionality of the status bar which was removed long ago, as well as adding some cool new toys. Even if you don’t use the status bar, Status-4-Evar is still very useful if you want to move browser elements, such as the pop-up of the hovered link address or network status, to another location. I use it primarily to move the link target to the address bar where it used to be.|
|The Archiver can both archive web pages and retrieve archived copies of archived pages using the Wayback Machine, Archive.is and WebCite. It is a handy tool for research, or if you just want to see what a previous version of a page looks like.|
|uBlock Origin is a superior content filter that replaces all other content/ad blockers for me, including Adblock Plus/Edge, NoScript, Policeman and several others. It is capable of using the same filter lists as Adblock Plus/Edge as well as many more that the others cannot use. Two of the most welcome differences with uBlock Origin is that it does not slow the loading time for Firefox to any noticeable degree and it uses less memory then the Adblock derivatives. Another major advantage over the other Adblock extensions is that it can block both 1st and 3rd party requests for images, scripts and frames. See my Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs article for more information regarding uBlock Origin. Lastly, note that there are two versions of uBlock; uBlock and uBlock Origin. I highly recommend that you use uBlock Origin which is written by the original developer, Raymond Hill.||As with any content filtering extension, uBlock Origin has the potential to break website functionality until it is configured correctly|
|uMatrix, another very powerful content blocker also by Raymond Hill, is similar to uBlock Origin however it offers more granular control over blocking various resources including cookies, CSS, images, plug-ins, scripts, XHR, frames and more. In my case i use uBlock Origin as an install-it-and-forget-it solution for blocking ads and malware domains, while i use uMatrix to block the aforementioned resources. It is perfectly fine to use both together, but i would suggest reading my guide, Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs, for information on how to properly configure them to get the most out of each one.||As with any content filtering extension, uMatrix has the potential to break website functionality until it is configured correctly|
Some Greasemonkey scripts which i find useful:
ViewTube – One of the better scripts for dealing with YouTube stupidity, this script prevents auto-play and allows you to view videos in a variety of formats, including HTML5 or by using an external player such as VLC. ViewTube also makes it easy to download video files in all of the various formats and levels of quality it can detect. ViewTube works with many video sharing sites other than YouTube and can be extended to work with even more using the ViewTube+ add-on which you can download from the home page.
In the privacy department, there are a few scripts written by members of the ghacksuserjs project which offers a security and privacy-centric
user.js template to make Firefox and websites respect your privacy. Currently these scripts include Conceal history.length, Conceal window.name and Clear window.opener, all of which can be found in the User Scripts section of their wiki. To add these scripts to Greasemonkey, open
about:addons in your browser and click the User Scripts heading. Now go to the wiki page and copy one of the scripts, then click New User Script… link at the top of the User Scripts settings page. A form will appear at the bottom of which should be a button labeled Use Script From Clipboard. After the script is pasted, a new window should display with the full script after which you can save it and you’re done.
See my guide Firefox: Troubleshooting Add-On Issues.
Doing it without an add-on
Enhancing privacy and security
See my Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs article for more information.
See my Firefox Scroll Tweak tutorial for how to enable dynamic, silky smooth scrolling without using an extension.
Copying text without formatting
Sometimes you may want to copy text without the added HTML markup. While i am not aware of any way to do this without an extension, you can do the next best thing, which is paste the text without the formatting. To do this, simply paste using Ctrl+Shift+V instead of Ctrl+V. This works on Windows and Linux.
Removing the Firefox window title-bar on Linux, KDE
See this article: Tutorial: Remove Firefox Title Bar On Linux KDE – Alternate Methods
If you like an add-on, or any other free software, please donate to the developer. Trust me when i tell you that most developers of free software usually receive nothing, or next to nothing for all their hours of hard work and the support they provide. Developers are usually very appreciative of a donation regardless of how small it may be.