Mozilla Firefox is a popular, free, open source web browser that is extremely (and i do mean 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 increases exponentially with every add-on that is installed. Not only can add-ons conflict with each other, they can also conflict with a native Firefox behavior. The more that are installed, the more difficult it can be to troubleshoot a problem.
Another issue that should be considered is unethical add-on developers that sometimes package unnecessary components which may include provisions for tracking your web behavior or collecting data that is not relevant to the primary function of the add-on. Although Mozilla limits what a developer is allowed to do, user tracking is permitted and so i would highly recommend that you take the following precautions before installing any add-on:
- Install the Extension Defender add-on (see below) to help protect against malicious extensions
- Be very wary of any add-on which is packaged in the form of a tool-bar! Many of these contain malware and/or spyware which is employed by the developer to monetize their add-on.
- 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.
- Visit the developer website and see what kind of content is there. Look for marketing hype and be wary of dot com domains.
My favorite Firefox add-ons
Last updated: 24-Apr-2015
There are a few very popular add-ons that are absent here, including NoScript and Adblock Plus (or Adblock Edge). While this may seem odd to some, the functionality offered by these extensions is largely covered by uBlock. See my Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs article for more information.
|Adds new functionality||Enhances existing functionality||Fixes a problem or restores removed functionality||Privacy related||Security related|
|Add to Search Bar is an extension that makes it super easy to add almost any search engine to the Firefox Search Bar.|
|There are several types of cookies and opting to block cookies from the Firefox privacy options will not block them all. Better Privacy can deal with another type of cookie: the ‘Local Shared Objects’, or so-called Flash cookies which are set by the Adobe Flash Player plugin. Better Privacy is another set-it-and-forget-it extension for most people, though there are options to protect specific LSO’s from being deleted. UPDATE: Since Firefox can now play most videos without the Adobe Flash Player plugin, i am currently no longer using Better Privacy since i have no browser plugins installed.||I suppose it may be possible to break certain websites if they rely on Flash cookies, however i have not experienced this.|
|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 for Firefox, you’re stuck with it. Unfortunately, yet another add-on is necessary to re-add the functionality that the jerks at Mozilla think you don’t need, and that add-on is Classic Theme Restorer.|
|Clean Links is a great add-on that has replaced two of my former favorites — Redirect Cleaner (extinct) and PureURL — as it does the job of both. Clean Links can remove junk from URL’s, such as Google Analytics and other tracking mechanisms, as well as any other content you wish to remove. It also cleans redirect links so you are transported directly to your destination without having to go through a middleman. Lots of options make it nicely customizable without going over the top. If you do not like being tracked across the web, this add-on is a must-have. UPDATE: I actually do not have this add-on installed any longer since i’m using Greasemonkey scripts to clean links, but i’m leaving it here since it is a nice option for those that don’t use Greasemonkey.||Basic knowledge of regular expressions is required to customize some options. This add-on can break some website functionality, but white-listing a domain is very easy.|
|Right click on a hyperlink and you only get the option to copy the link address. What if you want to copy the link text? Selecting hyperlinks can be difficult because Firefox will think you want to drag the link, not select it. Although you can use the Alt key (Windows) in many circumstances to assist you, it doesn’t always work. Copy Link Text simply adds this missing functionality as an easily accessible context menu item that always works without having to fiddle around.|
|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.|
|Extension Defender is an install-it-and-forget-it add-on which simply checks your extensions against a list of those that contain unwanted “features”, such as user tracking or malware.|
|FireFTP ia a popular and reasonably well-rounded FTP client for Firefox. The developer also offers an SSH client as well.||It has its quirks and i particularly don’t like the way you navigate local directories as it doesn’t display all the drives as Windows Explorer does, but rather only the last selected drive.|
|Flagfox is a very cool, mufti-purpose extension. At its root it simply displays the flag of the country for the website you’re visiting in the Firefox address bar (now called the “Awesome Bar”), but left and right clicking on the icon reveals many more options. For instance, right clicking the icon opens a customizable context menu from which you can select things like doing a “WhoIs” look-up for the current domain, ping, trace route, geo-locate, W3C validation, translations and even shorten the URI in the address bar using services like bit.ly or Tiny. Many more options are available if you want and you can even add your own.||Would be nice if the developer offered a tool-bar button instead of forcing the icon to display in the address bar only. 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|
|The new Greasemonkey has replaced Scriptish (which replaced an earlier version of Greasemonkey) as my favorite user script extension. 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.|
HTTP UserAgent cleaner
|Replacing HeaderControlRevived is the new HTTP UserAgent cleaner. This powerful extension enhances privacy by making browser fingerprinting more difficult, as well as beefs up Firefox security. Features include the ability to manipulate a large number of settings both globally and per domain, including cookies, web storage, the referrer, images, plugins, the user-agent and many more. HTTP UserAgent cleaner can also allow, deny or sanitize downloadable fonts and set many configuration options for secure connections, such as which ciphers may be used. While the initial configuration may take some time and research, there should not be a lot to do afterwards. See my Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs article for more information regarding HTTP UserAgent cleaner.||For advanced users. This add-on can break websites if not configured correctly.|
|So you’re working on your website and you need an image. You find one you really like, but maybe the quality is crappy or it’s too small. What to do? Right click and use a reverse image search provider to find a better version of the same image (my personal favorite is TinEye). With Image Search Options, you can do a reverse image search using any or all of a large number of service providers and even add your own.|
|Replacing the limited Menu Filter and outdated Menu Editor add-ons is Menu Wizard, a fantastic new add-on for removing, adding and rearranging the menu items for various Firefox context menus, which can become quite unruly after installing a bunch of extensions. It also handles the browser’s hot-keys.|
|If you read a lot of syndicated feeds (RSS/ATOM) NewsFox is, in my opinion, the very best extension for reading and managing your 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. I don’t like that you cannot create sub-folders within a folder.|
|Although i have used the more popular All-in-One Sidebar (AiOS) for quite a long time, i now prefer OmniSidebar. Although it is somewhat less polished in some areas and lacks a few small features of AiOS, it is feels lighter and works very well. You can also display two sidebars with it; one on the left of your display and another on the right. I especially like the sidebar switch that is used to toggle the opening and closing of the sidebar since it does not eat any screen real-estate.|
|Page not found? Want to see what a web page looked like 10 years ago? Resurrect Pages can look up the current web page or hyperlink in one of several places that archive web content including the Internet Archive and Google Cache.|
|A fork of the original ScrapBook extension, ScrapBook X is a very handy tool for storing 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.|
|Replacing Smart Text / Smart Location is Scroll Up Folder, a fairly nice little extension which makes it super simple to navigate within a domain, going up or down the URL structure. For example, you can go from
|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 Ctrl+Enter instead.|
|One of those brilliant little extensions whose functionality should be built-in in my opinion, SearchWP simply transforms the words in the Search Bar to clickable buttons. Clicking on a word button will take you to the point in the page where the word is located. It was particularly useful when installed along with the Conform SearchBox extension, however the latter is pretty broken and unmaintained.|
|Self-Destructing Cookies replaces Cookie Monster with a much simpler approach to cookie handling whereby the default policy is to accept all cookies and then delete them after you leave the domain which set them. In other words, you simply install it and forget it, unless you want to add a domain to the white-list so it’s cookies are never deleted. Self-Destructing Cookies also handles DOM storage, however this does not alleviate the need for the BetterPrivacy extension.||Though the possibility of breaking website functionality exists, it is only very slight and, personally, i’ve never had a single problem|
|Snap Links Plus is a nice extension for preforming bulk operations with links. The add-on makes it easy to select multiple links and open them in new tabs or windows, or saving them to the clipboard. You can also use it to toggle the state of selected checkboxes.|
|Mozilla’s continuing trend of dumbing down the browser to an infants level has, once again, pissed off a lot of people, this time when they removed the status bar. Status-4-Evar restores the absent functionality and adds some cool new toys as well. 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.|
|uBlock is a content blocker that replaces all other content/ad blockers for me including Adblock Plus/Edge, NoScript, Policeman and several others. Although uBlock is far superior to all other content/ad blocking extensions i have used. uBlock is capable of using the same filtering lists as Adblock Plus/Edge plus several more filter lists that the others cannot use. Two of the most welcome differences with uBlock is that it does not slow the loading time for Firefox to any noticeable degree and it uses far less memory. Another major advantage over the other Adblock extensions is that uBlock 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.||As with any content filtering extension, uBlock has the potential to break website functionality until it is configured correctly|
Some Greasemonkey scripts which i find useful:
Linx Amender – Linx Amender is a powerful tool that is well-suited to those who are not quite able to write their own Greasemokey scripts, but are knowledgeable about HTML and CSS and want to alter the appearance and/or functionality of a websites. From the official description; “Linx Amender is a powerful script that allows you to alter the page content using regular expression and rules.” There is a lot you can do with this script, though i am currently using it only to make a few changes to various websites, including http to https redirects, manipulating YouTube, removing link redirections and tracking parameters and a couple other things. Among its other capabilities, Linx Amender allows you to write JS scripts, so you can use it to write your own extensions essentially, as well as replace other user scripts.
Google Hit Hider by Domain – This is a very nice and polished script that simply allows you to remove unwanted results from a Google search, or other search providers that use Google results, such as Startpage and DuckDuckGo.
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.
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 (Windows). A keyboard shortcut probably exists for Linux and Mac as well.
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 hard work and support they provide. Developers are usually very appreciative of a donation regardless of how small it may be.