Firefox Extensions: My Picks

The ‘creme de la creme’ of Firefox extensions

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, of which there are literally thousands. Following is a list of some of my all-time favorites…

Last updated: 7-SEP-2014

 

Legend
build Adds new functionality enhance Enhances existing functionality fix Fixes a problem or restores removed functionality privacy Privacy related security Security related

 

 

Firefox Extensions – tested with Firefox v32 on Windows 7
Name Functionality Description Notes/Caveats Required

Adblock Edge

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security
privacy
The successor to Adblock and Adblock Plus, Adblock Edge is a must have extension for getting rid of annoying advertisements. I recommend Adblock Edge over the more well known Adblock Plus because the latter allows certain ads by default (yes, an ad blocker that allows ads!). There are alternative extensions which claim to duplicate the basic functionality of Adblock Edge, but at this point i do not believe that any are as complete, effective, and as easy to manage. Adblock Edge comes as close to a ‘set it and forget it’ extension as i think one can get. Most people will simply install it, pick an block list to subscribe to and be done with it. Since the block lists are updated frequently and automatically, there’s really little more to do unless you need to allow or block particular elements on a per-domain basis. In certain instances, it is possible for Adblock Plus to break a website. Disabling it is quick and easy however. Note that an option to allow certain, non-obtrusive ads is enabled by default. Gold Star

Add to Search Bar

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enhance
This extension makes it easy to add almost any search engine to the Firefox Search Bar.

All-in-One Sidebar

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enhance
AiOS is a very handy and well done extension that organizes your sidebar content and allows you to access it quickly. In addition to your bookmarks, you can also view all your add-ons in the sidebar, as well as the error console, a web page, themes, downloads and more. The content can be optimized for displaying in the sidebar as well. I highly recommend this extension. Gold Star

Better Privacy

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privacy
Unknown to many, there are different 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: ‘Local Shared Objects’, or so-called Flash cookies. This is another ‘set it and forget’ extension for most people, though there are options to protect specific LSO’s from being deleted. Personally i have never found it necessary to whitelist any LSO’s, but this capability may come in handy for folks using web cams, among other things. I suppose it may be possible to break certain websites if they rely on Flash cookies. I have not experienced this however. Gold Star

BetterStop

enhance 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.

Classic Theme Restorer

enhance
fix
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 the mainstream branch of Firefox, you’re stuck with it. Unfortunately, yet another add-on is necessary to re-add the functionality that a bunch of idiots at Mozilla think you don’t need, and that add-on is Classic Theme Restorer. Gold Star

Copy Link Text

build Right click on a hyperlink and what do you get? The option to copy the link address. Well what if you want to copy the link text? This simply adds the functionality that should be built-in, but isn’t.

Disconnect

security
privacy
Disconnect is pretty much an install it and forget add-on that blocks content from over 2000 privacy infringing tracking sites. As a result, pages load faster. The default settings may break some websites, though in my personal browsing experience this has yet to occur. Still, it is probably better suited for advanced users.  Gold Star

Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus/Edge

build Element Hiding Helper extends Adblock Plus/Edge by making it easy to hide offending content with a point and click interface. The Adblock Plus/Edge extensions are excellent at getting rid of advertisements, but sometimes an ad or two will slip through. There are many ways to style particular websites and Element Hiding Helper is probably one of the easiest if all you need to do is remove an offending piece of content. Must have Adblock Plus/Edge installed

Element Properties

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fix
I have to wonder why in the world the geniuses at Mozilla decided to remove the “Properties” item from the context menu for certain objects. What were they thinking? Element Properties reinstates what never should have been scrapped in the first place. Probably more for geeks

Extension Defender

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privacy
security
Extension Defender is an install-it-and-forget-it extension which simply checks your extensions for unwanted “features”. While the database of malicious extensions is currently fairly small and easily checked without this extension, it is sure to grow over time.

FindBar Tweak

enhance FindBar Tweak replaces Find All as my favorite add-on for enhancing the default functionality of the Find bar. FindBar Tweak adds some welcome changes to the Find bar by making it much smaller and it does a great job of highlighting your search terms. There is also lots of options to make it look and work the way you want. Unlike the Find All add-on, FindBar does not generate a list of instances of your search term. This feature is apparently planed for a future release however.

FireFTP

build A very popular and reasonably well featured FTP client for Firefox that is actively developed. It has its quirks and i particularly don’t like the way you navigate local directories as it doesn’t display all drives as Windows Explorer does, but rather only the last selected drive.

Flagfox

build 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. My only gripe with this extension is that, if you choose to display the menu icons, they are apparently not stored locally and so they they do not appear instantly since they have to be fetched the first time you open the menu. Very strange decision on the developers part in my opinion, but i wonder if this may have something to do with copyright issues. Loses a start because i don’t like the way the address bar icon is implemented. I’d rather see it as “part” of the address bar, such as the reload and stop buttons for the newer versions of FF. Gold Star

Greasemonkey

build Greasemonkey has replaced Scriptish for may favorite user script extension since its recent update. 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. Installing user scripts is a potential security and stability risk. While this holds true for extensions as well, the risk with extensions is far less as long as you install from a trusted source. I would recommend this extension only for capable users who understand JavaScript. Be sure to read the feedback from others, as well as the history of the developer, before installing any script. Be aware that some sites that host scripts do not preform any security checks at all.

HTTP UserAgent cleaner

privacy
security
Replacing HeaderControlRevived is the new HTTP UserAgent cleaner. This is a great extension that enhances privacy by making browser fingerprinting more difficult, as well as beefing up security. While the initial configuration may take some time, there should not be allot to do afterwards. The developer speaks Russian, so his English descriptions for the many options are not the best, but you can find information for each option elsewhere very easily. For advanced users. Can break websites if not configured correctly. Gold Star

FxIF

build FxIF allows you to view the EXIF metadata contained in digital images, such as the camera type, exposure settings, date and, in some cases, even the GPS location of the image.

Link Alert

build Ii think Link Alert is really cool extension which simply provides a visual indication of the target of a link when you hover your pointer over it. Want to know if the link target is a PDF, EXE, audio or ZIP file? Want to know if the target is a new window, or a JavaScript link? Link Alert will provide a visual indicator for all of these and many more, plus you can select the individual target icons you wish to display and how you want them to be displayed. You can also add your own alerts.

Menu Wizard

build Replacing the Menu Filter and Menu Editor add-ons is Menu Wizard, a fantastic add-on for removing, adding and rearranging the menu items for various Firefox context menus.  Gold Star

NewsFox

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enhance
If you read allot of syndicated feeds (RSS/ATOM) NewsFox is, in my opinion, the very best way to read and manage your feeds within Firefox. It offers allot of configuration options for reading, organizing and marking the status of feeds and has a clean, intuitive, customizable, 3 pane interface. It does have a few minor shortcomings, but it is still the best feed reader available for Firefox in my opinion. Would be 4 stars if it could check more than one feed at a time and didn’t hang the GUI for short periods while checking (this is a minor issue though). I also don’t like the global “Feed” folder and the fact that you cannot create sub-folders within a folder.

NoScript

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enhance
security
privacy
NoScript is one of those necessary evils, allowing fine-grained control over JavaScript, a language which is pervasive throughout the web and which, in some cases, is used for all kinds of questionable and malicious purposes. Although all modern browsers offer some protection by default, it often isn’t enough to suit people like me who are advocates of the right to privacy and who don’t want to take gambles with malicious code by allowing JavaScript globally. While one can simply disable JavaScript, doing so will break many websites as it is often used for navigation menus, displaying images, security, contact forms, email addresses, etc.. Configuring NoScript properly will take some work; there are allot of options, many of which may require some research to understand. The upshot is that, once it’s configured, white-listing websites is easy and can be done from the context menu or a toolbar button. Adblock Plus and NoScript are 2 of the most popular extensions for Firefox. It will be necessary for novices to do some reading before using this extension. NS can break many websites until it is configured properly. Gold Star

Organize Search Engines

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enhance
Allows you to easily organize your search engines exactly how you want, including grouping them in “folders”. Geeks will appreciate the ability to edit the search URI parameters for each engine as well as changing the icons. Particularly useful for geeks and those that have allot of search engines.

Pure URL

build Pure URL simply removes junk from URL’s, such as Google Analytics tracking links. What i like about it is the ability to copy link locations without copying the junk.

Redirect Cleaner

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privacy
This is another dinky extension that can enhance privacy and speed up the loading of web pages in instances where a link points to another link for no useful purpose. Often this is done to track you or for monetary gain. Redirect Cleaner simply tries to bypass the middle man for tracking and other links which attempt to redirect you to one location before taking you to the place you intended to go. Some websites use redirect links for a good reason and disabling them can break these websites. It is trivial however to enable/disable this extension, as well as whitelist sites for which you want Ridirect Cleaner to ignore. It will not work in all cases and it needs a better toolbar icon.  Gold Star

Resurrect Pages

build Page not found? Want to see what a web page looked like years ago? Resurrect Pages can look up the current web page or link in one of several places that archive web content including Google Cache, the Internet Archive, Gigablast and several other archiving services. Definitely a handy extension!

ScrapBook

build ScrapBook is a very handy extension used to store scraps of information that you want to save. I use it allot when i research subject matter, such as when i wrote the NPR article, as well as for storing snippets of code, notes, etc.. You can import, combine and export your Scrap Book, including export as HTML.

Scroll Up Folder

build Replacing Smart Text/Smart Location is Scroll Up Folder, a great little extension which makes it super simple to navigate within a domain, such as going from subdomain.example.com/dir/?=parm1 to subdomain.example.com/dir/ or subdomain.example.com or to the root domain, example.com. While there are several other add-ons that offer similar functionality, this is the only one i have found that a) does not require a toolbar/address bar button or context menu, b) segments URL parameters and c) handles sub-domains properly. Gold Star

Search Site

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enhance
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 term(s). Though there are others like it, i particularly like the way it’s integrated. Would be better if the developer implemented an option to preform a site search with a keyboard shortcut. Gold Star

Searchbox Sync

build Searchbox Sync does one thing: synchronizes the key words entered into various search engine pages with the built-in Firefox search bar on a per-tab basis. It is a really handy add-on, especially when combined with SearchWP (below). Although this extension still works, it is unmaintained and i was unable to find a suitable replacement that works and is maintained.

Search WP

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enhance
One of those brilliant little extensions whose functionality should be built-in in my opinion, SearchWP simply turns your search terms in the Search Bar to buttons. Clicking on a word button will take you to the point in the page where the word is located. Gold Star

Self-Destructing Cookies

enhance 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 close the tab(s) associated with the cookies. In other words, you simply install it and pretty much forget about it, unless you want to add a domain to the whitelist so it’s cookies are never deleted. In the newest version, SDC also handles Local Shared Objects, or DOM storage, also known as “flash” cookies or “super” cookies. The BetterPrivacy extension is still needed according the developer. Gold Star

Status-4-Evar

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enhance
fix
Mozilla’s idea of dumbing down the browser to a cartoonish level resulted in pissing off allot of people when they removed the status bar. Status-4-Evar restores the problem and adds some new functionality as well. Gold Star

Tab Utilities

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enhance
Tab Utilities adds plenty of tab related options, such as customizing the color of new, focused and read tabs, options for opening and closing tabs, options for what happens when you click on a tab and much more. I like this extension allot, but if you want something a little thinner, try Tab Utilities Lite by the same developer. This extension could potentially break some websites, depending on how it is configured. Gold Star

Also check out my tip on how to customize the Firefox document scrolling behavior without an extension right here.

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