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: 19-Jan-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 on Windows 7
Name Functionality Description Notes/Caveats Required

Adblock Plus

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The successor to Adblock, Adblock Plus is a must have extension for getting rid of annoying advertisements. There are alternative extensions which claim to duplicate the basic functionality of Adblock Plus, but at this point i do not believe that any are as complete, effective, well supported and as easy to manage. Adblock Plus 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 ad blocking list to subscribe to and be done with it. Since the ad 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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This extension makes it easy to add almost any search engine to the Firefox Search Bar.

All-in-One Sidebar

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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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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

Bookmark Favicon Changer

build Makes it easy to change the icon for a bookmark.

Copy Link Name

build Right click on a link 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 to Firefox, but it isn’t.

Disconnect

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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

build Element Hiding Helper extends Adblock Plus by making it easy to hide offending content, via point and click, that is not covered by Adblock Plus. Adblock Plus is excellent at getting rid of advertising, but that doesn’t mean it will remove all the content you want removed. 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 content. Must have Adblock Plus installed

Element Properties

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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

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

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.

HackTheWeb

build HackTheWeb simply allows you to modify how a web page is displayed. It makes it easy to remove content and, if you have Stylish installed, you can export scripts to Stylish so that the changes are permanent.

HeaderControlRevived

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enhance
privacy
HeaderControlRevived replaces UAControl and Smart Referrer, plus adds even more functionality. This extension is a fork of HeaderControl which has been abandoned for some time and i am very pleased to see the project has been taken over. Being mostly for the privacy conscious, HCR allows one to spoof the user-agent, referrer and accept language on a per-domain basis. To my knowledge it is the only extension that has this capability and automates the process. I often use the user-agent spoofing feature to gain access to content that would normally otherwise be restricted. For example, telling web servers that you are a Google bot can open several doors on occasion. The ability to spoof the JavaScript user-agent is planned.  Gold Star

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 Filter

build Cluttered context menus? Menu Filter makes it very easy to disable menu items in various Firefox context menus. Unlike the more powerful Menu Editor add-on, it cannot reorder menu items, however Menu Editor is and has been broken for a very long time.

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.

Personal Menu

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One of the things i did not like since Firefox 4 was the default main menu which reminds me way too much of the Windows Vista/7 “Start Panel” which, by the way, there is an absolutely stellar fix for in what is called Classic Shell. With Personal Menu you can really go to town on the default Firefox menu and turn it into something more useful than Mozilla intended, including the ability to add your own links for easy access. Geek oriented  Gold Star

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. If ScrapBook isn’t enough for you, check out Zotero which is a very good, full-fledged research tool.

Scriptish

build Scriptish is a fork of Greasemonkey and is for running user created scripts which are typically used to change how a website functions and/or looks. As of this writing there are over 83,000 user scripts to choose from. 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. Of course this is also the case for extensions at addons.mozilla as well, though to a lesser degree. I would recommend this extension only for capable users who understand JavaScript. At the very least, one should read the reviews and discussions of others, as well as the history of the developer, before installing any script. Very often malicious code is posted to userscripts.org and there is no automated mechanisms in place to prevent this.

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.Searchbox Sync replaces another similar extension that is unmaintained and partially broken.

Search WP

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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 highlight and 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 is also taking on Local Shared Objects, or DOM storage, also known as “flash” cookies or “super” cookies, though a limitation in Firefox prevents full functionality until Mozilla pumps out version 23. This apparently means that BetterPrivacy may no longer be needed, though i need to research this further. Gold Star

smart text

enhance Smart text, formerly known as ‘smart location’, is a wonderful little add-on that enhances how the address bar works. Although you can use it to style the address bar, its primary feature is segmenting the address, thus making it very easy to move up in the address structure, and it does it better than all of the other similar add-ons i have tried. 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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