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On Mozilla's website you can find out where to get the most popular extensions for Firefox. These extensions are ranked by the number of downloads during the previous week and are categorized into about 20 classifications.
You can find a large number of extensions at Mozilla, and they are often very popular. Mozilla's extensions list currently numbers about 500, and that number will continue to grow (perhaps without limits) as more and more sophisticated Firefox users develop their own extensions.
The most popular extensions (such as the one shown in Figure 8.3) might have more than 250,000 downloads in a given week. The quickest way to find Firefox's most popular extensions is to go to http://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/?application=firefox and click All Extensions on the left side of the page.
Figure 8.3. This week's most popular extension has more than 350,000 downloads, but that's not a record.
Do not take anything said here to imply that Mozilla is the only source of quality extensions for Firefox. Heaven forbid! Firefox (and Thunderbird and Mozilla) extensions can come from a variety of sources, some of which might not be even known about by Mozilla.
If you don't see the extension you are looking for at Mozilla, try http://mozilla.gunnars.net/mozfaq_addons.html or http://extensionroom.mozdev.org/ or do a web search.
In addition to the most popular extensions (which are ranked from highest to lowest), this page also provides categorized access to many other of the extensions available through Mozilla. Within each category, the extensions are listed alphabetically. At the top of each extension's section is a title line listing the extension's name, its version identifier, and a rating between zero and five stars. Clicking the extension's title takes you to the extension's home page on the Mozilla website. You can download the extension at either the Firefox Extensions page or the extension's home page.
The following sections cover the various categories of extensions from Mozilla's web extensions site. I've arranged them alphabetically, not by popularity or number of extensions.
Ratings are from users. If you like (or don't like) an extension, you have the opportunity to rate that extension. Your opinion counts because extension developers look at these reviews, searching for problems, things that don't work well, and usability issues. If you do write a review, be both fair and objective. Don't just say, "This extension sucks." Instead tell the developer which issues you had and what you would like to see improved. Be nice because you might just get what you want! Remember that, with Firefox and Mozilla, you are not dealing with a huge, corporate bureaucracy extension developers are people just like you and me.
Slogging through the world of blogging? On the off chance you have little idea of what a blog, or blogging, is, let's clear that up first. First, blog is short for weblog, and many blogs are opinions (editorial) in nature.
In some ways, blogging has been around for many years. We have had Network News Transfer Protocol pages (NNTPs) for many years these are newsgroups or Usenet groups. Anyone can post their errant mental ramblings should they wish. So, what's the difference between NNTP and blogs?
Usenet NNTP groups are topic oriented. Few people have their own Usenet NNTP group just for their random ramblings and such. Instead, Usenet is arranged in a hierarchy of topics, such as alt.autos.hummer, a Usenet NNTP group for Hummer owners. A given user can participate in none (called lurking), some, or all the topics in a given group.
Blogs, on the other hand, are people oriented, and a single blog can cover a multitude of topics, all intermixed. The blog originator, or owner, is always involved with the blog, though many blogs are multiperson with members dropping out and adding on as time passes.
Although Firefox offers a good bookmark system, extensions are available to improve what is built in to Firefox. Several of the bookmarking extensions are also interesting.
Do you travel a lot? Are you frequently on the road, using computers that are not always yours? Are you a student, using the college's lab computers? If so, then Chipmark is a great extension that allows you to have your bookmarked pages available to you wherever you are!
This is just one example of a bookmark extension. Several extensions are designed to manage bookmarks, some enable you to synchronize with Internet Explorer, and some are somewhat specialized bookmark-related extensions.
Developer tools fall into two broad categories: XUL and website design. Many developer tools are available to Firefox users. ShowIP and View Formatted Source are two favorites of mine.
One interesting extension is called ShowIP. This program displays a website's IP address on the right end of the status bar (see Figure 8.4).
Figure 8.4. Not only does ShowIP display a site's IP address, but it also adds a context menu to let you get even more information about that site.
One of the things you can do with ShowIP is to look up information about the site in question.
ShowIP's context menu can be customized by using Firefox's Extensions manager's Options button.
View Formatted Source
I've found an extension that seems interesting: View formatted source is an extension that enables you to view a web page's source code, with formatting (see Figure 8.5). No more kludgey plain text this extension provides colors, blocks, and more.
Figure 8.5. With view_format source, you can see the HTML hierarchy.
Firefox's download capabilities are acceptable, but they can be made better using some of the downloading tool extensions.
Examples of download extensions include enhancement of the download manager's window, group downloads (where you download multiple files in a single operation), and the ability to save downloads to a variety of locations.
Firefox's default download facility is simple, with the minimum functionality to do the job. For example, the Downloads dialog box has a button called Clean Up. This button deletes all the files from Firefox's download list. The download manager also allows you to remove a single download entry from the list. Neither option deletes the downloaded file, however.
Editing and Forms
Forms are a fact of life, and Firefox has some interesting extensions for forms and form data management.
Extensions can provide something as simple as forms or as complex as a password generator that creates strong passwords, unique to a given site, while allowing you to use a single password. This saves you from having to create unique passwords and then remember or look up those passwords.
Many of us see the entire Internet as entertainment. And, Firefox has extensions that allow for fun and games.
Entertainment extensions are mostly oriented toward games. However, there are some music- and multimedia-oriented extensions, as well.
A good laugh is important. Not everything, even extensions, need to be serious all the time.
This small collection of extensions adds a bit of light-hearted humor to Firefox. About the only humor extension missing is a joke of the day extension. Hmm, we do need a victim extension for Chapter 16!
Some sites are almost entirely image based. The image browsing extensions let you more easily manipulate images and even allow you to transfer the image (or its URL) to other applications, such as email.
Additionally, some of the image browsing extensions enhance Firefox to allow functionality such as browsing images on your computer.
A kiosk is a standalone, publicly accessible, object. A telephone kiosk is a telephone (or telephone booth), perhaps in a hotel lobby, for public use. A computer or Internet kiosk is a computer set up for public use. Generally, computer kiosks are limited in functionality to prevent abuse by users.
Some of the limitations that need to be implemented with a kiosk system include making it impossible for a user to break the system or use the system for purposes other than the intended ones.
There is much more to making your kiosk computer secure than just securing the browser, but having a secure browser is an important requirement.
Some extensions to Firefox cause Firefox to return to a known state after a certain period. It is also important to disable task switching, so the user cannot switch to another task.
Firefox has some language-related extensions. With some of these, you can perform lookups on words. Other extensions in this group modify the language for Firefox without requiring you to build a version for that language.
If an extension doesn't fit in any other category, it is placed here. Because most extensions seem to not fit into the other predefined categories, the Miscellaneous category is one of the largest.
Some useful extensions found in this section include
Browsing this category can lead to the discovery of some interesting and useful extensions.
Oh, my gosh, we're lost again! There was a time when the Internet was small. Users would often memorize their favorite sites and how to access them. When the user didn't know the exact name for a site, a quick guess often resulted in successfully finding the location she desired.
Today, the Internet is huge. Even though an experienced user can sometimes guess a location, frequently the guesses do not meet our expectations. For example, this book was published by Que Publishing. So, if I were to guess its URL, I'd guess http://www.que.com. And much to my surprise I'd get to a site that has nothing to do with Que Publishing! (Que's web page is at http://www.quepublishing.com.) This is site navigation.
Just as you navigate to a given site or web page, after the page is displayed, you usually need to navigate around that page.
A number of useful navigation extensions exist. Some are trivial, doing simple tasks in an attempt to make things easier. Others are more complex, offering extensive changes to the way the Firefox user interface works.
An example of what a navigation extension can do is Print Hint. This small extension retrieves a web page in a text format (if a text format is available), instead of as a graphical image. You can find this extension at the Mozilla website (see Figure 8.6). It is only 6Kb in size.
Figure 8.6. The Print Hint extension allows easy printing of a web page.
Once downloaded, drag the .xpi file to your Firefox Extensions dialog box. Confirm that you want to install this extension; then, after it's installed, shut down and restart Firefox. You will now have a new button on the right end of the status bar, which will be enabled whenever a page has a text printer-friendly version (see Figure 8.7). (If there is no printer-friendly version of the currently viewed page, the Print Hint extension button is disabled.)
Figure 8.7. After the Print Hint extension is installed, a small printing button appears on the status bar between the current URL and ShowIP's IP display. Click it and you can print the current page in a printable format.
At one time, news was synonymous with NNTP. However, for Firefox, the term news is more traditional whether it be stock tickers, RSS, newsfeeds, or blogs.
A few Firefox extensions do work with RRS servers. An example is infoRSS, an extension that adds scrolling news to the Firefox status bar (see Figure 8.8).
Figure 8.8. infoRSS adds a scrolling newsfeed to Firefox's status bar. Hover the mouse over an item and a pop-up with more information is displayed. Clicking it displays the entire item in a new tab.
Privacy and Security
There is no expectation of privacy in this world. Get used to it. When I tell people this, they seem to not want to accept it. But, on the Internet, do not expect complete privacy. There are some interesting extensions for Firefox that will improve your security, however.
A few examples of privacy and security extensions are
Searching with Firefox, even without extensions, is easy. Built in to Firefox's navigation toolbar is a search bar. This search bar can be set to search any number of Internet search sites.
Many Internet Explorer converts, however, want functionality such as provided by the Google toolbar. Firefox users need not despair! Although not from Google directly, a similar Google toolbar is available for Firefox.
The Googlebar extension has a number of options to allow customization (see Figure 8.9).
Figure 8.9. Like Internet Explorer's Google toolbar, the Firefox version provides a lot of useful functionality.
About the only thing missing from the Googlebar is Google's page rank. Never fear the Google Pagerank Status extension adds just what you want, a page rank in the Firefox status bar. Of course, you could also try the Googlebar with the Page Rank extension added.
Firefox has basic tabs built in to it. With the various tabbed browsing extensions, these tabs are made more powerful and useful.
Firefox supports tabs without the need for an extension, but Firefox tabs can be greatly enhanced using a few simple extensions. In addition to the Tabbrowser extension (refer to Chapter 2, "The Power of Tabs and Bookmarks"), there are a number of other similar tab extensions.
Pop-up ads, other ads, sounds, and anything you determine to be annoying can be controlled with extensions found in this category.
Red text on a blue background has to be the least-readable combination of colors ever created. Generally, readable text needs to have a different luminance level, not necessarily a different color. Two colors with the same luminance levels do not contrast well and don't make for readable text. With the Text-Bgcolor Fixer, you can undo the damage that some web designers do when creating their web pages. You can also fix some web designer's errors in color selection.
Some web designers seem to think we all live in a world without sounds and that it is their job to make noise. Or, they feel that every website should be peppered with Flash objects. Fortunately, there are extensions to turn off Flash objects.
The website integration category has to be one of my favorites! Is there anyone who has not used eBay at one time or another? Well, Biet-O-Zilla will help you get those last-minute bids in that help you win an auction.
Or, perhaps you want to find out about an eBay user's feedback. Positive feedback (the good kind) is easy only the sleaziest of eBay users don't have some positive feedback. But some users have hundreds or even thousands of feedback comments, and finding those that are negative can be tedious. Using the Ebay Negs! extension allows you to cull out, automatically, all the negative feedback for an eBay user.
XUL applications are programs that pretend they are extensions. This enables the XUL application to be called directly from Firefox and (usually) configured using Firefox's Tools menu.
Only a few XUL applications are currently developed for Firefox, although many more are in the works.
It is important to remember that XUL applications work differently from other extensions. They have their own window (and process thread) and work independently from Firefox.
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