I am a long-time user of Firefox, and generally think it to be a good browser. I’ve toyed with Google Chrome, but generally find myself coming back to Firefox.
As such, I recently updated my version of Firefox to 3.6. Having successfully upgraded, I am taken to this page:
How pretty! It proudly tells me:
Thanks for supporting Mozilla’s mission of encouraging openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web!
It’s here that I start to have issues (other than the ones you are abundantly aware of).
How exactly have I “supported Mozilla’s mission of encouraging openness, innovation and opportunity on the Web!”? Because I’ve updated my browser? Feels like Mozilla are disappearing up their own sockets.
In addition to the above, if you click the link for ‘Mozilla’s mission’, you’re taken to a page that explains who they are and what they do. Point #2 on that page says:
We’re a public benefit organization
dedicated not to making money but to improving the way people everywhere experience the Internet.
Um: so what about all that kick-back revenue Mozilla get from Google by having them as the default search engine for Firefox?
From a web usability angle, this is the bigger one. On this ‘update’ page, the user is informed they can choose from over 35,000 themes for Firefox. At first, you think “That’s awesome!”
And then you mouseover some of these themes to try them out – only to realise that, for anyone other than a basic user with no bookmarks on their toolbar, or any toolbar extensions – the majority are unusable. Check out the screenshot below of how one of these themes looks on my version of Firefox with various extensions:
How is that any use to anyone?!
So it seems that Firefox has become the most popular browser, overtaking IE 7 for the first time in terms of market share – see the lovely graphic below (click to enlarge):
This is great news, of course…but how long ’till IE 8 overtakes?
Firefox has become largely synonymous with web-savvy users and web developers as the browser to use: its combination of speed and expandability via the raft of addons make it perfect for getting the most out of your web experience.
I thought I’d share with you the various Firefox addons I’m using, and why I think they’re worth a look. It’s by no means definitive, so feel free to comment with other useful plugins you use.
Adblock Plus (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1865)
A fairly standard one to start off with: this addon stops unwanted ads ruining your web experience. Install it, point it towards one of the Adblocker lists (rather like a directory of sites/URLs that serve up ads, so it knows which ones to block), and away you go: no more ads. Reading sites such as The Register instantly becomes much more palatable.
You’re all likely to be familiar with Bit.ly, the URL shortener – this is the official Firefox addon. It allows you to enter your Bit.ly API code, allowing you to shorten URLs on the fly, and mouse-over bit.ly links to see where they’re going to take you (and how many clicks they’ve had). Great if you’re a prolific Twitter user!
A seriously useful (in my opinion) colour-dropper. Need to know what colour an element or image is on a webpage? Click the Colorzilla icon, then click on the colour you want to copy. It’ll then give you loads of options, including the ability to copy the hex or RGB value to the clipboard, a DOM inspector, palette options and more.
Download status bar (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/26)
A simple little plugin that allows you more control over the standard Firefox download manager. Using this addon, I run mine in the status bar as a tiny little download indicator. Much more manageable.
An awesome backup addon that allows you to backup all of your Firefox settings (including all your other addons, history, cookies, form data, passwords…everything!) into one file. It’s completely customisable, so you can backup as much or as little as you like – and it’s particularly useful if you switch machines a lot, or want to make your favourites and history available to yourself over the web (or if, like me, you worry about losing all your web access that you’ve carefully built up over the months/years and just want to back it up somewhere safe).
A tiny FTP client, built into Firefox. Simple, free, and really rather good. Can’t say any more than that.
The Google Toolbar (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/6249)
If you don’t know what this is, you should probably stop reading. I strip everything out from mine so the only thing left is the Pagerank bar and the search box.
Live HTTP Headers (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3829)
Great little addon for seeing the flow of HTTP information from one link to another. Useful for seeing where redirects are going, what information is being called/sent, and other little bits and pieces.
Probably my most-used addon, since I do a lot of mockups and screenshots. Allows you to copy to the clipboard (or save to a file) either an entire web page, just a selection, or just the visible portion of a page.
Sidebar Companion for Sidewiki (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/46311)
Google’s Sidewiki is here to stay, and this is a little (non-official) browser addons to support it. Click it to instantly access the Sidewiki for any given site.
WCAG contrast checker (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/7391)
Great for accessibility, this addon allows you to check colours (usually background & font colours) against each other to ensure contrast/brightness is accessible according to the WCAG guidelines.
Web Developer Toolbar (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/60)
Got any other recommendations? (Note: I’ve left Firebug out because I use the Web Developer toolbar.)