Firefox Experience

Reading time: 4 mins

It’s been a while since I posted about Firefox but as it’s just crashed through the 24 million downloads mark, and has increased it’s browser share AGAIN I thought it was reasonable time to look back over the past year of using Firefox and see how, if at all, it has changed my browsing habits.

Blimey, I’ve been using Firefox for an entire year, how time flies!

The main and most obvious change to my browsing habits has been my ready adoptation of tabbed browsing. It’s now an integral part of my browsing technique (for want of a better term) and, coupled with an extension that remembers what tabs were open the last time I closed the browser, I find I rarely have to bookmark anything of interest any more. Instead I can open the sites in a new browser tab, and if I don’t get around to checking them out they will be re-opened the next time I start Firefox. Note that this cycle may repeat for up to a week, and has certainly been a key factor in improving my online information management.

Whether it’s articles of note, to do (Ta Da) lists, or just silly email links, I just open them in a new tab and get to them when I’m ready. Did someone mention an interesting book at lunch? A quick Amazon search in a new tab and it’ll sit there until I either order it, or add it to my wishlist (which itself sits open in another tab, just in case). Ohh and that “quick Amazon search” is also something I should mention.

Namely the Smart Keywords feature. This isn’t a highly visible piece of functionality, but once configured it has made searching often used websites – Amazon, IMDB and the like – so much easier. All I do now is type (“imdb war of the worlds”) into the address bar, hit return and the site I want to search is opened with relevant results displayed; frequently IMDB takes me directly to the page I want. It takes seconds to set this up for each site, and saves double that the first time you use it.

Ohh and don’t forget that little search box next to the address box. Probably currently set to Google, if you click the G it’ll drop down the list of available search engines – Yahoo, Amazon.com, and so on. Hmmm want to add some more? There are hundreds and hundreds available.

All that from a browser, who da thunk?

As for extensions, whilst there are many many hundreds of them out there, most of mine are specific to the way I use my browser, and I’m sure your list will be specific to you. That’s the point of extensions after all, and in my opinion it’s a big strength of the Firefox browser. Here’s my current list (as generated by the excellent ListZilla):

  • Bookmarks Synchronizer – Bookmarks Synchronizer lets you connect to a web server and synchronize your bookmarks. Upload or download from the web server. Never lose a bookmark again. Must have if you run Firefox at work and at home.
  • BugMeNot – Bypass compulsory web registration with the context menu via www.bugmenot.com.
  • ChromEdit – A Simple User Profile File Editor, for advanced users.
  • del.icio.us – quick and easy posting to del.icio.us
  • Disable Targets For Downloads – Prevents download links opening a blank window; an install once and forget about it extension.
  • Download Statusbar – View downloads in an auto-hide statusbar. Much better than that popup box.
  • Ext2Abc – once you have more than five this is a god send for finding them in the list.
  • ForecastFox – small weather forecast icons that sit in your statusbar. Brilliant.
  • Foxylicious – turns your del.icio.us bookmarks into standard bookmarks (which you can then keep in sync with the Bookmark synchroniser!)
  • Gmail Notifier – Got Gmail? Get this statusbar notifier.
  • ListZilla – helped me easily pull this list together.
  • LiveLines – easy way to spot and add RSS feeds to Bloglines or Sage.
  • miniT(drag+indicator) – allows you to drag tabs to change the order they appear, this version includes an indicator arrow
  • Paste and Go – another install and forget extension. Copy a URL, right-click in the address bar and select Paste and Go. Simple.
  • Sage – still my RSS reader of choice. Opens in a sidebar and stores the feeds as bookmarks, which you can then sync between PCs using the Bookmark synchroniser.
  • ScrapBook – still testing this one but has been useful so far – does exactly what it says
  • Signature – designed for easy access to email signatures, I use this to hold HTML snippets for pasting into WordPress edit screens.
  • Stop-or-Reload Button – a bit gimmick and only seems to work if you have a theme installed. Gives you one button which alternates between STOP and RELOAD as required.
  • Tab Clicking Options – various minor UI options for tab clicking. Helps make the browser do what YOU want it to do.
  • Tabbrowser Preferences – THE must have extension and the first one I install. Take control of your browser.
  • Web Developer – if you develop web sites, get this. Too many options to list!!

Of course, as with any new application, the list of “smart ways to do things” is still growing and this browser is not without fault or foible.

So far the best resource I’ve found for Firefox tips is the official tips website, but I’m sure there are others.

As for the foibles, the most common isn’t actually the fault of the browser. Some websites are coded to work with Internet Explorer and use IE specific stuff. It’s a royal pain in the backside and means that, until things change, you’ll still need IE on your machine. However the number of sites that I MUST use Internet Explorer is precisely 1, so it’s only a minor inconvience for me. YMMV of course.

And finally, I can’t close out an article without reminding you that whilst no computer connected to the internet will ever be guaranteed 100% safe, those of you running Internet Explorer are running a higher risk of exposure to malicious websites and code and should use a different internet browser.

Other Firefox articles of interest:
Customising Firefox
Security, Cool Features Of Firefox Web Browser Beat Microsoft’s IE
The New World Wide Web Champ?
Speeding up Firefox the right way
Top 15 Firefox Extensions
Another list of installed extensions