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By jeremy at 2006-01-08 21:00

Firefox Extensions Edit
Tech Support
Written by Jeremy Garcia
Thursday, 15 December 2005

In a relatively short time, the Firefox browser has accumulated nearly ten percent of browser market share (according to http://www.netapplications.com, for one). Firefox works on virtually every platform, performs well, is far more secure than Internet Explorer, and provides best-of-breed features such as tabbed browsing, built-in pop-up blocking, and extensive support for World Wide Web standards.

Better yet, Firefox can be souped-up with extensions that add features to the basic browsing experience. The official repository for Firefox extensions can be found at https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/?application=firefox. There are currently over 670 extensions available — some as small as a toolbar button, yet some as large as an entire XML User Interface Language (XUL, pronounced" zool") application. If you browse the repository, you’ll undoubtedly find something that enhances your browsing habits.

Here are four valuable extensions to investigate further.
If you create web pages, check out the Web Developer extension. This handy extension adds a menu and a toolbar that helps debug HTML and CSS. You can easily disable CSS, Javascript, and other page elements; can edit CSS and forms directly; and you can get information on cookies and link paths. Web Developer also can outline various web page elements such as blocks, tables, and individual table cells, and can highlight deprecated items. It can even validate HTML and CSS.

Next is SpellBound, available for download from http://spellbound.sourceforge.net/.. SpellBound is a port of the spell checker and user interface from the Mozilla Composer HTML editor. By adding SpellBound, you can check your spelling in web forms, such as in HTML textarea and input elements.

Installating SpellBound, is slightly more complicated than some extensions, as it involves requires multiple extensions to work properly. First, install the SpellBound extension, and then visit http://dictionaries.mozdev.org/installation.html and install the dictionary for your native language. (There are currently over 45 languages available.) Once installed, simply right click in any input element and choose" Check Spelling". One nice thing about SpellBound is that you can add any arbitrary word to your personal dictionary.

If you’re using the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer, you’ll be happy to know that you can choose either the official Google Toolbar for Firefox or the open source Googlebar to place Google at your fingertips. Available from http://toolbar.google.com/firefox/index.html and http://googlebar.mozdev.org/, respectively, both versions of the toolbar offer similar features. Spend some time with each one and choose the one that suits you best. (If you’re a Yahoo! user, an official Yahoo!Toolbar is also available for Firefox from http://toolbar.yahoo.com/firefox.)

Finally, there’s the popular greasemonkey extension, which is available from http://greasemonkey.mozdev.org/. greasemonkey lets you add bits of Dynamic HTML (DHTML), called user scripts, to any web page to change its behavior. greasemonkey is extremely powerful: it enables you to easily control any aspect of any web page. For example, you can make sure that all URLs in the browser are clickable, route around common and annoying web site bugs, submit all forms via Ctrl-Enter, customize GMail, and even retrieve data from one site to integrate it into another site. Literally hundreds of user scripts are available from http://userscripts.org/. Almost anything is possible if you learn how to write user scripts, which are simply bits of Javascript code with some additional information that tells greasemonkey where and when to run.

Firefox is a fantastic application that’s fast, robust, and extensible. Browse the numerous categories of extensions to find ways to browse that you may never have dreamed of. Or, if you’d like to see Firefox do something that a current extension doesn’t accommodate, grab a XUL HOWTO at http://www.xulplanet.com/tutorials/xultu/ and try to implement one yourself.

Happy Browsing!



  



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