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Oct. 3rd, 2005 @ 10:20 am the fox and the hound
When I hear that fewer than 10% of web users are running firefox it makes me sad. Even if (no, especially if) you are completely befuddled by computers, you should be using firefox. I'm sure my blog-reading audience is higher than 10% but not enough higher, so consider this entry today's public service announcement. I'm not looking to get into an advocacy war so if you use opera or safari or any other browser that isn't internet explorer, then more power to you. I'm primarily going after IE, for which there are no advocates.

If you trust me that I know more about computers than you do, then trust this: block some time out and follow these instructions. Firefox runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux, so if you're anywhere near the mainstream this all applies to you. First you must download the base firefox install: use the latest stable version (1.0.7 at this writing) unless danger is your middle name. Install it. Run it. Play with it. Discover tabbed browsing and wonder how you lived without it. It ships with a default set of bookmarks that will answer any questions.

The base firefox install is a fine web browser all by itself but its true power lies in extensions. There are hundreds or thousands of extensions, most of which are crap. Installing an extension from a new site is a little odd: when you click on the "install" link firefox refuses for security reasons. A new bar will appear at the top of the page that will let you approve that site for extension installation. Now click "install" again and you're on the way. These are most of the extensions I use. I advise against installing lots of other extensions willy-nilly as poorly written ones can interfere with the smooth and speedy operation of your browser. You can install all of these in one step; instructions at the end.

THE MUST-HAVES:

Adblock Plus and Adblock Filterset.G Updater: Adblock rewrites pages without the ads. It's so good you won't even know it's there except that all the freaking ads have vanished. Sometimes when I am at someone else's house and I see what the web looks like with the ads I am stunned that anyone uses the web at all. This extension is for the web what tivo is for network television (but better since you don't have to do anything at all.) Adblock itself doesn't ship with any filters. It would be an enormous amount of work to devise your own, so you want the second extension to stand on the shoulders of the filter-creating giants that have passed before you.
BugMeNot: Too many web sites demand that you jump through registration hoops before you can see what you came to see. With this installed you have an account at every one of them; right-click in the login field and it'll fill in the username and password of someone who already handled it.

THE VERY-USEFULS:

CustomizeGoogle: I just found this one and it's super sweet. Tons of features, but rewriting the image links to go straight to the original image is pure gold.
Linkification: It's annoying to encounter URLs in text documents that can't be clicked, so you have to copy and paste to see them. This extension makes them clickable. I suggest turning off the auto-linkification feature because it slow things down; there is a magic key to linkificate a page whenever you need it.
Linky: Makes it easy to open tons of links at once. Looking at a page with fifty image links? Right-click and select "open all images in one window" and see them all together. I'll leave the possible uses for this one up to your imagination.

THE JUST-FOR-FUN:

StumbleUpon: I don't need any more time-wasters in my life but as a means for random surfing this is the best I've seen. Create a profile and list some of your interests. Now the "stumble" button will take you to a web site that it thinks you might like. You can give a thumbs up or down to each one to refine it. I've found some highly entertaining pages this way.

SO YOU WANT TO INSTALL ALL THESE AT ONCE?

You only need install one extension: The Mass Installer. After that, restart firefox and it will ask for a list of extensions to install. The URL http://www.improving.org/paulp/write/firefox-ext-xpi.txt contains the extensions named here. Restart firefox once more and all of them will come to life. For those who care, the Infolister extension will automatically output a list of XPIs suitable for use with the mass installer.

DISCLAIMER! Software is a weird wild scary world and it might turn out that nothing works at all as I've described. Firefox or one of these extensions might eat your computer and kill your dog. When you install firefox extensions it's no different from installing other software, so you are trusting each extension author with full access to your machine. The extension list linked here is tied to the current versions of those extensions and is likely to stop working partially or entirely. I may not keep it up to date and I may change the contents of that list. I offer zero support on any of this! If you have problems feel free to post in this thread but don't email me and don't post in other threads unless they're about firefox.

Good luck to the intrepid among you. I solicit input on additional "must-have" extensions, but know that I define "must" quite narrowly.
About this Entry
From:themaroon
Date:October 3rd, 2005 07:31 pm (UTC)

My favorite extension ever...

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was called "add bookmark here". Whenever you clicked a subfolder in your bookmarks it would add a line to the bottom that said "add bookmark here", and clicking that line would add the current page to that subfolder. Hopefully they update that extension to work with the latest firefox soon.
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From:greattiger
Date:October 3rd, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC)

Re: My favorite extension ever...

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Umm...I have the latest Firefox and am still using "add bookmark here".
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From:normalcyispasse
Date:October 3rd, 2005 08:08 pm (UTC)
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1: Firefox is even bundled with Zeta OS, the successor BeOS. Firefox has huge cross-platform appeal.

2: Of my favorite extensions, I consider Tabbrowser Extensions to be the most indespensible. I also like ForecastFox because sometimes I cannot be bothered to look outside the window.


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From:samholden
Date:October 3rd, 2005 08:29 pm (UTC)
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It's been free without ads for longer and hence some people are just more used to it.

Plus it's free software, which some people see to be a plus.

Plus it uses way more RAM which is always a good thing.
From:samholden
Date:October 3rd, 2005 08:25 pm (UTC)

Download Statusbar

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This extension makes handling downloads much simpler than the Downloads window. http://downloadstatusbar.mozdev.org/

It's so simple and yet so useful. I'm amazed it's not the default way of displaying downloads.
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From:badblood44
Date:October 3rd, 2005 08:41 pm (UTC)

Minor Gripe About Gecko-based Browsers

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To this date, none of the browsers based on the Gecko engine have this bug fixed:

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=299578

I've had to compensate by never minimizing Mozilla. Especially on my slow as molasses laptop hard drive at work, it can take literally minutes for Mozilla to respond when the page file grows.

Still, I favor its use over IE 100%.
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From:johndhi
Date:October 3rd, 2005 09:53 pm (UTC)
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No! With this most recent version of IE (I'll admit I hated the old stuff), I have had no problems or complaints. It may be easier to avoid spyware (which I don't have a problem doing anyways) with Firefox, but it's worth avoiding the "so, I hear this is showing up weird on Firefox," or the even more common, "the sound doesn't work with Firefox, so go download this." As far as I can tell, most people use Firefox as a workaround for their computers' spyware problems, not a fix. Also, I don't like tabs.
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From:extempore
Date:October 3rd, 2005 10:20 pm (UTC)
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but it's worth avoiding the "so, I hear this is showing up weird on Firefox,"

You can sleep easy knowing you're helping to make sure nobody can ever compete with microsoft. "Whatever the microsoft software does, THAT's the specification; every divergence is a bug by definition."

or the even more common, "the sound doesn't work with Firefox, so go download this."

Audio? No idea what you're talking about.

As far as I can tell, most people use Firefox as a workaround for their computers' spyware problems

Uh, wrong. A lot of us don't even use windows you know.

Also, I don't like tabs.

"I don't like progress." Not liking tabs is like pining for DOS because in the good old days you weren't distracted by having more than one program running.
From:narendra
Date:October 3rd, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)

aggregating your tech info

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Paul,

can you be convinced to start adding bookmarks to del.icio.us? if you kept a manageable tag set you could easily aggregate links for redistribution (e.g. hacking tivo, voice operated computing, firefox)

Narendra
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From:larrykang
Date:October 3rd, 2005 10:47 pm (UTC)
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For LJ users let me suggest Deepest Sender as a LJ client. Also, for quick FTP I use FireFTP. I use many more, but I think these are great little add ons for many users. As with anything YMMV and I encourage people to try things out and share good ones.

A friend of mine had setup his own Firefox site that some of you may also enjoy. He encourages those on a Mac to use Safari. One addon he likes is BBCode for those on forums.
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From:1nvrknoz
Date:October 3rd, 2005 10:59 pm (UTC)
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Just installed FireFox; anyone know why I am getting the following alert: "The connection was refused when attempting to contact X site"? This is happening for any site I attempt to access. : /
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From:quill18
Date:October 4th, 2005 03:11 am (UTC)
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Are you supposed to be using a proxy server maybe?
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From:chrishartman
Date:October 3rd, 2005 11:24 pm (UTC)
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Both of my "must have" extensions have already been mentioned, but hey, mentioning them again may get somebody else to use them:

SessionSaver - Saves your tabs whenever you quit Firefox (whether by shutting down, restarting, just closing the window, or (heaven forbid) crashing.) When you re-open, all your open tabs come up...

All-in-One Gestures. I like this better than some of the other gesture recognition extensions, and I feel lost without it. Browsing without gestures is like trying to use a touchpad instead of a mouse. You can do it, but everything is half as accurate and takes twice as long.
From:augito
Date:October 4th, 2005 01:16 am (UTC)
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I have converted to firefox and it is pretty nice, thanks.
From:illunious
Date:October 4th, 2005 05:13 am (UTC)

Spelling

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To summarize.. after downloading Firefox, get the popular extensions.

No one mentioned Spellbound, unlisted and buggy, but free easy spell-checking in s text box.
From:mathew5000
Date:October 4th, 2005 05:31 am (UTC)

More must-haves

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CookieCuller: lets you protect the cookies you want to keep, then delete all the others automatically on launching the browser. Simple to configure, and essential for controlling your own privacy.

Focus Last Selected Tab: when you close a tab, you will see the tab you were looking at just before the one you closed.
From:gmjbb
Date:October 4th, 2005 01:35 pm (UTC)

ooops

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long time firefox user but only had a couple of the extenisions, ad block etc......got the others like stumbleon, which is way too much fun, but i did find, one of the extensions, virused up my AIM somehow, i switched over to trillian to avoid actually having to confront the problem so no worries
From:tpiranha
Date:October 4th, 2005 05:19 pm (UTC)

Thanks

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Apparently all of my "computer-savvy" friends were already using FireFox - I asked a few to get a second opinion. I downloaded it earlier and already like it more than IE. Thanks Paul.

-Tony