Social Media in Your Browser
In this installment, we bring you the tools to automate, simplify and extend your online life through social media.
Hyperwords (5 out of 5)
Hyperwords is an amazing plugin from the Hyperwords Company which integrates a context menu with configurable functions for search, reference, translation and more. I can’t begin to express how useful this tool is. Some of its best features include:
copy and send to search
copy, send to search, and go to first result
copy to blog
translation into several languages
copy and search for references with Wikipedia and other sources
shopping search with Amazon, ebay, and more
All of these features are available simply by selecting the text in which you are interested, and the menu pops up. You can reconfigure this behavior if you find it annoying and configure the Hyperwords menu to integrate fully into the normal context menu.
Summary: If you are a blogger, social media freak, or simply someone who gets tired of doing individual searches for things you run into on the web, this plugin is perfect for you.
ScribeFire Blog Editor (4 out of 5)
ScribeFire from Christopher Finke is a handily little tool for bloggers that pops up from your status bar. It allows you to post to multiple blogs from anywhere in your browser and to promote them through social tools, including an auto-tagger for Technorati and a submitter to various social bookmarking sites.
Opening up the tool, which gives you both WYSIWYG and HTML interfaces, there are dynamically loaded category and post lists for editing, plus auto-pinging through multiple services or the default service your blog uses. It works with most of the popular hosted blogs and self-hosted installations. Though sometimes its ability to access the Wordpress API can hang, all it takes to fix the issue is to login to your blog and then open up ScribeFire again.
Summary: If you post to your blog frequently or maintain multiple blogs, then this plugin is for you.
BlogRovr (3 out of 5)
In today’s internet everything is connected, but sometimes it can be hard to find the connections and use them to your advantage. BlogRovr is a tool that reveals those connections and quite a bit more.
Say you are going through your normal online day. You read a few blogs, microblog a bit on Twitter, and go about your business. BlogRovr gets underneath the surface of the websites you browse and finds the connections. It lets you know who blogged about the page you are on, what links to it, and various other pieces of useful social media information. What starts as a single interesting blog post can become the discovery of an entire new community. It even fulfills the function of quickly and easily checking who is talking about your own posts without having to leave your site.
I really liked this tool, and the only reason I didn’t rate it higher is that it causes some lag when it checks a site. This was on two different machines, both running XP SP3, one Intel and one AMD, both 2 gigabytes of RAM, and both about a year old. People I chatted with about the issue who had newer machines did not have the problem and expressed nothing but satisfaction with the plugin. This seems to be quite a performance issue for a browser plugin, and for that reason I stopped using it. Nonetheless, if your machine is up to the task, this plugin is one of the best and most innovative tools around for revealing and utilizing the social nature of the web.
Summary: A must have for the professional blogger, newshound, or curiosity seeker, but make sure you have the bandwidth and memory to handle it.
Zemanta (4 out of 5)
Zemanta is another idea who’s time has come. It is a plugin for both FireFox and WordPress self-hosted blogging software, though for reasons I will explain below I recommend using the FireFox version. This plugin pops up when you are blogging and searches for articles and pictures that are connected to your post. Every 300 characters, it searches and pops up new choices. It also builds a reblog link into your post for better social blogging. All images are under Creative Commons and safe to use. It allows you to select whether it does all of this in HTML or clean XHTML for full control of your formatting.
While I absolutely love this software and use it, there are some problems. One is that by default it will embed only one image into your post, forcing you to reformat the image into a different location in order to get multiple images. This can be very annoying if you like to use lots of images or examples. Another problem with the image embedder is that it links the image straight to the original, and if you use LightBox or another image manager it bypasses that code entirely. This is a problem for those of us who want our blog formatting to be consistent across our posts.
The last and most serious problem is that the WordPress plugin doesn’t really work very well. It lags out, it hangs if it is updating when your post autosaves, and has problems including pasted text into its search. I didn’t even post once with the WordPress version because of these problems.
Summary: A perfect plugin for bloggers as long as you use the FireFox version. Fast, accurate searches and clean embedding of code combines with a clean interface and plenty of options to give you optimal control while enriching your blog.
Next we will round up the best plugins for changing how FireFox 3 looks and acts to give you ultimate control over your browsing experience.