Best FireFox 3 Plug-ins: Optimizing your browser experience
Among other things, I run various websites, and I have used various FTP programs over the years only to abandon them because they became bulky or buggy. Then I was rescued by this little add-on. FireFTP is lightweight, non-intrusive, and does exactly what it is supposed to do: give you an FTP client in your browser. The interface is intuitive and clean, adding functionality without getting in the way of normal browsing. You just select the add-on from the menu and a tab opens up, giving you a standard FTP interface with two directory panes. The account manager is simple to work with and since the whole thing shares its connections with Firefox it never seems to cause uploading or downloading errors, unlike many other FTP clients I have worked with. While it may not be as full-featured as some people might want their FTP client to be, the convenience and performance factors more than make up for it.
Sxipper is the autofill manager to rule them all, allowing you to create various profiles which store names, usernames, passwords, and every other piece of information you end up entering into sites all the time. The method Sxipper uses for this is rather ingenious, as the add-on is trainable and the network of users are its trainers, allowing new forms, login screens, and other annoying fields to be added as the extension is used all over the world. Trainers are ranked, and thus people who train forms poorly will lose the ability to keep training.
While it can be a bit intrusive at times, that is mostly when it is trying to learn a new form or is confused over non-standard inputs. When you install the plug-in, it imports your saved data from Firefox and populates a profile for you, which you can then fill in manually to add anything else you want to keep stored. From then on, every time there is a form or login screen, Sxipper will pop up and give you various options. This makes filling out profiles for new accounts on websites simple and easy as you simply click once, make sure everything is filled out correctly, and hit submit.
Sxipper can learn any type of field, but sometimes it does get confused. Sites which use frames and load multiple pages with forms will make the add-on freak out, trying to put up multiple profiles at once. Thankfully, you can simply click the little “x” to dismiss it and it calms down.
Often the internet is about multitasking, and over the years the browser developers have added tabs and window managers to cater to this need. However, this can lead to keeping tabs and windows open simply because you want to read them later. Taboo is an add-on that wrangles your tabs and prevents you from having 50 tabs open.
The interface is simple. Two buttons appear on your toolbar, one to save a tab and the other to bring up a page of screenshots of the tabs you have saved. You can also us a drop-down tab to load saved tabs in the current tab by name. The add-on functions by taking a screenshot of the tab you are viewing and saving the information using Firefox’s built-in session manager so that you can return anytime you want. This add-on is perfect for newshounds and blog-readers, allowing you to save what you want to read without cluttering up your browser or your bookmarks.
I am no fan of Internet Explorer, but sometimes you just need to use it. Some sites don’t work properly without it, some services for watching movies online need it, and if you are a webmaster you need to make sure your site is compatible. Thankfully for those of us who live in Firefox, IE Tab comes to the rescue.
Rather than digging through your start menu to find a browser you never use and copying over the URL of the page you were trying to view, IE Tab sits in your status bar as a tiny Firefox icon. When you want to switch to IE, all you have to do is click the button and the tab you are viewing reloads, rendered perfectly. Right-clicking on the button gives you the option of setting certain domains and pages to always load in one engine or another, giving you absolute control of what browser you are in without ever having to leave Firefox. The add-on works perfectly with Windows Update and Office Update, and loads all IE plug-ins, cookies, and saved user information for both browsers. Unfortunately, your add-ons from Firefox won’t work with pages rendered in IE, but this is a small price to pay for universal browsing from the comfort of Firefox.
The modern internet is filled with content, and all of that content needs bandwidth to get to you. Unfortunately, if your bandwidth is limited that means other applications and users on your network might get lagged out simply by normal browsing and downloading. Firefox Throttle allows you to set a limit on Firefox so that browsing does not interfere with other activities.
The interface sits in your status bar and shows how much bandwidth, both up and downstream, is currently being used. Right-clicking gives you a menu that allows you to set your throttle. Options allow for controlling both up and downstream throttles, excluding certain websites and IP addresses from throttling, and statistics for keeping track of your bandwidth use.
While these add-ons are all working on my Firefox installation, always remember that every software environment is different and that any add-on can cause problems. Install extensions one by one, checking to make sure everything works properly each time, and pay attention to any strange changes in browser behaviour.
Other Editor’s Picks from this writer:
>» FireFox 3 Extensions Roundup: Social Media and Blogging
>» Digsby: Instant Messaging for Web 2.0