Firefox 3 is available as a free download at firefox.com. It's a full-featured web browser that can replace Microsoft Internet Explorer for viewing almost any web site. For most users, Firefox is faster than IE.
One of Firefox's best features is add-ons. These are features that you can download and install to the browser. This article focuses on three specific extensions For Firefox 3 that will make your web browsing faster and easier.
We'll also show you how to add extensions from Firefox's excellent extension site, and how to install extensions from other web sites. If you're still using Firefox 2, we discuss an extension that delivers an essential feature from Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 3 to your browser.
Extension 1 – Download Statusbar
When you're downloading a large file in a web browser, it's nice to have a progress bar or indicator on the screen. Download Statusbar to put this indicator at the bottom of your browser, in the status bar. To install the extension, click on the Add to Firefox button on the extension's home page. [See Image 1]
After a 5-second countdown, you'll see an Install button appear. Click that button, and a progress bar will show when the extension has been downloaded and installed. A bar will appear with a Restart Firefox button. [See Image 2]
Firefox must be restarted before it will load a newly installed extension. However, you can ignore the button and close the window if you want to keep working in the browser. [See Image 3]
After you restart Firefox, you may need to check View, Status Bar in the browser's menu to reveal the status bar. [See Image 4] When you're looking at the Firefox listing for an extension, the version number on your screen may be different from our screen shots. Many developers keep their add-ons up-to-date with new features. [See Image 4]
Extension 2 – View Images with PicLens
What if you could view photos and images on a scrollling, 3-D display? You can with another Firefox extension called PicLens that includes built-in support for several major web sites, including Facebook, Picasa, Flickr and Photobucket. Yahoo and Google image searches are also supported, and PicLens has introduced video support for YouTube. There are PicLens versions available for Internet Explorer and Safari, too. [See Image 5]
Some extensions are available on the developer's own web site. To install PicLens, go to PicLens.com to find the version for your operating system and browser. In most cases, the PicLens site will take you directly to the appropriate download page. Press the Download button, and you'll see the add-on conformation dialog box. Press Install Now to continue the process.
To use PicLens, restart Firefox. PicLens will display a demo page in a new browser tab. To display pictures in PicLens, click on the arrow that appears when you hover the mouse over an image. You can use the arrow keys or click and drag with the mouse to browser through the images. There's also a search feature in the upper-right hand corner that will help you find more images on other sites.
Extension 3 – All-in-One Sidebar
Firefox can display your web history, search results, and other information in its sidebar. [See Image 4] It can be difficult to switch between the sidebars, because there's no drop-down menu in the basic version of Firefox. [See Image 6]
By adding an extension called All-in-One Sidebar, you'll get a drop down menu at the top of the sidebar that can reveal history, bookmarks, extensions, themes, and other information. The installation process is similar to the previous two extensions. When you restart Firefox, you can press the icons on the left border of the Firefox screen to view the various sidebars. [See Image 7]
At this point, you might want to add more extensions to your browser. Click the extensions sidebar item, then click the Get Add-Ons button at the top of the extension list. You'll see a brief selection of extensions that Firefox has identified for you. [See Image 8]
Easy protection for Firefox 2 users
If you're still using Firefox 2, you can add one of Firefox 3's best new features: the green bar. VeriSign is letting the web sites register their domain names through an extended validation (EV) process called Secure Site. The process requires additional steps and fees to exclude phishers and hackers.
VeriSign issues EV SSL certificates that will trigger a green address bar display on compliant browsers. [See Image 9] Sites that use EV technology include eBay, PayPal, Charles Schwab, BlueNile, and Amazon. There's more information about this process on the VeriSign Secure Site with EV page.
While Internet Explorer 7 was the first browser to include the green bar as a standard feature, back in 2007, VeriSign quickly released a Firefox extension to add the EV green bar in Firefox 2. It's available at the Firefox extension site.
The good news is that if you use Firefox 3, you already have the EV certificates and green bar installed!