Firefox 3 Add-Ons: Must-Have Tools
- 24 June, 2008 11:09
Mozilla has touted Firefox 3 as faster and more secure than earlier versions of the open-source web browser. But there's another reason to look at the browser upgrade: it is highly customizable for individual users by utilizing the massive library of Add-ons - additional features that users can choose to install on top of the browser.
With that in mind, we examined three Add-Ons for Firefox 3 that can help you interact with colleagues and browse the web more efficiently to find the relevant content you need for your job. In some ways, the overall usefulness of an add-on can be measured by its ability to help the user without opening more tabs, and these add-ons seem to do that well.
An additional two Add-Ons help the overall user interface (which, even with just the out-of-the box download, is prettier that the last Firefox).
So far, a prominent way to connect with colleagues and friends in the professional world is through LinkedIn, the online social network for business contacts. The LinkedIn Companion is an add-on that allows you to utilize your connections on LinkedIn in other applications (such as Gmail and Yahoo mail) without having to keep LinkedIn open as a tab on your Web-browser.
For instance, if you open an email in Gmail from your friend John, a small blue and white logo (LinkedIn's colors) that says "info" will appear next to that person's name. If you scroll your mouse over it, you will have a link that can take you to that person's LinkedIn profile. It will also show you how many connections you share in your geographical area, based on the information LinkedIn members provide.
When you forget to bookmark a page, you probably turn to Google and search for it. But when you get to the results page, sometimes it's hard to remember which one you clicked on. (Sometimes the browser will change the color of the link, but not always). With Google Preview, you can see a small version of the web-page that the link will lead you to, which should help jar your memory and avoid the need to click on several results to see which one you picked last time.
Twitter, a social networking service that asks users "What are you doing" in 140 characters or less, is a good way to keep track of colleagues, friends, and even customers. While some updates people make center around the mundane ("Going to the store"), some can be quite interesting ("Considering making x type of product. What do you think?").With TwitterFox, you can let this information feed to your browser without it being too disruptive.
After installation, a small "T" resides in the corner. When a number appears next to it (say "1"), you know some of your friends have posted a "tweet" (a message on Twitter). The number increases as more unread messages compile. You can click on the box when you want to see what they've written. There is also an option to let their messages pop up for a few seconds in the corner above the T.
ColorfulTabs are a great carryover from previous versions of Firefox that works on Firefox 3. ColorfulTabs allows you to differentiate what tabs you're working under automatically (it will assign a color) or manually (you can set one). One could set Gmail tab to blue and CIO.com to red, for instance. You can change the colors right away by right clicking on the tab.
The business value of this add-on is quite simple: if you have a Web-browser open all day for your job, having colors (rather than a static gray look) makes it easier on the eyes to differentiate the applications and websites you have open.
Another staple, but the Add-on features for Firefox 3 really look great. Delicious is a social bookmarking site that allows you to save your bookmarks in once centralized location that you can access with a login and password regardless of what computer or browser you are on. This can be especially helpful if you are looking to share relevant pieces of content (news, etc.) with colleagues at work but aren't on the company intranet. Customers who also use the service could share content with you.
Like TwitterFox, Delicious Bookmarks for Firefox 3 now utilizes the right corner of the browser. There, you can see the del.icio.us symbol. If you click on it, you will be led to your home page on the social bookmarking site where you store your favorite articles and websites (and tag them). If you utilize the social aspects of del.icio.us (meaning, primarily, that you share bookmarks with friends on the service), you can also be notified that a friend has shared a link with you. Like the older versions of this add-on, you have a button at the top of your browser installed that says "Tag," which will allow you to save a page for bookmarking and tag it with a relevant label. Also, like on previous versions, if you right click on an article it will say "bookmark this in del.icio.us."
Still More Firefox Add-Ons in Store
There is some waiting involved with the new Firefox 3 browser. Not all of the add-ons we've enjoyed in past versions of Firefox are available on FireFox 3-yet. Because the majority of these software programs are made by third-party developers, and not Mozilla, it takes time for them to catch up and tweak their add-ons to fit the newer version.
The list above represents the Firefox 3 add-ons that we've been playing around with. Please feel free to share with us in the comments section below any that you think could help the business Firefox 3 user.