5 essential Firefox add-ons for productive web work

December 27, 2007

5 essential Firefox add-ons for productive web work Firefox benefits from a vast community of add-on developers and here are a few that will supercharge your every day browsing experience.

One feature that distinguished Firefox early on was its support for tabbed browsing. But the default configuration contains some awkward behaviors when switching between tabs and opening new tabs.

1. First, install Last Tab. It allows Firefox to cycle through tabs in order of most recent use. This will feel more intuitive to anyone familiar with switching between applications in Windows using ALT+TAB.

LastTab Options

A nice supplement to this is Tabs Open Relative, an add-on that opens new tabs next to the currently active tab. By default Firefox opens new tabs at the far right of the screen. But when opening a new tab, usually the intent is to find/display information or resources related to what’s on the first tab. In essence this add-on will help group similar topics.

2. With all of those tabs open, it can be cumbersome to switch to those not recently viewed. For targeted switching, install Fancy Numbered Tabs. It replaces the small “x” on the right of every tab with a number graphic of the same size.

Then you’ll be able to hit CTRL+<number> to activate any given tab without counting first.


3. No list of essential browser add-ons would be complete without mentioning mouse gestures. My favorite flavor for Firefox is All In One Gestures, which provides the ability to customize every gesture, and lots of configuration options. It also supports rocker gestures.

4. For sites you visit most frequently it’s helpful to set up keywords that activate a target bookmark. As an example, tb could be the keyword for Firefox to visit TECH.BLORGE.com. But, in Firefox’s default installation that requires first accessing the bookmarks menu, then right clicking and going to the properties for an existing bookmark. There isn’t an option to set up a keyword when adding a new bookmark.

Meet Openbook. It customizes the options displayed when creating a new bookmark. Note that in the image below, the Keyword textbox option is filled.

OpenBook Options

And, to access sites you search frequently more efficient, add a variable to your bookmark. For example, take a look at dictionary.reference.com. A search for feathers yields a URI like this: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/feathers. To sidestep the main page and dive right in to search results, bookmark this page and replace feathers in the URI with %s, like this: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/%s.

If you made d a keyword for the bookmark to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/%s, then searching the site later would only require you to type d feathers in the address bar.

5. Like it or not, lots of content online is formatted as PDF. Google provides the option to convert PDF into html when accessing a file from its search page, but what if for some strange reason, you were accessing a PDF from another page?

Install PDF Download to control how Firefox handles PDFs. It allows you to download it, open it normally or view it as HTML. You can configure it to choose one of those options by default or prompt for every PDF.

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2 Responses to “5 essential Firefox add-ons for productive web work”

  1. Ellie:

    Hi! There’s a built-in way to do tip #1.

    Just press CTRL+TAB and you can cycle through all of your tabs.

    Great site!

  2. Richard:

    Hi Matt,

    I just came across your mention of our PDF Download add-on above and thought I’d contact you to see whether you’d be interested in participating in a private beta for the upcoming PDF Download 2.0. The program starts today and is limited to a small number of existing PDF Download users.

    If this is of interest, please email me privately and I’ll send you info on PDF Download 2.0 and how you can get started with the beta.

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