Web Browser Wednesday

Firefox has obviously gained a lot of popularity because of what an extensible browser it has become. Our article last week about getting Safari-styled inline searching is a prime example of that. You can customize nearly any aspect of it thanks to thousands of extensions and scripts that have been created by developers, and one of our goals is to point you towards the best ones.

In the past we’ve done several top 10 lists of extensions and other things related to Firefox. Some of them are starting to show their age, but for those of you that haven’t been reading us since the beginning here is a quick recap of my favorites:

For this article I sifted through well over 500 search-related extensions that Mozilla currently has posted. I was hoping to walk away with 10, but I only managed to come across 5 that actually caught my eye. So without further ado let me present to you my top 5 extensions to improve searching in Firefox…

–Drag and DropZone (Homepage)–

This is an extremely unique concept that I hadn’t seen in a browser until now. The goal of Drag and DropZone is to simplify the process of pulling up search engine results for words contained on the page you’re currently viewing. When you look at the configuration screen for this extension you’ll notice a grid along the right side and the search engines currently installed along the left:

drag dropzones configure
(Click to Enlarge)

Now why would you want to establish a grid of search engines? Because to perform a search all you have to do is highlight some words on the page and begin dragging them. As soon as Firefox recognizes that you’re dragging the text it will popup with the grid layout you created above:

drag dropzones using
(Click to Enlarge)

Just drop the text on the search engine you want to use and you’ll instantly be taken to the results. Think about the possibilities for this! Mapping an address could be as simple as highlighting it and dragging it to one of the several mapping search engines you add to the browser.

–HighlightAll (Homepage)–

The reason that I really love this extension is that you can instantly have all instances of a word highlighted on a particular page simply by selecting it. This isn’t the default behavior, but it can be configured in the options:


After you’ve enabled the Always highlight selected text you’ll quickly find that once a word is highlighted that all other instances of that same word are also highlighted. This can definitely be a time saver.

–SearchWP (Homepage)–

Note: The current version of this extension is only compatible with Firefox 3 Beta. An older version for Firefox 2 is available here.

SearchWP turns your ordinary search box into something a little more powerful. Each time you perform a search the word(s) in the box will be transformed into a button. If you click on one of the words/buttons you’ll be taken to the first instance of that word on the page. Click it again and you’ll be taken to the next instance.

If you really want to go all out you can click the highlighter button located next to the search box which will instantly highlight all instances of the word(s) on the page. The really nice thing is that each word will be assigned its own color:


–Searchbar Autosizer (Homepage)–

Note: The current version of this extension is only compatible with Firefox 3 Beta. An older version for Firefox 2 is available here.

Personally I love having the search bar collapsed down to nearly nothing because I don’t use it that often. The problem with that is performing a lengthy search is difficult since you can’t see all of the text. Autosizer to the rescue! This extension makes it possible to shrink the search bar down to almost nothing, and then have it expand when you click on it. As you begin typing the search box will also expand to fit your entire query.


Some other options that are often overlooked with this extension is the ability to empty the search box after performing a query, and resetting the search engine back to the default after a query. Both of these things I often enable because then I never have to worry about deleting text from the search box, and it’s always ready with my default search engine.

–MultiSearch (Homepage)–

Note: This is currently an experimental extension, and you’ll need to login on the site before being able to install it.

The MultiSearch extension may not be useful for everyone, but I’m sure there are some people out there who will find this to be an extremely valuable tool. Once installed you’ll be able to perform multiple queries in the search box simply by separating each one by commas. Each query will be opened in a new tab so you don’t have to worry about overwriting the existing ones.

I can’t really remember the last time that I’ve wanted to perform two simultaneous searches at the same time on the same search engine, but I don’t doubt that there is a need for this. Maybe you want to search for a phrase that can be worded in several different ways, and with this you could separate each different arrangement of the phrase by commas. Then you can just shuffle through your tabs to look at the different results.


This wasn’t quite a top 10 list, but as always we were shooting for quality and not quantity. If you have any other extensions that help you search faster be sure to share them in the comments below!