Web Browser Wednesday

Firefox Logo Firefox is a truly amazing browser and I think my favorite part about it is that the extensions make it remarkably useful. They add features that I wouldn’t expect a Web browser to do, such as serve as an FTP client. While I think extensions are great, I also find myself installing some that I just don’t need. It is almost like an addiction, and with a new year right around the corner I thought it was a good time to trim some of the “fat” (a.k.a. extensions) off of my Firefox profile by re-evaluating my need for the extensions.


–The Profile–

My process isn’t very complex. The first thing that I did was backup my existing profile in case something terrible went wrong and I needed to get it back. I use Google Bookmarks for my bookmarking needs so I didn’t have to worry about losing those in the transition. If you use the built-in Firefox bookmark manager then you’ll need to make sure you backup the bookmarks.html file in your profile folder.

After I got everything backed up, I went ahead and deleted the whole profile folder that looks something like XXXXXXXX.default which means the next time I start Firefox, it will give me a clean slate. Another alternative to deleting the profile is to just create a new one by following these directions.


–The Extensions–

About a month ago I added a sidebar module that lists the Firefox extensions that I use. There were 16 extensions in that list before today and now I just have 3 installed. Many of the extensions I found to be really useful at certain times but I didn’t need to always have them installed. Things like Firebug I only use once in awhile when I am doing Web development work so, what I decided to create a separate profile that I could always boot into when I need the developer extensions.

Next, I started to examine each extension one by one until I ended up with only three remaining. I visited each extension’s main page to remind me of the features and used that to determine whether I still needed it. So here is my thought process on each of the extensions I did/do use and why I decided to keep them or throw them back in the water for another fisherman to catch:

Note: For “The Result” on each extension: Red means that I no longer use the extension, Blue means that I have moved it to a different profile, and Green means that I am keeping the extension.

  • Aging Tabs
    Most of my extensions that I use typically make me more productive and I found that Aging Tabs helped a little with that. When you haven’t visited a tab for a little while in Firefox it will start to make it darker so that the tabs you visit more often prominently stand out. Sounds great but I found myself ignoring the effects of the extension so its usefulness wore off.
    → The Result: I stopped using Aging Tabs because I just didn’t have a purpose for it anymore.
    Aging Tabs
  • ColorZilla
    This is one of those extensions that I found to be useful only when doing my Web development work. Normally I don’t really care to determine the HEX value associated with a color on a website, so I threw this in my developer profile that I made for Firefox which I mentioned above.
    → The Result: I moved this extension to my “developer profile” for when I am doing Web design work.
  • Download Statusbar
    This one will probably shock a lot of people because it really shocked me. I never thought that I would ditch Download Statusbar because it has been with me for so long. This is probably one of the first extensions that I started using and it has stuck with me through all of the different Firefox versions. Lately I find myself downloading less and decided that I didn’t need the convenience that Download Statusbar added, so I said my goodbyes and let it be free.
    → The Result: While it used to be a must-have extension for me I find myself using it less…so it was time for me to let this one go.
  • FaviconizeTab
    FaviconizeTab Actually, I thought the last extension was confusing but this will surely boggle your mind the most! FaviconizeTab is known for collapsing tabs down to only their icons, and therefore giving you more space on your tab bar. The fact of the mater is that I used this way too much and it became so convenient for me to just double-click and collapse the tab down. Before using this extension I would have 10 to 25 tabs open at any given time but this extension allowed me to just forget about tabs and at a few points throughout the day, I may find myself with over 50 tabs open. Half of those tabs I didn’t even remember opening! That’s how bad it got! So it is definitely time for me to let this one go so that I can better organize myself with a note taking and bookmark solution.
    → The Result: I became a FaviconizeTab addict and it was time for me to admit that so that I could get organized. Goodbye FaviconizeTab…I’ll try not to miss you!
  • Firebug
    This extension is a must for any Web developer and there is no doubt that I’ll use it for that. It gives you a remarkable set of tools for debugging your website and modifying the CSS to see how it affects the site. Instead of tossing this one out the window I’ll be putting it in my Web developer profile.
    → The Result: I moved this extension to my “developer profile” for when I am doing Web design work.
  • GMarks
    GMarks I have bragged up and down about how great this extension is for managing my Google Bookmarks…and I’ll continue to do so. This is one of the three that I’ll be keeping around because it makes bookmarking sites easy, and to be honest, kinda fun. The only bad news is that it doesn’t play very nice with pre-release versions of Firefox 3.
    → The Result: I give an A+++ to this extension and it continues to have a special place in my heart. This is the first out of the three extensions that I’ll be keeping.
  • Google Notebook
    When Google Notebook was first released I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. If I found a website that I thought was interesting I would just right-click and store it in the notebook until I had more time to look at it. Honestly, this extension has saved my bookmarks from being an utter mess but I have finally outgrown it. A few weeks back Chris mentioned in the forum that Google Notebook really needs to support tags, but why they haven’t implemented that remains a Google mystery. Awhile back I started using Diigo as my notebook solution and thought it was really nice but there were some bugs that didn’t make it usable for me. I have decided to give that another try since they appear to have fixed the bugs that I had and the great thing is that they support tags! So far the service looks absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it as a Google Notebook replacement.
    → The Result (replaced with Diigo): I decided to replace Google Notebook with Diigo because it has a lot more features than Google’s offering.
  • ListZilla
    I don’t use this extension all of the time since its goal is to just list the Firefox extensions that you have installed so I decided to get rid of it. I typically had it disabled anyway so I figured I can just install it the few times that I would need it, and if I’m only using 3 extensions then there isn’t much use for it since I can manually list those just as easy.
    → The Result: This one got the axe since I barely have any extensions installed…so it is no longer useful.
  • Mouseless Browsing
    I love keyboard shortcuts and typically do anything that I can in order to keep my hand from reaching for the mouse. This extension accomplishes that plus some but there just isn’t a happy medium for me. If I have it display the numbering scheme on every hyperlink it makes the screen look cluttered, and if I have it display the numbers only when I press a certain key I find that I forget to use it. I have tirelessly tried to use this extension because it would save me some time, but it just hasn’t worked out.
    → The Result: Farewell Mouseless Browsing…you were great when I remembered you were there but those times were far and few inbetween.
    Mouseless Browsing
  • Personal Menu
    I am a new user of Personal Menu and I absolutely love the customization that it offers. It lets me eliminate the need for the Menu Bar (File, History, etc…) and collapses it all down into a single button. Then I can hide the entire Menu Bar so that I get even more screen space! This thing saves so much room that I couldn’t stand the thought of eliminating it, so it is the third extension that I’ll be keeping!
    → The Result: This is the third and final extension that I’ll be keeping for the time being…it is just too valuable to give up!
  • Restarter
    Restarter makes use of the built-in session restore that Firefox 2 offers. It adds a “Restart Firefox” option to the File menu so that you can restart Firefox without losing your open tabs and windows. I thought that I would use this more than I actually do but the option to “Restore open tabs and windows” located in the Homepage drop-down menu in the Options serves a similar purpose.
    → The Result: I didn’t use the extension enough for it to be worth installing, but this should be a built-in feature for Firefox.
  • Searchbar Autosizer
    I really liked this extension because it would keep my search box nice and small when I wasn’t using it and then it would expand as I started typing a search in it. I was amazed at how much room this saved but I use the search box so much that it isn’t really beneficial for me to keep it installed.
    → The Result: Great idea for those people who only use the Search Box once in awhile, but it just isn’t right for me.
  • Tab Catalog
    Much like the Mouseless Browsing extension I would realize every now and again that I wasn’t using this extension when it would be the most useful. The habit of reaching for the mouse was just too prominent for switching between tabs so there will be no more Tab Catalog for me.
    → The Result: It would undoubtedly provide a quicker method for switching between tabs but I never remembered to use it.
    Tab Catalog
  • Tab Mix Plus
    I’m sure that most of the Firefox readers are probably using this extension. When the newest version added support for the built-in Firefox session restore I thought I would give it a shot once again. The Options panel, for those unfamiliar with Tab Mix Plus, is insanely enormous letting you change and tweak nearly every setting that has to do with tabs. For most people that is great but I am extremely comfortable with the way the tab settings are in Firefox 2 by default. As much as I have tried to find a use for this extension I just can’t find one that outweighs the extra 20MB of memory that it appears to eat up.
    → The Result: For me, Tab Mix Plus just isn’t worth keeping for the extra 20MB of memory that it hogs on the computer.
  • Undo Closed Tabs 
    This extension assigns the key combination Alt-Z to undo the previously closed tab. I don’t really need this one anymore because the built-in shortcut (Ctrl+Shft+T) works just as well, despite there being one extra key involved.
    → The Result: Really nice extension and I would love to see a built-in keyboard shortcut editor for Firefox, but until that time comes I can live with the default keyboard shortcut for undoing the last closed tab.
    Undo Closed Tab
  • Zoho QuickRead
    Zoho QuickRead The last extension on the list and it is yet another one that I constantly forgot that I had installed. Its’ purpose is to open Word documents, PowerPoints, and Spreadsheets in their respective Zoho service but I never even used the thing. It is nice because it opens those documents within your browser instead of with an external application and I should have used this all the time. The problem was that I would typically just click on the hyperlink and it would open the document in the external application…therefore being too late to open in the browser. What they need to do is place a small icon next to the respective documents so that I realize that it can be opened using the extension and make it so that I can just click on that icon. It’s a great idea…but another one that I don’t use enough to keep.
    → The Result: They need to find a way to make Zoho-compatible documents stand out so that I open it with the extension, otherwise I forget that the extension is installed and I’ll just open it with the external application.

That’s my story on how I started with 16 Firefox extensions, and now I’m down to just 3. Many of you have a lot of extensions installed and I’m sure you find use for almost all of them, but I felt it was time for me to tidy up Firefox in time for the holidays. I still can’t believe that I ended up with so many extensions installed when I always find myself trying to rationalize each thing that I install on my PC. But, it happened and it was finally time for me to undo a little of what I had done. I guess I would have never found the three great extensions that I’m using today (Diigo, GMarks, and Personal Menu) if I didn’t take the time to experiment.

So if you decide to trim some of the extensions from your Firefox let us know which ones stayed and which ones you decided to put away.

P.S. Yes, I am the same person that installed 200 extensions in Firefox.