My Firefox Add-ons

I use Mozilla Firefox as my prefered web browser. Firefox allows you to expand its functionality by adding on mini programs. These are called add-ons. I thought I’d share some of my favourite add-ons.

AdBlock PlusAdBlock Plus
This add-on blocks adverts in web pages. It collapses any content being imported from ad servers. You should see how small the Yahoo! home page becomes without its advertising. There are no more sponsored results on search engine pages, only organic results. It allows you to manually create exceptions, pages where ads are allowed. Where it detects any Flash content it displays a tiny button so that you can manually block this content.

XmarksXmarks (formerly Foxmarks)
This is a Bookmark or Favourites synchronisation tool. Put simply, if you use more than one computer it keeps your bookmarks or favourites consitent. I use three different PCs and find this tool invaluable.

TwitterFoxTwitterFox
If you use Twitter this is very useful. You can stay connected to your Twitter account without the need for having the site open. Any new tweets are popped up in a bubble at the bottom of your browser window. Clicking on the status bar icon allows you to read tweets or tweet yourself quickly and easily.

FacebookFacebook Toolbar
Similar to the Twitter tool this keeps you up to date with happenings on Facebook via small pop up messages in your web browser. The toolbar allows you to update your status in the browser, see how many items in your inbox, view your friends in a sidebar as well as share the content of the page you are currently browsing.

DiggDigg Toolbar
This makes it quick and easy to share the content of the page you are browsing on Digg. With one click (“Digg This”) you can submit a new URL to Digg to share with the online community.

DeliciousDelicious Toolbar
Like Digg this allows you to add and share online bookmarks to Delicious with a single click.

ColorzillaColorzilla
For web designers, developers or anyone working with graphics this is an eyedropper tool for picking colours. By clicking the tiny icon in the status bar you geta crosshair which when clicked on any pixel on screen gives the colour references in both Hexadecimal and RGB 0-255 values. This is incredibly useful if you see a colour you want to use. It also has the option to copy the various colour values straight to the clipboard.

Web DeveloperWeb Developer Toolbar
Quite specifically for the web designer or web developer this toolbar has buttons which strip down the web page in the browser window to its various elements. You can view just CSS (styling), just images, identitfy different layers (div tags) – just about anyhting you might want to know about a page is there.

If anyone reading knows of any other useful add-ons please feel free to share.

My Software Preferences

I just bought a new laptop and have spent a couple of long evenings setting it up. After babysitting it through the initial tedium of installing, connecting, updating, registering – lots of watching progress bars and restarting the machine every few minutes, I realised that I have my own strong ideas about which software I’m going to use for various tasks.

AVG FreeSecurity
Top of the priority list is security and getting some good anti-virus, anti-spyware software in place. I uninstalled the McAfee 30 day trial. I’m sure it’s excellent but why pay a subscription fee when there are free alternatives. I downloaded and installed AVG Free Version, which is free for home use. It performs scans and updates itself automatically keeping your PC safe.

Mozilla FirefoxWeb Browsing
Windows Vista comes with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) installed but personally I find that Mozilla Firefox offers a much better web browsing experience. It’s noticeably faster and the add-ons available mean that you can really customise it for your own needs. My personal favourites are Adblock Plus, which collapses known ads in web pages and, of course, Web Developer, which provides all sorts of options and extra information about the web page you are browsing.

OpenOffice.orgOffice – Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations
I boldly decided to ignore the 30 day free trials of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and instead downloaded and installed OpenOffice. It’s open source which means the code behind the software is freely available for software developers to tinker with and suggest improvements. OpenOffice is a suite of applications made up of Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations/slideshows), Draw (graphics) and Base (databases). It’s fully compatible with Microsoft Office so you will always be able to open and edit anything you receive.

Web Development
From my software choices so far it may sound like I’m anti-Microsoft but I’m really not. I’m just a big fan of open source software and the open collaboration. For my web development work I do love Microsoft Visual Studio. There’s a lighter version of it called Visual Web Developer which is free to download and use. This makes it easy, well, easier, to create dynamic database driven web applications.

Open SourceIn summary, there is a lot of free and open source software available and it’s worth looking at your options rather than just going with the big names. Like me you might actually prefer some of the free software over the licensed and for the home user it could save you quite a bit of cash.

Google Chrome – first impressions

I thought I’d just give my tuppence worth on Google‘s new BETA browser, Chrome.

When I first heard about Google’s new browser it was with dread. As a web developer an important part of developing any web page or application is testing that it works in the major browsers. Having another browser on the scene, and with a big name like Google behind it you know it’s going to have a lot of users, means more testing and increases my chances of having to recode.

Before downloading it I read Google‘s page on Why We Built A Browser. The page itself is titled “A fresh take on the browser”. On it Google openly admits “We’ve used components from Apple‘s WebKit and Mozilla‘s Firefox“. So, maybe not an entirely fresh take then?

So, on going in, what are my first impressions? Well, first thought, it looks pretty much the same as IE and Firefox. The browsing tabs have been shifted above the address bar, which, as far as I can see, is just a change for change’s sake rather than serving any useful purpose – why make people have to get used to something new when the browers they are used to work just fine? Other than that, without delving too deep, I’m struggling to find anything radically different.

On the plus side, it doesn’t have loads of toolbars, keeping a nice clean, simple appearance – one of the great strengths of Google’s search engine. After using it for a while, I noticed that it remembers the sites you visit and uses this data intelligently to make it quicker to revisit them. It’s fast too, noticeably quicker than IE.

On the negative side, it doesn’t seem to handle RSS feeds and feed reading as well as IE or Firefox (with RSS add-ons) but I’m sure this will come.

Firefox has been the web professional‘s choice for years now and with good reason. So, will Chrome offer us anything new that Firefox can’t? As I see it, the reason for Firefox‘s success hasn’t been about speed or security but freedom. It’s great strength is that it’s so easy to customise and ease of using add-ons make it much more than a tool for reading web content. I’m assuming that, being an open source project, Chrome will follow suit.

It seems a shame to me that all of the excellent developers out there who have been building add-ons for Firefox will now be split between Firefox and Chrome.

I don’t think that Google will better Firefox but they will be able to match it and with their finances and history of buying up big web companies (YouTube, FeedBurner) I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we saw Google Firefox before too long.

See what you think – Google Chrome