20 must-have Firefox extensions

These plug-ins give you souped-up functionality, better look and feel, and streamlined development tasks. And some are just plain cool.

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Matters of convenience

Google Browser Sync & Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer

If you use Firefox on more than one computer, you might be frustrated keeping track of what bookmarks are where. Google Browser Sync to the rescue. Using your existing Google account, Google Browser Sync will sync not only bookmarks, but sessions, persistent cookies, passwords and history among instances of Firefox on different machines. (This is user configurable on a broad scale -- i.e., you can choose to sync cookies, or not to sync cookies, but you can't make the decision based on individual cookies.) In addition to your Google account name and password, you'll assign a PIN to add additional security to the transaction.

Some of Google Browser Sync's options.
 

Some of Google Browser Sync's options.

(Click image to see larger view)

Version reviewed: 1.3.20061031.0

www.google.com/tools/firefox/browsersync

One downside is that the initial sync can take quite a while, and for some folks, Google Browser Sync might be overkill. If all you want to do is sync bookmarks, try Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer. You'll have to set up an account with Foxmarks (the same is true of Google, but many of us already have Google accounts), but the initial sync seems much faster.

Foxmarks offers fewer synchronization options.
 
Foxmarks offers fewer synchronization options. (Click image to see larger view)

As a bonus, you can access your bookmarks by navigating to my.foxmarks.com. This could be handy if you're on a borrowed machine somewhere.

Version reviewed: 0.84

addons.mozilla.org/firefox/2410

Session Manager

Session Manager is a handy utility to help you manage your Firefox tabs. If you're a Web surfer who habitually visits the same sites every morning, all you need do is open the sites in separate tabs and/or windows, and then use Session Manager to save the session under a name of your choosing. After that, every morning start up Firefox and go to Tools > Session Manager, pick your session and voila, all the windows and tabs open up just as you saved them.

You can also choose a saved session as your "Start Session" (instead of just using a start page) that'll open each time you launch Firefox. As an added bonus, Session Manager tracks your sessions as you surf, and if Firefox (or your system) crashes, you can recover the selection of tabs you had open when it crashed.

Session Manager makes it easy to reopen closed tabs.
 
Session Manager makes it easy to reopen closed tabs.
One last perk: If you accidentally close a tab, you can easily reopen it from the Session Manager menu.

While Firefox 2.0 has incorporated many of Session Manager's functions, I find Session Manager performs its tasks more elegantly and reliably. And if you're still on Firefox 1.5, Session Manager remains your lone option for these features. Note that the most current version of Session Manager requires Firefox 2.0 or later. Earlier, Firefox 1.5-compatible versions can be found on the Web site.

Version reviewed: 0.5.3.1

addons.mozilla.org/firefox/2324

All-in-One Gestures

This is one of those extensions that does more than you'll probably ever need, but the core function is to assign commands to "Gestures" made with the mouse. For instance, holding down the right mouse button and dragging the mouse a bit to the left issues a "Back" command. A right-mouse button/dragging up combo opens a new tab. And so on.

 
A few of the many gestures you can assign commands to.
 
A few of the many gestures you can assign commands to. (Click image to see larger view)
There are more than 90 commands available, and the gesture to trigger each is user-configurable. Will you ever remember 90 different gestures? Of course not. But find the commands you use often and assign each a gesture; you'll save yourself miles of mousing.

The extension also provides auto-scrolling, as seen in Internet Explorer. This is where you click the middle button, then move the mouse up or down to start the page continuously scrolling. The farther you move the mouse, the faster the page scrolls.

All-in-One offers a wide selection of small navigation improvements like these. It's really one of those "you have to try it to appreciate it" extensions. But the core functionality of accomplishing frequent tasks via a small twitch of the mouse makes this a must-have for its many advocates.

Version reviewed: 0.18.0

addons.mozilla.org/firefox/12

IE Tab

It's a fact of life that there are still Web sites out there that require (or work better with) Internet Explorer. IE Tab to the rescue. Once installed, it places a small icon in your status bar. Clicking this icon swaps out the rendering engine from Firefox's to Internet Explorer's. In my experience, this is particularly helpful with sites that refuse to play video in Firefox.

You can set filters so that certain sites are always displayed in an IE tab. In fact, the extension comes preconfigured with filters for the Microsoft Update site. It also adds an "Open Link in IE Tab" option to the right-click context menu of Firefox.

Since the extension uses IE's engine, this one is for Windows only.

Version reviewed: 1.3.1.20070126

addons.mozilla.org/firefox/1419

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