I’ve been using Firefox for some years now, having been introduced to it shortly before it boomed into popularity and made Microsoft start to sweat. I don’t use too many add-ons for it. In fact, I currently use exactly five. There are a great number of useful add-ons out there which I like but I don’t keep installed because my use of them would be rare. (One notable example of this is the Firefox Companion for eBay. Great if you use eBay regularly… which I don’t.)
Of the five add-ons I employ, three are passive. One was an option in the installation of my virus scanner, AVG Free (which, by the way, is the bomb). It just checks anything I download for me. One was an option in the installation of Skype, which I use for all my long-distance calling. It turns any phone number it finds in a web page into a button I can click to call that number with Skype. The third is called Download Statusbar, and just changes Firefox’s downloading interface.
Two of my add-ons are more active. One is TwitterFox, which eliminates the need for me to keep a tab open for Twitter. It minimizes to the bottom-right corner of your Firefox window until you tell it otherwise, at which point it becomes a small Twitter interface in the bottom-right corner of your Firefox window. Twitterfox checks for new updates at regular intervals and uses a combination of color-coding and tabs to make it easy to find new messages, replies, and direct messages aimed at you. You can tweet to your feed right from the interface. It even has the added functionality of making it easy to re-tweet someone else’s messages. Furthermore, it supports multiple Twitter accounts with a simple drop-down menu so you can flip back and forth in case of multiple computer users or what have you. Now I can surf the web without that extra tab sucking the fun out of my peripheral vision.
My fifth and final add-on is StumbleUpon. This is a wonderful add-on for people who like to just find cool stuff on the internet. You click the Stumble! button and it pulls up a random web page. It does require you to create a StumbleUpon profile so it can tailor the web sites it feeds you to your interests. You can give the web sites you find a thumbs up or thumbs down, which StumbleUpon then uses to further tailor the selection it gives you to your liking. I must warn you, however, that although you’ll find some really awesome stuff using StumbleUpon, there are two significant disadvantages to this add-on:
- It’ll keep you up past your bedtime. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought to myself, “I’ll just do one more Stumble! and then sleep,” only to look at the clock an hour later and berate myself for weakness. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person with this problem; I’ve encounted many StumbleUpon-related insomnia jokes floating around the internets.
- If you refrain from rating sites because you don’t want to narrow the selection StumbleUpon provides, you’ll start to see the same sites over and over again. If you ever used Pandora and tried to rate every song it throws at you, you know that such a Pandora station eventually ends up having about a dozen songs. Some of us prefer a little more variety than that. My solution in StumbleUpon’s case has been to only rate those pages which I like or dislike very much. Rating a small portion of the web pages you find keeps the new pages flowing without overly restricting the things it throws at you.
StumbleUpon is probably my favorite Firefox add-on of all. It’s a great way to fill ten minutes, and some of the stuff I’ve found through it has been truly amazing.