Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Useful Firefox extensions

Many people around me switched to Chrome or Chromium. I also used it for a bit, but I was a bit disappointed about the extensions available. To show why, here's a list of the extensions I've currently installed:
  • Adblock Plus: I guess everyone knows this. It sits quitely in the background and removes quite a bunch of eye-distracting stuff from web pages. You see the web differently and are always confused when viewing pages on your smartphone.
  • British English Dictionary: Pretty self-explaining. Firefox has an integrated spell checker and that one needs a dictionary.
  • BugMeNot: You can right-click on a login field and let it insert BugMeNot data automatically. I don't use it often enough to remember that it's there.
  • Certificate Patrol: SSL's X.509 trust model is weak, to say the least. This extension implements the "save on first visit" trust model and warns you if the certificate or the CA of a URL changes.
  • Download Statusbar: If you're used from, say, Chromium to see your download progress above the status bar, this extension will give you that. I don't like the separate window, especially with Awesome as my window manager.
  • Firebug: Most people know this, too. Very useful when you do web development. You can see the effects of CSS as you type, for instance.
  • Flashblock: YouTube has its HTML5 trial, so you don't need Flash for it. Sadly I had to give in recently (for live streaming sites like the German Parliament, go figure) and have it installed for "emergency" cases. But really nobody needs Flash advertisements or other silly Flash animations, so Flashblock will conveniently refuse to load the Flash plugin unless you tell it to.
  • German Dictionary: As above.
  • Google Translator for Firefox: Translates marked sections on a web page in place. It lets Google guess the source language, so you really only mark the area, click the button and be done.
  • Greasemonkey: Modifies web pages in place to make them more sane, using little scripts. I use two currently:
    • Better Outlook Web Access (OWA): For odd reasons I'm forced to use OWA 2007 at a company of Windows and Mac users. This makes it a little bit more bearable, by allowing you to save your password and by adding a message preview pane. You really don't want to use OWA Light 2007 without this.
    • Tagesschau.de - video tag: A simple script that lets you watch videos on tagesschau.de without resorting to Flash. They ship Theora videos alongside H.264, which is supported by Firefox out of the box.
  • Lazarus: Form Recovery: This already saved me many, many times. Sometimes I hit the stupid Thinkpad page back/page forward keys, or the browser crashes or I'm torn away from a page in another way. This extension keeps your form content mostly save, so that you don't need to start from scratch. A must have.
  • Live HTTP headers: curl -D usually works. But sometimes you need authentication and cookies and stuff, hence doing it in the browser makes sort of sense.
  • Modify Headers: I don't really use it anymore. There was this legend that YouTube lets you watch videos that are blocked in your country (Hello, GEMA, I'm looking at you!) if you provide a X-Forwarded-For header with an IP from another country. Never worked for me.
  • Mozilla Archive Format: If you need to archive a web page or want to collect a bunch of pages for offline reading, this is the way to go. You can conveniently select either single pages or several tabs to be stored.
  • Perspectives: I'm paranoid, so here's the second SSL certificate check. Perspectives uses a bunch of network notaries hosted on PlanetLab to check if everyone sees the same certificate. Together with Certificate Patrol that means if that you save a self-signed certificate on first visit if the notaries all agree that it's the currently installed one.
  • PwdHash: Password re-use on different web sites is bad. There are sites where I'm not very concerned about the strength of my password, but where I don't want to leak my main ones. PwdHash uses the domain name and the password I give as components to a hash function. So if I'm at a computer without access to my saved passwords, I can easily reconstruct the hash. If need be, I can use the JavaScript on the developer's web site to do that.
  • RequestPolicy: It's currently installed but I don't think it will stick around much longer. Too many sites are using embedded cross-site requests, which this extension will allow you to review. As an example every Blogger site that's on a custom domain (like my blog) will trigger it. Instead half of your web will have red flags everywhere full of blocked requests. Not that helpful. Interestingly enough it also polices Flash's outgoing web requests. Which breaks even more often than normal web pages.
  • Secure Login: This gives you a button (or a keyboard shortcut) that allows you to choose from several logins and then goes on and posts those credentials securely to the page in question, bypassing any JavaScript that might want to see them. You also get auto-login bookmarks for those sites which don't allow you to remain logged-in across browser sessions. (Like OWA.)
If Firefox on Android were quicker to start and faster overall, I might even use it there. But as-is it's not very useful. Sadly this also means that I can't use Firefox Sync on my phone and as I don't use Chrome on my desktop I also can't use Chrome to Phone. So I usually go and build a QR code on my laptop and read that with Android's Barcode Scanner.

Of course I'm actually using Iceweasel and I'm very grateful for Mike Hommey's efforts to track the release channel on mozilla.debian.net.


  1. There is http://www.foxtophone.com/ which is compatible with Chrome to Phone.

  2. Nice list. Here are some more plugins for you to consider:

    Automatically switches to https version of a site by pattern matching. Comes preinstalled with some hundred patterns and can be manually extended. Version 2 also comes with a ssl certificate checker using a distributed network.

    Shows what the "Web of Trust" thinks about a website behind a link in terms of trustworthynes, child safety, privacy, and more. Allows you to easily participate in the Web of Trust.

    Speed DNS
    Resolves DNS on websites you visit so the information will be available before you click the link, so browsing becomes faster. Basically the same as in Chromium.

    Long URL Please
    Name sais it all. Shows you where short URL services actually lead you so you won't land on sites you don't want to visit.

  3. My extensions (I have omited the one on your list):
    - BetterPrivacy - dealing with flash tracking cookies
    - Dictionary Switcher - adds small changing icon in statusbar (or elsewhere) to change languages (very useful if using more then one langauge)
    - DownThemAll - downloads files with multiple threads - it speeds up download a lot
    - Fasterfox Lite - speeds up Firefox
    - FireGestures - mouse gestures to speed up working with firefox
    - HTTPS-Everywhere - uses https instead of http where ever possible (e.g. gmail.com, hotmail.com etc)
    - IE Tab Plus - some web pages are still in IE only - extension to see Internet Explorer only web pages in Firefox
    - OptimizeGoogle - like it is written
    - PDF Download - offers download window instead of opening the PDF file inside of Firefox
    - QuickWiki - mark text and get help from Wikipedia etc.

  4. Other extensions that I use:
    User Agent Switcher
    JavaScript Deobfuscator

  5. Great add-on missing here:

  6. After accidently closing Firefox for the millionth time by pressing CTRL-Q I've just found am addon that disables that accelerator: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/disable-ctrl-q-shortcut/

    One comment states that it disables Tab Groupings but it works for me on FireFox 7.0.1