Hacking Firefox

Posted by: Rob Hof on July 13, 2005

I was about to write an item about how all the enthusiasm about Firefox seemed a bit much, given some annoying issues I’ve had with the upstart Web browser. For instance, I had grown used to Internet Explorer’s “inline autofill,” which fills in the Web address you’re typing before you’re done, so I found the lack of this on Firefox more and more annoying. Then there’s that tiny Google search box on the toolbar. Yes, you can type all the words you want, but you can’t see them all later. And where’s the print button? I never have gotten the hang of remembering “Ctrl P” instead.

Before dashing off a curmudgeonly post, I decided to check the Web for fixes for these. Turns out there are fixes for all of them. Cool! This will come as no news to seasoned Firefox users, but you can actually tweak this puppy quite a bit. (Actually, there’s a whole book on it.) In minutes, I had installed a print button, expanded my Google search box with the aid of a software extension, and enabled autofill with another tweak.

It was all more geeky than it needs to be. Still, the number of extensions you can add is pretty awesome. And if you like living a little dangerously, check out Greasemonkey. It’s a Firefox extension that lets you add any of hundreds of scripts to change the way various Web sites work on your computer, such as automatically redirecting you to printer-friendly versions of articles and blocking annoying ads.

More than ever, these days, it’s your Web. Got any favorite Firefox hacks to share?

UPDATE July 19: Greasemonkey creator Aaron Boodman warns today of a serious security flaw in the program, and suggests uninstalling or disabling it, or upgrading to a less powerful version that’s also less dangerous. A more permanent fix is coming, he promises, but it could take several days.

Reader Comments

Tim Howland

July 13, 2005 8:23 PM

I'm a huge fan of the Sage newsreader extension. Certain websites publish lists of their news articles in a special format called RSS. Sage lets you subscribe to these lists, and then will let you know when one of your sites has updated.

I use it for the New York times, Business week, and a ton of great technical websites- it's a great way to keep on top of the latest news. Also, most blogs automatically output one of these feeds, so it's a great way to keep tabs on what your favorite bloggers are posting.

amit agarwal

July 14, 2005 1:23 AM

Just sharing another useful extension similar to AI Roboform called Scribe. It lets you save the field of your form. So if you are on-line and filling out a blog post or a comment to someone else's post, you can hit crtl+s and save your comment locally. If something should happen, you can do a "File - Open Entry..." and open your saved file right into your form. Handy for Gmail and other web-based email programs.

http://labnol.blogspot.com/2005/06/best-of-firefox-tricks-extensions-and.html

localhost

July 14, 2005 4:20 AM

The one I'm using the most is Mouse Gestures (All in one Gestures). I can't work without them anymore.

Other very usefull ones are indeed Sage, Web Developer Toolbar, Addblock and the not really extension Dom Inspector.

Randy

July 14, 2005 9:28 AM

Rob,

You might not be the best person for this (you'll want a real tech savvy user for this), but BW Online should do a full article, on Firefox, and why everyone still stuck using IE should wake up and smell the coffee.

IE is old, very old, neglected, and a web user & developers nightmare. With Firefox, users don't need to install a popup blocker, they can block (via AdBlock) anoying ads on websites, avoid malware & viruses (no ActiveX, JScript or VBScript security issues) and some of the best web standards support available today.

I've converted dozens of users to Firefox, and not a one has even dreamed of going back... ever.

Since BW Online would have a significant readership, you would be sure to help the population rid themselves of IE, the viruses, the spyware, the adware, the malware, the popups, the annoying flash ads, and plain horrible IE only HTML.

Thanks!
Randy

Rob Hof

July 14, 2005 10:16 AM

Thanks for all the suggestions. Randy, I think you extolled Firefox's virtues well enough. Although I didn't personally have a problem enabling these features and installing these extensions, I do think they can, and should, be made more user-friendly. The essence of the Web is inclusion, and I guarantee that most Web users won't bother to make most of these changes unless they're simpler.

Chris Davis

July 14, 2005 12:27 PM

I like the "Customize Google" exension. block ads, redirect google images, suggest other engines, google suggest, enable context menu on google print... great stuff! For those of you with Gmail, I also really like the Gmail notifier. I also really like Chipmarks Its a secure way to store your bookmarks online and be able to have access to them on any computer.

Bill Brown

July 16, 2005 12:22 AM

Not so much a hack as a basic Firefox feature that no one uses. They're called "keywords." There's some pre-installed so I'll just quickly use those to demonstrate.

Type "google well spent" in your address field. Or "dict business". The "dict" and "google" are keywords set up in Firefox's bookmark for Google and Dictionary.com and the URL in those bookmarks has been modified to add "%s" in it. Whatever you type after the keyword replaces the "%s" in the URL. The ones I just mentioned can be found under Bookmarks > Quick Searches.

If you want more power, go to the Google Quick Search bookmark and change the keyword from "google" to "g". Now you just need to type "g whatever" to Google search for "whatever." Here's a short list of what I've set up (oh and if you don't specify a "%s" in the URL then it just replaces your keyword with the URL).

"dict" http://www.answers.com/%s
"msdn" http://www.google.com/search?q=site:msdn.microsoft.com+%s
"whois" http://whois.sc/%s
"amazon" http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=blended&field-keywords=%s
"movie" http://us.imdb.com/Find?for=%s
"actor" http://us.imdb.com/Find?select=People&for=%s

You get the picture. With a little time investment up front, you can turn your address field into the Web's command line.

lkjj

July 18, 2005 8:20 PM

parveen

September 25, 2006 3:45 AM

Mozilla Firefox comes with a new tool bar wherein you can install custom plug-ins.I see some problems with robo Form and Mozilla Firefox. Automatic form filling can also be done with some open source tools.

Filo Mall

April 1, 2007 4:59 AM

I'm glad Mozilla finally started taking notice of Opera since all of this was posted. Most people don't realize how much of IE7 and Firefox 2 is a copy of Opera. May stink for Opera developers, but its good for us as consumers that these companies have come much closer to the useful interface and tabs of Opera, as well as the improved security. Now if only Web Developers would start making their sites comply more with W3C and less with proprietaries...

blog things

May 22, 2007 12:46 PM

I mostly use firefox because of its customization options, I use adblock to block javascript, I have also turned of images and flash, I wish there was a plugin to switch images on/off with a hotkey, like opera.

Post a comment

 

About

Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

Categories

 

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!