One of the most useful features of Firefox are add-ons, small applications that can add new functionality to the browser or change its appearance. Unfortunately, there are literally thousands of add-ons available, meaning that many of the good ones get lost in the noise.
In part one of our featured Essential Add-ons for Firefox series, I’ll be covering add-ons that I feel are vital to getting the most from your browsing experience.
This add-on quickly skyrocketed on my of “Things I must have in Firefox” list. Tree Style Tab changes your horizontal tab bar into a vertical bar with a tree hierarchy, which can give you more vertical space on a widescreen monitor. Although it takes a little getting used to (I still instinctively look to the top of my screen), you will be able to manage many more tabs at a once. Tree Style Tab is very customizable and works well with other tab modification add-ons. Check out our full guide to Tree Style Tab.
Windows only: Let’s be honest – there will always be a few websites that only render properly in Internet Explorer. We can hope that web developers follow best practices when creating websites, but in the mean time IE Tab allows you to render any website in Internet Explorer from within Firefox. You can even set it to automatically render certain websites, which works great for *.microsoft.com domains.
Occasionally, I’ll encounter an unclickable link. Normally, a person would copy and paste (or type) the address in the URL bar, but Right-Click-Link allows you to right click the dead link and open it without the extra work. This is a great example of the “little things” that can be improved with add-ons.
Highlighting URL roots was popularized in Google Chrome, and now Firefox users can add this feature with the Locationbar² add-on. This add-on highlights the root domain of the website you are browsing to help identify phishing or spoofing in URLs. Even better, it makes subsections of the URL clickable when you hold the CTRL or ALT keys, so you can click directly to the root of a website.
Multiple Tab Handler adds one of my single favorite features: Close Other Tabs. This allows you to right click a tab (or tabs) you want to keep open and close all other quickly. It also adds features to close, reload, and duplicated selected (or all) tabs. This add-on doesn’t work perfectly with Tree Style Tab yet, but the developers appear to be working together to improve this.
Greasemonkey allows you to install small scripts which can dramatically change the way a website looks or functions. This add-on is one of the single most useful on this list, and many Greasemonkey scripts eventually work their way into independent add-ons. Greasemonkey can help you manage multiple gmail accounts, turn you into a Facebook power user, and let you automatically watch YouTube videos in high definition. Check out our full guide to Greasemonkey.
Personal Menu can save you some serious space in your browser (which is great for netbooks). This add-on lets you remove Firefox’s standard menu toolbar and replace it with highly customizable buttons. You’ll have an independent button for history and favorites, as well as the Personal Menu button which can contain any of the menus present in the standard toolbar.
Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) is a great way to keep all your bookmarks synchronized across multiple computers. This add-on provides seamless synchronization between your browser and the Xmarks servers, allowing you to access your bookmarks anywhere. Xmarks has the unique ability to sync bookmarks from Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari, and also provides a secure password sync (but I recommend sticking with LastPass). Check out our guide to making the most of your bookmarks.
The default download manager window in Firefox is clunky and can get in the way. Download Statusbar replaces the standard download window with a small, sleek toolbar that exists at the bottom of your browser. This add-on is incredibly customizable (with more features than the standard window) and can be set to auto-hide to save space.
This great little add-on will automatically correct typos in your URL bar. If you accidentally type techerator.con it will automatically suggest techerator.com (and the notification can be disabled for seamless correction). URL Fixer works for common misspellings of .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, .mil, and many other URLs.
AutoPager will make it so you never have to click ‘Next Page’ on a website ever again. When you reach the bottom of a page (such as Google search results), the next page will automatically be loaded seamlessly with the current page you are viewing. AutoPager supports hundreds of popular websites and will dramatically improve your browsing experience. Note: AutoPager includes advertisements by default, but they can be easily disabled by following this guide.
If you’d like to install all of the add-ons in the Techerator Essential Add-ons for Firefox #1: Power User Edition pack, check out our Firefox Collections site.
For more great Firefox Add-ons, check out Essential Add-ons for Firefox #2: Socialite Edition.