10 Firefox Add-Ons I Can't Live Without

firefoxWhat we once referred to as Firefox Extensions are now known as Firefox Add-ons. Call them what you want, I love them regardless. Many of them, in fact, play a key role in my day-to-day life.

Here are 10 Firefox Add-ons I simply can't live without.

Adblock Plus - You know those ads you see all over the place when surfing the web? I don't. I haven't seen them in years and I don't miss 'em at all.

ColorZilla - If I need to quickly know the hexidecimal code for any colour on any web page I visit, this tool tells all. It's awesome.

Google Browser Sync - Manage one set of bookmarks and see them from any computer in the world.

Greasemonkey - What can I say about this one? There are many great scripts that customize the way a webpage displays.

IE Tab - Need to test a page in IE? This add-on lets you do that in a Firefox tab. It's also useful for those sites that just don't work in Firefox.

MeasureIt - Draw out a ruler to get the pixel width and height of any elements on a webpage.

Sage - This is my RSS reader.

Screengrab! - This is an old favourite that didn't work in Firefox 2 but was recently updated. It's nice to have it back as it lets me easily save or copy screen caps.

Tabbrowser Preferences - This gives you more control over Firefox's tab behaviour. For example, I have it automatically open _blank targeted links in a new tab.

Web Developer - An absolute must for any author of web pages, this add-on lets me easily resize the browser, view the CSS, edit the CSS and HTML in Firefox and a billion other web author tasks. Irreplaceable.

Honourable mentions go to Copy Plain Text, Download Statusbar, Firebug, Fission, Forecastfox, FoxyTunes, Google Toolbar, LinkChecker, Make Link, PDF Download and UnPlug.

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C'mon Google, Follow Yahoo's Lead

yahooA competitive marketplace benefits consumers. That's why I'm pleased to hear Yahoo! Mail will offer unlimited storage. Google has to respond and I'm hoping they follow suit. The Gmail 2.8 GB limit may sound like a lot, but I'm constantly having to delete messages to ensure I don't run out of space.

Gmail is ideal for both work and play. You can fetch mail from multiple accounts and reply from these accounts, and the filtering, labelling and search capabilities are super slick. The problem is, because it's so user-friendly, you use it a great deal and it doesn't take long to find out you're 95% full.

C'mon Gmail, don't let Yahoo! get the upper hand. April 1 is your anniversary and a perfect day to unveil unlimited storage for all.

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Flickr Launches Collections

flickrFrom the Flickr Blog.

Today we launched what's probably the most requested feature over the last few years: a way to categorize and organize your photo sets! In the past this feature has been referred to as "sets of sets" or "subsets". After today, we'll know it as "collections".

What are collections, you ask? A collection is a container into which you can place either sets or other collections, allowing you to create a hierarchy as deep as 5 collections. You can place as many of your sets into a collection as you like, and a set can be in as many different collections as you like.

I've already thrown together nine collections. It was damn easy.

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My Preferred Apps For Doing What I Gotta Do

firefoxThere are certain tasks I have to perform on a daily basis. I'm sure many of you are doing the same things with your computer, and I thought it might be interesting to hear what tools others prefer.

Below are typical requirements in my day to day life and the application I use to make it happen. I try lots of stuff to see what sticks and whenever possible I choose the simplest, most cost-effective solution.

Surfing the Web
Without a doubt, my browser of choice is Firefox. I've been using Firefox exclusively for three years and I honestly don't know how all the IE people manage. My Firefox add-ons alone make my life a great deal easier. I should point out that I prefer the portable version of Firefox that's completely self contained.

I said goodbye to Outlook long ago and recently I said farewell to Thunderbird. My preferred app for email is Firefox and the service I use is Gmail. You can fetch mail from multiple accounts and reply to those messages from that account. The search capability, overall usability, labelling and efficiency is second to none.

I used to use the portable version of Sunbird, but now my preferred app for calendaring is Firefox and the service I use is Google Calendar. These Google guys just get it, and their calendar complies with both the iCal and XML standards. The integration with Gmail is just a huge ass bonus.

I use the portable version of FileZilla. In the past I've done the WSFTP thing and the SmartFTP thing and even the CuteFTP thing, but Filezilla is simple, slick and free.

When I require an image for a page or site I'm designing, or whatever, I use Photoshop. Unlike most of the other apps on this list, Photoshop isn't a free download. In fact, it's rather pricy. I've tried The Gimp, and I salute the spirit of The Gimp, but Photoshop is my choice.... for now.

XHTML / CSS Coding
For years and years I used a free app called First Page until work bought me a license for Dreamweaver. First Page was a free download whereas Dreamweaver costs almost as much as Photoshop. After using Dreamweaver for a while, I find I use it for much more than hand coding XHTML and CSS. It's just a really fast and easy to use text editor with some nifty bells and whistles. It lacks the spirit of NVU, but it's a better editor. Just avoid the "Design" tab and all is well.

Instant Messaging
I'm a Gaim man. I use the portable version of Gaim, and I use it to simultaneously log in with a MSN, Yahoo! and Gtalk identity. Go Gaim and you'll never log into that MSN messenger again.

Documents and Spreadsheets
I'm rarely on a PC that doesn't have the Office Suite, but I'm still more likely to create a document using Google's new Docs & Spreadsheets service. To answer my own question then, my preferred app for documents and spreadsheets is Firefox. Google's Docs & Spreadsheet integrates nicely with their Gmail and Calendar, so if you receive a .doc file from someone via email, you can easily open it in Docs & Spreadsheet.

For years and years, I used Winamp, but when my collection started growing I tried iTunes. I'm still using iTunes, mainly because of the fast searching capability. As a power listener, I constantly want to isolate songs by a certain artist or songs with a certain keyword in the title. Of the apps I've tried, iTunes made this the easiest and gave my results the quickest.

I don't mean to sound like a broken record here, but again my preferred app for checking and reading my RSS feeds is Firefox. Specifically, I use the Sage add-on.

That's pretty much everything I do on a pc. I share my pictures on my Flickr account and power this blog by Movable Type. I envision a day when my answer to all of these questions is Firefox. That day is closer than you think.

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Backing Up

mouseI buy very little for myself. Other than a ticket to see the Hip earlier this month, I haven't bought anything for myself in about a year.

When I want something, like The Simpsons on DVD, I wait for my June birthday or Christmas and request it as a gift. My MP3 player was a birthday gift and my digital camera was a birthday gift. Otherwise, I don't need much. Today, however, I bought myself a little something. I picked up a 250GB portable hard drive from Future Shop.

My MP3 collection is about 100GB in size, and I've been backing it up on DVDs. That's a lot of DVDs, and one serious pain in the ass. With my new portable hard drive it was easy to back up the entire collection, as well as my digital pictures, files and other important bits and bytes.

It was worth every penny of the $119 it cost me. You can't put a price on peace of mind.

My Portable Hard Drive

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Instant Messenger Observations

gaimWhen I log in to Gaim, I'm simultaneously logging in to three IM channels: GTalk, Yahoo! and MSN. I've noticed a developing trend over the past year.

The Yahoo! users seem to be disappearing. There was a time when the majority of my friends, family and acquaintances were using the Yahoo! Instant Messenger. Today, it's rare I see anyone else joining me online.

As the YIM users have vanished, the GTalk users are increasing. Without a doubt, Google has experienced the biggest increase in my non-scientific study. In fact, many who were once faithful to YIM have gone to Google for their IMing.

The MSN users remain the same. I think once you've decided to use the MSN messenger, you're not going to change. You're not really the early adaptor, progressive type, are you? While the MSN users remain the same, it's worth noting they're still the largest group. GTalk is rising fast, but there's still a great deal of ground to make up.

If you're a YIM, MSN or GTalk user, and we've got exciting things to discuss, here are my usernames.

  • YIM: mikeboon
  • GTalk: mikeboon
  • MSN:

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IE6 and IE7 Together, Sort Of

firefoxMicrosoft's release of IE7 has made my life difficult. In the past I would develop a site and check it out in Firefox and IE6 to make sure all was well. I've yet to install IE7 because doing so will clobber my installation of IE6. I don't want to lose IE6 because I want to be able to test my code with that browser which an awful lot of fools people are still using.

Not installing IE7 has created another problem. How do I test my code in IE7 if I can't have both IE6 and IE7 running on my pc? I can have multiple version of Firefox, but only the one version of IE. I just came upon this IEBlog entry about running IE6 and IE7 on the same computer. They recommend running IE6 in a virtual instance using their Virtual PC. There are links on that page, if you've got the same issue I do.

One more thing. Get Firefox and the entire issue becomes moot. Thanks.

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RSS: Regular Society Shuns

rssI just read a nice little write up about who's using what for RSS. RSS has indeed become a key part of my daily routine. I use the Sage add-on for Firefox to manage my feeds and I check them a few times a day. What irks me now are the few sites I monitor that don't have a feed. I'm far less likely to read their content as regularly.

When I chat with others about RSS, I'm always surprised at the typical response. Most don't have a clue what it is. Some have heard of it, but don't get it. Those who do subscribe to RSS feeds are few and far between and true believers in the Web 2.0 revolution. Regular society has shunned the standard.

Thankfully, there are enough of us relying on RSS that just about every blog and news site makes a feed available. When I discover an interesting blog that appeals to me, the first thing I do is add the entry feed. If there isn't one, I'll only bookmark the page if it's Sidra spectacular.

I want to know if you're an RSS adopter. If you are, what do you use to check your feeds? If you've shunned the format up to now, I'd like to know why.

This is the day you pop your comment cherry. If a discussion about RSS doesn't get you hot, nothing will.

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AVG Is Still Free

virusIf you use AVG's free edition of virus protection, you probably recently saw that alert that says their free version will expire on January 17. The alert asks you to upgrade to a paid model of AVG protection, and many of you might think that's your only option. It's not.

I first saw this alert last Sunday and did some digging on the AVG site. It turns out this is nothing more than a sneaky marketing ploy to get you to cough up some coin. There will still be a free version of AVG and you can download AVG 7.5 from

I've already made the switch and all is well. AVG Free is still the better way, they've just hidden it with a tinier font size.

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State of the Blogosphere

webAn interesting Canadian study on blogs and blogging was released yesterday by the Environics Research Group. Here are their findings.

  • 7% have written their own blog
  • 9% have left a comment on a blog
  • 32% have read a blog in the last three months

The study points out that 51% of Canadians aged 18-24 read blogs regularly which is substantially higher than the 32% national average. The conclusion arrived at in articles and the Environics press release is that these figures are higher than expected and blogs are "taking Canada by storm". Keeping in mind that these surveys were conducted with "active Internet users", I find these figures astoundingly low.

Only a third of active Internet users have read a blog in the past three months? Considering every media outlet and most companies now use blogging as a marketing tool, how could an active Internet user avoid them? I started regularly reading blogs in early 2002 and I can't imagine the web without them. Of course, I'm one of the 7% of active Internet users who has their own blog, so maybe I'm the wrong guy to ask.

At first I was also quite surprised that only 7% of active Internet users wrote a blog, but then I thought about it and realized that no one else in my family blogs, none of my friends blog except this guy and this guy and I don't think anyone I've worked with over the past eight years has one.

Blogging isn't for everybody. It's a big commitment, a lot of work and not everybody wants to write for hobby. Maybe 7% is pretty good. It's the 32% figure I don't understand.

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