Thursday, July 3, 2008

Mozilla Firefox Add-ons

Useful Add-ons for the Mozilla FireFox Browser. These add-ons make an already fabulous browser even better. IE users wish they could have these.

If you use Mozilla's Firefox, then I recommend installing these third-party add-ons. Addons include Advertising blockers, flash-blockers and site-previewers. These will really improve your browsing experience and can make websurfing faster and better.
  • AddBlock Plus
  • Flashblock
  • IEView
  • CoolPreviews

Add-ons (also called Extensions) do not ship with the Firefox, but with a couple of mouse-clicks they can be downloaded and installed. There are literally thousands of add-ons written for Firefox, but these are my particular favorites. Each of these add-ons are free, no strings, no registration.

AdBlock Plus

Sometimes the advertisements take more time to download than the site's actual content. Adblock simplifies your life by unobtrusively blocking many web-page ads and you will be amazed at when sites quit blaring harsh advertisements.

Once installed, many, if not most of the ads simply vanish from your browser and there is nothing else to do. But, Adblock can't catch every advertisement. If you happen to find a page with a really annoying ad, "other-mouse-click" the ad and choose "AdBlock this image". The image is instantly gone and you'll never have to download it again.

Blocking individual images is easy, but many commercial sites change the ad daily or hourly and you will have to block the image again when the name changes. Here is where Adblock shines. As you are blocking the image, backspace over the found-name and add a wild-card (asterisk) near the end of the image path. Now, no matter what image they put in the frame, it will be blocked. For example (click image for larger view, then Back to return):

Adblock's website has tutorials on how to get the most out of the program, but with just the information in this article, you will have accomplished most of what you need to know.


Flashblock is similar to Adblock. This add-on blocks all Adobe Flash images embedded in a web page. Many of the most annoying "moving" advertisements are Flash and this stops them from even downloading. This means faster page-loads and less distractions. For example, here is where a Flash Ad normally lives on MSN.COM. FlashBlock marks the location with an arrow or an "f". To view the image, click on the arrow and the animation immediately plays.

When Flash is blocked, all Flash images are blocked. Content on video sharing sites, such as YouTube, are also blocked, but all you have to do is click the arrow to play. Alternately, grant exceptions by other-mouse-clicking the arrow choosing "Allow Flash" from the menu. For the most part, I've not granted any exceptions because it is so easy to click the arrow.

IE View

There are some websites that will not work with FireFox (because FireFox does not allow Active-X logic to run). Notably Microsoft's Update site and most online Banking sites. IE View allows you to "other-mouse-click" any page and choose "View in IE". From then on, Firefox automatically launches IE when you browse to this page and the cut-over is transparent. This is a feature that I seldom use, but it is handy.


Allows you to preview a link or image without leaving the current page or tab. To use, mouse over any link. A millisecond later, a small magnify-glass icon appears; hover the mouse on the icon; this takes a flick of the wrist. A new window with a small preview window appears.

Once the window opens, I recommend making these preference changes -- making the window appear with less of a delay:

Installing Firefox and Firefox Add-ons

If needed, download Firefox from The browser is a simple Windows program that does not mess with the underlying operating system. You will find the program is small and easy to install. Additionally, Firefox runs independently of IE; neither conflicts with the other. Once Firefox is installed, install the Add-ons:

Choose Tools, Add-ons,
click "Get Add-ons".
Click "Browse All Add-ons"

As you scroll through the list, look for the Recommended options or search by name. Installing an Add-on is a joy: Click the green Add-to-firefox button and you are done. Addons take about 5 seconds to install. Restart Firefox after all addons have been installed.

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