Seven Handy Firefox Add-Ins and Tweaks

By  |  Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 10:27 am

I know many of you still stubbornly use Internet Explorer (hello, Carl). I used to, as well. But Firefox, with all its lovely add-ons and tweaks, is just more fun to use.

Let’s start with a something you might not know about: Firefox’s hidden visual tab switching tweak. Right now, you can use Ctrl-Tab to cycle through Firefox’s tabs. But if you’re using Firefox 3.6, the current revision, this tweak will give you a visual look at the tabs, just like using Alt-Tab in Windows.

Firefox has a hidden feature: Visual tab switching

Turning on the feature takes two steps:

1. Go to Firefox’s address bar, type about:config, and hit Enter. (Didn’t know about this, eh?)

2. Type browser.ctrlTab.previews into the Filter field. When it appears, double-click it. (The value will change to true.)

Five Handy Firefox Add-ons

Here five add-ons I’ve recently used; they’re easy to install and don’t take much time to figure out how to use. Pay attention to the version of Firefox you have installed (Help, About Mozilla Firefox) to make sure the add-on’s compatible with it.

Tired of squinting at sites with tiny fonts or weird background colors? Experiment with NoSquint to override a site’s font and image sizes as well as change its foreground and background colors. If you like the results, tell NoSquint to remember the settings for your return visit to the specific site.

I’ve experimented with SwiftTabs for a few weeks. It lets you use the F-keys to go to the next or previous open tab. It’s a keeper — and especially useful for those of us with Function keys along the side the keyboard. (Careful, the site has a name sure to offend.) [Hmm. I’m not sure I’d trust software clearly written by a Neanderthal. -ksk] [Kim: The add-on works perfectly despite the guy’s heritage.–SB]

I like the idea behind Fox Splitter, an add-on that rearranges tabs as separate windows. The problem is I had trouble adjusting to splitting off tabs and keeping track of what went where. You might like it, and it’s easy enough to install and uninstall, so give it a try.

Rearrange Firefox's windows with Fox Splitter.

Not all of Firefox’s icons are easy to recognize; Menu Icons Plus gives me a nicer array of choices. I’m using it with XP, but Vista and Win7 may give you problems.

You know about Firefox’s built-in Find features. Find All highlights every occurrence of the word, shows it in a separate window, and lets you click to go to the word. (See the screens below for instructions.) Très cool, no?

Start typing and Firefox starts a search

Click Ctrl-F to expand Firefox's Find feature.

Now use Find All: It does tons more than Firefox's default Find feature.

Two Firefox Add-ons for Techies

Now for a couple add-ons only for those of you with a technical itch that needs to be scratched.

* I know you’re not content with using just Firefox. Play around with Open With to open a page in Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, or Opera, provided the browser’s installed on your system.

* You want online anonymity? Tor encrypts data sent from your PC to a relay server. Multiple relay servers are used and you don’t need to scan for new proxies. You’ll want the “Zero Install Bundle for Windows” version and you’ll definitely want to read the FAQ carefully before installing the tool.

Tor is a complicated, powerful tool, so use it with caution. That’s because there’s a chance it can accidentally run Fdisk (or you’ll claim it did), confuse Firefox beyond belief, gunk up your sockets and mess with your Internet connection, and worst of all, kink up your gotkes (yes, it rhymes with latkes). Y’all have been warned.

[This post is excerpted from Steve’s TechBite newsletter. If you liked it, head here to sign up–it’s delivered on Wednesdays to your inbox, and it’s free.]



4 Comments For This Post

  1. Jeremy Says:

    Another useful addon is IETab. It enables you to reload a page in IE’s rendering engine. Useful for some sites that still work best in IE. You can set it to always open specified sites in IE’s engine as well.

  2. Jammo Says:

    I like Image Zoom. It lets you zoom in any image by right-clicking it. Useful for when you want to double the size of a LOLCAT or whatever you might be surfing the web for.

  3. Driftwood Says:

    Cheers for the suggestions.

    To add my favs to the list:

    If you highlight a word in your browser, this app will pop up a little bubble just above it with icons of Wiki, Google and whatever else you want it to. With a single click you can search the highlight and it even opens it in a new tab.

    Also, when you scroll to the bottom of the page, this addon will automatically load the next page and display it below the next one, so all you have to do is keep scrolling down. Handy for multi-page news stories and such.

    Hover over a link and a non invasive little icon will pop up at the end of it. Hover your mouse over that icon and a small box will open with a small preview of the links page. So simple, easy to customize, and handy as hell.

    Anyone got any others?

  4. Patrick Says:

    Firebug ( is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The javascript debugger is good, but I really love the ability to inspect and modify HTML and CSS on the fly.