Four Experimental Extensions to Power Up Firefox
By Kevin Purdy, 4:00 PM on Tue Jan 27 2009, 20,168 views
You can find a lot of great stuff on the bleeding edge, and Firefox extensions are no exception. Here are four add-ons for the browser that aren't officially approved, but worth checking out.
As noted in the headline, the extensions we're pointing to are both unapproved by Firefox's maker, Mozilla, and require creating an account or logging into it. And none of them should be installed on the copy of Firefox you use at the NSA or nuclear research center, and should otherwise have their benefits weighed against some potential crashing or browser malfunction. That said, most experimental extensions are just waiting for a final go-ahead from Mozilla, and can be pretty darned useful.
URL Alias is yet another add-on that puts one of Chrome's best features in Firefox, by enabling short keyword searches from the address bar. All it takes is adding an "alias" into a preference window, like so:
Now typing flickr whatshisnamefrank gets you to whatshisnamefrank's Flickr photostream. You can, of course, just setup up straight alias keywords, like lh http://lifehacker.com", and have the address bar perform searches from your default search engine (that alias would be * http://google.com/search?q= for most folks). Pretty great stuff, and it nearly closes the interface gaps between Firefox and Chrome's browser bars. We're hoping to see this one wrapped up and approved soon.
Granted, Firefox already has support for keyword bookmarking (in fact, Adam swears by it), but URL Alias provides a streamlined, all-keyboard approach to adding new keyboard shortcuts.
Open in Google Docs
Does exactly what it says, through Firefox's right-click menu. When you come across a link to a Word doc, PowerPoint presentation, Excel spreadsheet, or pretty much any file Google's online office suite can handle, right-click and hit "Open in Google Docs" to send it there. You can get a more fully-fledged handle on web documents, with support for the competing Zoho suite and online editors like Picnik, from the previously mentioned Open It Online, but Open in Google Docs is perfect for its very specific shuttling service.
This one's great if you run into a lot of shortened URLs, especially bit.ly, a URL shortening tool that we like for its traffic-watching abilities (as well as Gmail functionality). The bit.ly preview Firefox extension provides hover-over previews of page titles and URL for pretty much any shortened URL from any service—tinyURL, snipURL/snurl, and so on. If any user made a bit.ly URL from the same page, it shows that link traffic, as well as the click-through traffic on any bit.ly URL you hover over. The time you save from following disappointing links from your Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace friends is yours once again.
Google Keyboard Shortcuts
Another real simple, real useful Google product tweaker, though more universally helpful. With Google Keyboard Shortcuts installed, you can use your up and down arrow keys to scroll through your results, and hit Enter to launch the link, or Control+Enter to pop it into a new tab. That's pretty much it, but it's a nice way to keep your hands on the keys. Google provides its own switch-on experiment with similar features, but that goes away every time you log out or choose a different add-on feature. This one sticks around, and might make it easier to focus on one result at a time.
Got your own extension with a pink-hued page that's worth an unofficial install? By all means, tell us about it in the comments.