Browsers: love them or hate them, we just can’t live without them. Who doesn’t shudder at the very mention of IE6? And who hasn’t thrown their mouse across the room at a FireFox memory leak? Browsers can make you tear your hair out, but thankfully there are thousands of people making extensions and add-ons that can transform your browser into a powerful tool that you can integrate into every aspect of your web activity. I’m going to take a look at how you can get the most out of your browser using a variety of extensions.
(Table from Wikipedia)
There are lots of different browsers that you can use but I’m going to restrict myself to the three most popular – Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer. Of course, many of us would like to brush IE under a rug but millions of people use it so it can’t be ignored. Where possible I’ll include a link to Safari extensions.
Design and Development
Sadly, I had a fight with FireFox and we parted ways and these days my browser of choice is Chrome. The only reason I hadn’t made the switch earlier because of my affection for Firebug but then someone pointed out to me that Chrome has its own built-in developer tools. Click the little spanner at the top right of your browser, go to Tools > Developer tools and you’ll have the same functionality.
Although the full version of Firebug is only available for FireFox, you can get the lite version for Chrome, IE and Safari.
Here’s a video of Firebug in action:
Web Developer is another collection of tools that you can use in your development process. It gives you access to everything from CSS editing to validation tools to viewing cookie information. Actually, I started to use it much less when I started to use Firebug but it’s definitely still worth trying out.
IE Tab 2 / IE Tab
IE Tab 2 is essential for anyone who wants to test their browser in Internet Explorer but who doesn’t want to have to open the annoying program. IE Tab 2 has three different compatibility modes – IE 7, IE 8 and IE 9. It’s a great add-on that will save you having to have multiple versions of IE, or any IE ad all :D IE Tab 2 is only available for FireFox but you can get it’s precursor, IE Tab, for Chome.
Ever thought “You know, my browser could be so much better if I could use FTP in it”? It’s strange that you should be thinking that because you can. FireFTP is a hugely popular extension for FireFox that turns it into an FTP client. It means that you can be ready to FTP right in your browser, without the need for an extra program.
Unfortunately this is only available for FireFox. Comparable extensions for Chrome aren’t very well rated and there is nothing for Internet Explorer.
Eye Dropper / Pixel Grabber
There are times when you see a color on a website and you need to figure out what it is. Of course, you can use Firebug to inspect the element but if you don’t want to scroll through all of that CSS there are tools that help you easily grab information from pixels. Eye Dropper is a simple tool for Chrome which you can use to grab color values from a webpage.
Pixel Grabber acts slightly differently. It takes a screengrab of your page and you can pick your colors from that.
I wasn’t able to find a comparable extension for Internet Explorer.
Chrome Sniffer is a simple extension that tells you what software a website is running. I’m always looking at a website thinking “is this WordPress?” and have to go straight to the code. With Chrome Sniffer installed a favicon appears in your browser to tell you what software it is.
Chrome only I’m afraid.
Text and Image Capture
Copy Plain Text
Do you ever copy text from your browser into your word processing program? If you do you know all about the formatting that gets copied over. The Copy Plain Text extension for Firefox lets you copy text without the formatting, saving you some precious clicks. And you can do exactly the same with the Copy Without Formatting extension for Chrome.
Screen Capture Elite is a really great extension for FireFox that lets you take screenshots of whole pages and parts of pages. Once you’ve made your screengrab it automatically opens an in-browser editing screen where you can write it. An option for Chrome is WebPage Grabber but it’s not currently working for my version of Chrome (13). It seems to be updated regularly so maybe it’ll be up and running soon!
Ever get frustrated that you don’t have all of your FireFox bookmarks in Chrome? Or that the bookmark that you want on your laptop downstairs is on your PC upstairs? XMarks synchronises your bookmarks, passwords, history and information across different browsers and across different machines.
InstaPaper is a bookmarklet that you can install in any browser. It saves webpages so that you can read them later. It’s particularly awesome to use with your mobile devices. Save those long articles using Instapaper and sync with your iPad so you can read them offline. Then you can catch up with all your reading while you’re commuting, in bed or (if you’re brave) in the bath.
You can also follow your friends on InstaPaper so you can catch up with what they’re reading too. What better way to save our super-long posts for reading later?
No one uses RSS anymore. Why not try out Morning Coffee instead? If you read webpages that update on certain days you can place them into bookmark groups so you can access that content on specific days. You can also use it to manage websites that you need to access on specific days as part of your workflow.
After the Deadline
No doubt many of you are already familiar with After the Deadline – the open source proofing software from Automattic. Many of you might have the plugin installed on your WordPress website. But why bother with a plugin when you can use your browser to check your spelling and your grammar? After the Deadline doesn’t just check your spelling and grammar but you can also set it up to check for style – clichés, double negatives and phrases to avoid, just a few of the things that writers hate.
If you’re a serial social media abuser, you may want to take a look at Yoonoo. Yoonoo is a social media addon for FireFox that you can hook up to your social media accounts. This means you don’t need to keep flicking to Twitter or Facebook but you have your feeds in every window you’re working in. Personally, I think it takes up a bit too much browser real estate but I’m not too addicted to my Twitter feed. For others it could be perfect.
Chome users will be pleased to know that an alpha version of the Yoonoo extension was launched for Chome in April.
If you’re a delicious user (I’m not – should I be?) then you may already be familiar with the delicious add on. I can see why this would be helpful to Delicious users. Just one click of a button and your bookmark is sent to delicious.
Adding Chrome SEO to your browser gives you access to loads of stats with just a click. Everything from Google and Alexa Pagerank, to Technorati ranking, to social media engagement. You can check out any page, not just your own, so as well as keeping abreast of your own stats you can also spy on your competitors. Handy!
Any fans of SEOMoz will probably already be aware of the mozBar, a toolbar for SEOs. It gives you easy access to SEOMoz Metrics while you are browsing the web, lets you analyse pages with an overlay that shows metrics and page elements, an shows Linkscape metrics in a toolbar on the right. It’s a must for anyone who’s addicted to SEO although to access all the features you need membership to SEOMoz.
Especially for WordPress
Last month I covered the Delectable extension for WordPress a while back. The Delectable extension for Chrome lets you send links straight from your browser to your blog. It’s like Delicious, but for your own WordPress website.
WordPress Helper is an add-on for Firefox that helps you out with WordPress. It gives you quick access to the Codex for when you are working on your WordPress back end. It’s also great for keeping you up to date with community news, letting you know if there’s anything that you can get involved with.
What do you use?
If you install all of these addons and extensions you’ll end up with a very busy browser. But who needs them all anyway? Some add-ons I can’t live without – they make my life so much easier and save me time opening and closing programs all of the time. Others just get in the way. Try them out, see which ones you use and ditch the ones that you don’t.
What extensions and add-ons do you use? How are they integrated into your workflow? Let us know!