Best and Worst Firefox Extensions

Two very handy articles at Computer World: “20 must-have Firefox extensions” and its companion “Top 10 Firefox extensions to avoid.”

Even two to three years ago, I was the “power user” type who was constantly downloading new utilities and tweaking my system in an effort to get a bit more performance. Now, I mostly use programs off-the-shelf and do very little customization. It’s likely some combination of age and the fact that hardware performance and standard editions of software have evolved so much that there’s just less incentive to fiddle.

Still, some of the “must-have” Firefox extensions, like Firebug and FireFTP, sound like something that would make routine tasks sufficiently easier as to be worth experimenting. At the same time, though, the premise of the second piece strikes me as dead on: “Popularity shouldn’t be the acid test to determine if you should install an extension. The important question is whether it enhances your browsing experience without any nasty side effects.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael says:

    The important question is whether it enhances your browsing experience without any nasty side effects.

    From the article:
    Fasterfox: “This is nice for you, but it can be an incredible waste of bandwidth”

    AdBlock: “We also understand that these are very popular extensions. But if everyone blocked ads, how would sites such as ours continue to offer content free of charge? ”

    PDFDownload: “Some Web sites send you to a “silent interstitial” page for tracking purposes or some other reason, then redirect you to the PDF. In these cases, the extension won’t work.”

    Doesn’t sound like they’re all that worried about enhancing YOUR experience, or causing YOU nasty side effects.

  2. McGehee says:

    A great many of those 20 “must haves” are gadgets I tried but didn’t find worth keeping — most of the rest were geared toward people whose browsing behavior is very different from mine.

    And for those who distrust Accu-Weather (which feeds ForecastFox), I recommend 1-Click Weather instead.

  3. McGehee says:

    …and I use only one of the “10 to avoid,” Adblock Plus. But I have it dialed way back as a rule, and I mostly use it to block animated ads that I find too distracting (especially the ones that would cause small children to go into seizures).

    Though sometimes Adblock is a little cumbersome when I’m trying to identify the ad I want to zap, so maybe I’ll check out Nuke Anything and see if it’s simpler to use.

  4. Bithead says:

    One of their supposed worst… Faster Fox…. I’ve been using for a long time. Doesn’t hurt I’ve got 10mb broadband… but there it is; the biggest boost would be for dial-uppers.

  5. Terrence says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with some of the “extensions to avoid” list. For example, No Script and Ad Block/Ad Block Plus keep web nonsense to an absolute minimum, but understandably Computer World is going to take issue with an extension that disables their ads. They said as much in their review. They accused people who use those extensions of being paranoid. I think they’re just bummed that I won’t be clicking on their cheap mortgage rate ad.

  6. bob in fl says:

    Putting ‘No-Script” into the 10 worst column makes no sense at all. I’m no geek. A few weeks ago, I learned from a cnet site that I had picked up a cookie that could be activated to raid my bank account. The only available fix at that time was to install No-Script, which has worked very simply & well since. I’m keeping it.

    I tried Ad-Block. It was a real PITA.

  7. I have been using FireFTP for some time, and have been very happy with it.

    Another one that is great for blogging, and I have meant to post about, it Scribefire (once known as Perfomancing).

  8. Interestingly, “ScribeFire” is lists as one of the 10 extensions to avoid on the predicate that blogging software come with their own editors. This is true, but I like ScribeFire’s editor better than any other I have ever used before (e.g., Blogger, Typepad, various versions of MT and WP and a few stand-alones). It is has a nice pop-up pane that allow easy access to multiple web pages with a few clicks and make daring links from multiple sources a snap. Also, because it can keep or recall past posts, cross-posting from one blog to another has never been easier.

    The tag editor and a few other extras are nice as well. I highly recommend it.

  9. James Joyner says:

    I’ll give ScribeFire a whirl. I installed it but it didn’t insert itself into an obvious place like some of the others.

  10. There should be an icon at the bottom right of the browser window that will activate it–although I mainly using it via right-click.

    As I have noted to you in the past, I missed the WP pop-up from the bookmarklet that earlier versions had. This has all that was good about that plus all that is good about the current WP internal editor plus some unique features.

  11. James Joyner says:

    I actually tried it a while back, when it was still called “Performancing,” and couldn’t get it to work right. I tried to post with it this morning and, not only would it not insert the formatting I needed but it ultimately wouldn’t publish. I may have to uninstall and try again.

  12. James Joyner says:

    I successfully posted the “Democrats and Evangelicals on Easter” using ScribeFire. Not bad once I figured out that there was a raw HTML window as well. Ideally, it’d have windows for ALT and TITLE tags but I can do those manually.

    The main downside of using something other than the organic editor, of course, is lack of portability. You’d have to set it up on every computer you use.

  13. I have mine defaulted to the HTML tab. There are a few things that I would like it to have, but once I got used to some of its idiosyncrasies I find that the WP editor feels incomplete.

    But yes, you do have to install it on all your machines.

  14. James Joyner says:

    Aside from the ability to color code fonts easily, I haven’t found any real obvious additional features. And it doesn’t have the ability to upload images within WordPress that the standard editor has, unless I’m just missing it.

  15. I have always uploaded images via FireFTP, so maybe I should look into that feature within WP. Now that I look at ScribeFire, I see that it does have an image upload capability.

    Still you are right: it isn’t a radical difference. Some of it is small things: like I prefer the way ScribeFire inserts Blockquote tags, I’d have to think about what else I prefer. The font buttons are nice to have, ditto the center button. I also like the ability to easily add Technorati tags.

    Mostly I like having the pop-up pane, which allows me to go back and forth between the story I am blogging and the post I am writing. More than anything else is that feature that I like.

    The ability for it to connect to multiple blogs, and therefore to call up a post via the history button and then repost something with a few clicks is useful as well.

    Two annoying things: it inserts BRs in places I don’t want them and there is a bug where the initial blockquote tag isn’t closed.

  16. James Joyner says:

    The easy crosspost thing is nice, especially if you’re doing multiple updates.

    Mark installed a plugin that gives me blockquotes and other things in the WP interface.

    I used to use FTP for images but, starting with the Hollywood blog, I came to see the utility of easy thumbnailing. The ability to further “link to page” is also very useful from a proprietary standpoint. It appears that the ScriptFire interface just FTPs it.

  17. McGehee says:

    Turns out one of Adblock’s gaps is shared by Nuke Everything — Flash animations can’t be selected via context menu because only the Flash menu appears.

    If someone can come up with an extension that will add their options to the Flash context menu, I think the cyberverse will beat a virtual path to their web portal.

  18. That’s something to look into, as there are times I would like to be able to use a thumbnail, but usually found the process cumbersome.