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Top Web Browsing Firefox Extensions

Firefox is my browser of choice and a growing number of web users agree, with over 500,000,000 downloads and a 30% market share. One of the features that makes Firefox such a popular choice and sets it apart from Internet Explorer is the ability to develop and install extensions to extend the default functionality and customise it to your liking. With almost 2,000 to choose from – where do you start?!

In this series of posts I will explore my favourite Firefox add-ons and extensions. In this, the first in the series, I’ll tell you which addons I use to enhance my daily web browsing experience, including: blocking adverts, improving usability and defending myself from phishing. In later posts, I’ll cover my top Web Development extensions, the best Search Engine Optimisation plugins and Social Networking toolbars.

1. AdBlock Plus

“Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them.”

AdBlock Plus looks at all the images, flash movies and iFrames on a web page, applies a set of rules to filter out objects that look like adverts and leaves you with a clean, fast loading web page. This is a ‘must have’ extension and is the first one I install on a new Firefox installation.

AdBlock Plus provides two methods to improve and update the ruleset. You can manually add new rules yourself to filter out any adverts that slip through the net and you can subscribe to additional filtersets.

iZone Rating: 5/5

2. NewTabURL

The NewTabURL extension allows you to customise the URL that is opened when a new tab is opened, you can choose from: a blank page, your home page, duplicate the current page or enter a custom URL. This is a useful feature, but for me, the most compelling reason to install this extension is a secondary function: when you have a URL on the clipboard, clicking the new tab button will open a tab and load that URL. This is a real time saver and a great usability improvement!

iZone Rating: 4/5

3. Netcraft Toolbar

“The Netcraft Toolbar uses Netcraft’s enormous databases of Web site information to show you all the attributes of each site you visit on the Web, including the sites’ hosting location, country, longevity and popularity. It also mobilizes the Netcraft community into a giant neighborhood watch scheme to empower the most alert and experienced members to protect the vulnerable against fraud and attacks.”

With phishing defenses built into Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7 some people have questioned the usefulness of the Netcraft Toolbar and consider it superfluous. I disagree. Netcraft’s phishing detection has been rated the best there is and with protection being time critical, I prefer my information coming from the horse’s mouth. The toolbar also allows you to report undetected phishing sites easily, so you can be proactive in protecting others. You could even win an iPod!

Besides protecting you from phishing sites, the toolbar can identify XSS (Cross Site Scripting) attacks and the other information displayed on the toolbar can help you judge the legitimacy of other potential scams.

On the downside, the toolbar does consume rather a large amount of browser real-estate and a status bar version would be happily received!

iZone Rating: 4/5

4. Download Statusbar

“View and manage downloads from a tidy status bar – without the download window getting in the way of your web browsing.”

The Download Statusbar extension replaces the download popup window with a subtle status bar that appears at the bottom of the browser window. The extension is fully customisable and can be tailored to suit your exact requirements. You can also specify an anti-virus application to auto-scan files as you download them.

Despite not adding much additional functionality, Download Statusbar greatly improves the usability of downloads in Firefox and is a very useful extension.

iZone Rating: 4/5