Thoughts of a geek

7 May 2009

In which the author lists his preferred Firefox extensions (part three)

Filed under: Computers — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 10:17 pm

Well, there has been quite a delay since the first and second parts, but this is the third and final post of my series recommending some Firefox extensions that I find useful, and think that you might too.

Here goes.

Google Gears allows web applications to do some things they would not normally be able to do, to do more of the things that it would normally be necessary to install a local applications to do. In particular, it lets web apps (such as GMail and Google calendar) work without an Internet connection by storing data in a client-side database, and also keeping the data for the webpages (HTML, Javascript &c.) locally. It also provides some features to allow Javascript to be executed more efficiently, and — perhaps most interestingly to me — provides access to location information (from WiFi signals, GPS, IP geolocation, or whatever is available). This does require the user to give permission, of course. It is for this functionality that I installed Gears, as it is used by the desktop (iGoogle) version of Latitude.

Ubiquity is a bit difficult to explain without demonstrating it. So, try it. It lets you do all sorts of things in your browser by typing commands. It pops up in front of the current page, and can do things like Googling something, editing the page, posting to Twitter, composing an email, finding a map, and anything else you might think of. The idea is a bit like Quicksilver (or Katapult, or Krunner, or GNOME Do), if you have used any of those, but for the browser rather than the OS, and so with more integration with all sorts of useful web services. It really is quite a cool idea. I tend to use it for quickly looking up in a dictionary words in a page I am reading if I am not sure what they mean, or for Googling things if I want a little more information. It is a bit quicker and less disruptive than opening a whole new tab to do it; I can Google something just by selecting it, then going Ctrl+Space (to show Ubiquity) and typing ‘go’ (for Google; you only need to type enough of a command to distinguish it from the other available commands).
New actions can be added by installing simple scripts (written in Javascript). People have already written all sorts of such scripts which you can install easily, or you can write your own if there is some action you want that nobody has yet thought of.

VeriSign’s OpenID SeatBelt keeps track of your OpenID login, and warns you about Phishing attempts. It will show whether you are currently logged into your OpenID provider, let you login if you need to, and automatically fill in your OpenID when you visit a site using OpenID login. By default it comes configured to work with VeriSign’s OpenID service, but you can easily configure to work with other services (I use it for my OpenID, which is delegated to myOpenID).
If you use OpenID, it is quite handy. If you do not use OpenID, you should. It saves having to remember so many passwords for different sites, as you can login to any site supporting OpenID with a single account. Actually, there is a fair chance that you already have an OpenID without even knowing it, at least if you use GMail, any Yahoo services, LiveJournal, Windows Live,, or various other services.

Well, that is all from me on this topic. I would be interested to hear what Firefox extensions you, dear readers, use (if, indeed, you use Firefox), and what you think of them. I would also love to hear if you try any of those that I recommended over these three posts.


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