Monday, January 15, 2007

Why Firefox Rocks II

Why Firefox Rocks I

All right. By now, you've downloaded Firefox, even if you have Internet Explorer 7. Right? RIGHT!? Good! And you've gotten used to the tabbing feature, too, I hope. Well, now it's time to add some good, practical extensions and add-ons which will make it even better. Basically, these are little things that you download and install and require very little skill to use.

We'll start with two practical ones first, then start getting some of the cooler ones and stuff: The All-in-One Sidebar and Tab Mix Plus. Click on those links (if you're good, you can right-click on them and open them in new tabs, I believe) and install them; then close Firefox, re-open it, and come back here.

You're back? Great. First, a quick explanation of the two. The AIOS is exactly what it says it is: It basically puts a lot more options on the sidebar, so you can have a lot more space elsewhere. More on that in detail later. The TabMixPlus
enhances Firefox's tab browsing capabilities. It includes such features as duplicating tabs, controlling tab focus, tab clicking options, undo closed tabs and windows, plus much more. It also includes a full-featured session manager with crash recovery that can save and restore combinations of opened tabs and windows.
Exactly. Basically, I use it for opening stuff I accidentally (or even purposely) close with a simple click of a button, or for opening up all the things I was looking at earlier if I have to step away from the computer for a while (or if the comp crashes). Both of these "extensions" are very useful, and because they save you a lot of space, they make it easier to look at whatever is on your computer and to navigate through it all.

Below is a snapshot of my screen from a few minutes ago; you can blow it up by clicking on it or opening it into a new tab. It shows what I see when I look at the computer; everyone will have their own personal preferences as to how they set their buttons up.
But to start, here are my suggestions, and monkey around until you're comfortable:
  • Start by getting rid of the "bookmarks toolbar" underneath the address bar. Right-click near the top where it says help, and make sure only the navigation and all-in-one sidebars are checked off.
  • You can 'slide' the sidebar in and out in different ways. Clicking on the bookmark icon (the open or closed book with the blue bookmark in it) makes the bookmarks slide in and out; clicking on the thin strip on the left makes the whole sidebar slide in and out. You can hit shift or control and click to have either the icons or the bookmarks showing; clicking on other icons will show different things.
  • Make the all-in-one sidebar on the left as thin as possible. You don't need it to be huge.
  • Right-click near the top again and hit customize. You can now move all the little icons all over, wherever you want - on the top toolbar or the sidebar.
  • I like using small icons - they take up much less space. Some people prefer large ones. I like my address bar on the left, the icons to its right; most people aren't used to that.
  • I have the bookmarks icon on the sidebar; underneath it is a green leaf that is for an extension called Sage, which we'll discuss another time. Above it is the "history" icon. The little puzzle piece is to see what extensions I've downloaded and whether they have updates I can install.
On the top right I have a number of buttons. Starting from the normal ones, I then have: [best ones in bold]
  • [printer] Print Screen
  • [tab with an IE symbol] Switch to IE tab - this allows you to click on it and open a tab as if it's in Internet Explorer, which is great for pages that only open in IE. Some banks are like this, among other things.
  • [tab with a plus] Open up a new tab - you can do this with Ctrl-T, so I never use it.
  • [window with a plus] Open up a new window
  • [looks to me like the liberty bell with a ribbon] Session Manager - this allows you to open up the last 'session' you had; let's say you had something open the last time you went online and want to open it up again - you click on this and it will open up your last 'session'.
  • [green recycle bin] Click it once to open up the last tab you closed, or scroll on it to open up any of the last 5 tabs you closed.
  • [looks like a medal] Shows what tabs you have opened. Useful if you have a lot open at once and want to scroll to it quickly.
  • [blue recycle bin] Same as the green, but for windows.
  • [arrow with 2 windows] Goes to full-screen.
There's more on the bottom, but those are all extensions for next time. Now, once you've hit customize, you can drag and drop any of these icons or other ones on or off the toolbar or sidebar in whatever order you want, and you can put separators in between wherever you'd like.

Have fun, monkey around, and be patient - these all take a bit of getting used to. But once you're used to them... they're great.