Don’t pimp real foxes. That’s just mean. (Photo: wildphotons)
38.16% of the people who visit this site are still using Internet Explorer (IE). It’s like buying a hybrid car for the gas mileage and then driving with flat tires and the doors open.
This post will serve two purposes: first, to introduce beginners to features of Firefox (FF) that make it worthwhile; second, to introduce more experienced users to the favorite add-ons of Matt Mullenweg (lead developer of WordPress) and Garrett Camp (co-founder of StumbleUpon). Perhaps you’ll like one or two of mine…
If you aren’t using Firefox, here are a few short reasons to start:
* Built in spell-check
* Lightweight and fast
* Intuitive shortcuts
* Better than a college degree (some think)
* Extensions (also called “add-ons” or “plug-ins”)
Extensions lead us to this post. Kid in a candy store time.
After you’ve made the leap and switched to Firefox (download it here), here’s are the extensions you can use to take it to the next level:
Installing the Google Toolbar is the key to Firefox efficiency. It is the starting point.
It gives you one-stop access to Google RSS, Google Docs, Google News and Google Blogsearch. Google Docs lets you store and collaborate with word processing without being tied to local Microsoft applications. Google RSS lets you read news without surfing and Google News and Blogsearch are two of the best methods for bloggers to track trends and events. I use Google Highlighter to find terms on pages with tons of text.
The FF search bar in the top-right corner is one of the most helpful features of the browser. Instead of going to Google.com to do your searches, you can search Google and others sites from a drop-down window in the top-right of any window. Just hit Cmd + K to jump to the top-right search box, then Cmd + arrow up or arrow down to choose among searching on Amazon, Creative Commons, eBay, and more. If you get stuck without FF, you can do the same in the Google search field on any browser with “parkour site:youtube.com” to find parkour videos on YouTube, for example.
Try and use simple tech tools to separate professionals from amateurs whenever possible.
The Alexa toolbar – a small plug-in – lets you do that in a ruthlessly numerical way. As you surf, it gives you each site’s traffic rank (and historical chart of traffic, like a stock chart), based on several metrics, in the bottom right-hand corner. I often use the web for meme research, media filtering, and competitive analysis instead of web dev, and this tool is my first line of defense.
Some estimate that a million-plus rank is just a few dozen people a day. In the mid-six digits (Ex: 200,000), you’re looking at people with sizeable audiences, and once you crack 100,000, you’ll begin to find professionals, some with readerships larger than most newsstand magazines.
General Rule: Alexa is a valuable first-look tool to keep you from giving too much credence to a professional design, or — alternatively — being scared off by site that doesn’t care much for first impressions.
Alexa is not a complete rank, however, and is flawed in many respects. It’s the first step for me when evaluating media opportunities or baseless traffic claims, but I supplement Alexa with the following analytic tool: SEO for Firefox.
The SEO for Firefox add-on is used for search engine optimization. I don’t use it for tweaking this site. I use it for media and competitive research, as it allows you to see in normal Google results — once turning the add-on “on” — the resulting sites’ pagerank, links on Yahoo!, Alexa traffic rank, Compete traffic rank, Bloglines rank, Technorati rank, and much more. To supplement this, if serious about competitive research, I suggest viewing Quantcast when possible.
Important: turn off this add-on when not in use.
I’ve used clunky dictionary extensions for Firefox before and — in all cases — I’ve found simple to be better. Definr is a company that takes clean interface to a new level – the homepage has four links and one of them is the search button. It caches the most commonly searched words so it doesn’t waste your time.
Using Delicious, every article I’ve ever felt was worth saving is available to me anywhere in the world from any computer. This is something we’ve discussed here before.
Delicious lets you batch your daily read (I tag things with “to_read”) into one single task instead of an unending barrage of distractions or tangents. It also makes it possible to quickly and conveniently track down things resources you’ve used in the past, so you don’t waste time in fruitless searches.
Make sure you install the Classic Delicious extension — it’s cleaner, easier to use, and less prone to feature abuse.
Matt Mullenweg and Garrett Camp’s Favorites
Matt Mullenweg‘s favorites, which he explained on a ferry en route from Santorini to Milos island in Greece, include:
Foxmarks – syncs bookmarks across multiple computers
Google Browser Sync – syncs cookies and passwords (see these newer substitutes)
PWDHash – auto-generated customized passwords for various sites
Firebug – according to Matt, “one of most significant web dev tools of the last 3-4 years.” It’s a “net profiler” that indicates how long each element on a page takes to load.
Google Gears – faster and improved browser performance (local caching, etc.)
Garrett Camp‘s must-haves include:
TabCatalog – shows contents of all of tabs as a thumbnail-style list (using F8 or other hotkey you designate). Great for not having to flip through tabs to see what is open or find what you’re looking for.
StumbleUpon (please slap yourself if you’re surprised) – Learn how to stumble across things you like, kill memes dead, or spread idea viruses. Here’s the description of how it works.
Experiment, extend, and go nuts. Have any of your own favorites to share? Better alternatives to the above? Please share in the comments.
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