Category Archives: Browsers

7 Firefox Add-ons I can’t live without

1. Firebug

I used Firebug for the first time at university, and found it a bit confusing at first. However, since using it professionally and it upgrading, I now find myself clicking my little bug at the bottom of the screen to debug all sorts of odd quirks in the browser. My only sadness is that its in Firefox, when having one in IE would be glorious, but unrealistic in dream.

Firebug is used to pick apart code, it collapses and opens divs and other elements of your code, drawing in other elements like the css, and allows you to make edit tweaks to your code so you can see the results on screen, like a styling override. I do find it fiddly still as its a bit pedantic about how it adds things, but I doubt I use it enough really to be overly friendly with it.

There are additional plug ins and sister/brother addons for it, to allow you to use different mediums, but I admit I’ve not got into it far enough yet to warrant the use!

Get Firebug for Firefox

2. Web Developer Toolbar

Owch, so it does take up a bit of space at the top of my Firefox, which is a little mean of it on a 1024×768 screen at home (yes, gaspeth, I haven’t shelled out for a new screen in 5 years or more, and use single screen domestically), but web dev toolbar is worth it.

With little menus you can switch off javascript on your page to identify if your page is accessible to that minority of users, change cookies or delete them on another menu, do things with forms, images, have a ruler, resize your window to preset settings, validate your code, view different types of source, set options to test with, and my most favourite of all – the css menu, and “view style information”. Click this, and you can hover over elements on your page, which are outlined by a red border when you are over them. One click brings up a little pane at the bottom that gives you all the css stylings related to that object. GLORIOUS. I couldn’t do my job without it, and Firefox seems very naked without it.

Get Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox

3. Delicious

I didn’t begin using Delicious as an addon, but of late its become more useful as one. I joined Delicious earlier this year because I had bookmarks at work, bookmarks on my desktop and bookmarks on my laptop, and I’d forget the urls of something in between places. So, I joined, then discovered the functionality within the browsers. Delicious is something that will work with IE which is nice – though it horrifically caused problems with IE6 standalone installation at work and made it go bonkers.

Its really come into its own since I reinstalled the OS on my desktop, as I haven’t reinstated my Firefox bookmarks since reinstallation. Instead, I’m using Delicious, and trying to get myself into the habit entirely. So far, its working, but I’ve got far too many tags to sort through!

Get the Delicious Toolbar for Firefox

4. Colorzilla

Beautiful little thing is Colorzilla. I used to take a screen grab, dump it in photoshop and use the eyedropper tool to get a colour. No more! Colorzilla has its own eyedropper for anywhere on your screen and it’ll tell you the different colour identifier formats so you can stick it in your css, or photoshop easily.

Get Colorzilla for Firefox

5. Download Statusbar

When I switched to Firefox all those years ago, the thing that most irritated me was the little twitty download window that would pop up when I was doing downloads. Argh! Download statusbar was the first addon I installed, even before English dictionary, and remains the first addon I suggest to people. No more idiotic little window, hello neat bar at the bottom of the screen to manage downloads in. Sexy.

Get Download Statusbar for Firefox

6. IE Tab

Finally, IE Tab. Initially the wonders of windows update was the main reason for having this little switch in Firefox, but its invaluable for switching back and forth within Firefox for testing layouts for bugs, or even being signed in twice. Open an IE tab and you’ve got a new set of cookies to play with. Yey!

In searching for the link, I realised there’s more than one type now, as its become so popular its been worked on to fit with other addons. This is good news, because I often find myself using the css function in the web dev toolbar over the IE tab by accident, and it doesn’t work.

Get IE tab for Firefox

7. Webmail Notifier

My favourite, and most used add on is the Webmail Notifier. This beautiful little addition to Firefox sits in the very bottom right hand corner and displays either a white envelope or a yellow one with a number beside to indicate if one of my many legacy email accounts has some junk. Its invaluable. I have several old hotmail accounts I use for logins to sites I do not trust not to share my details, yet still want to access, and it will check them all, while also checking my Yahoo email, and a Gmail account. There’s even more providers it can check.

One right click, and it lists all my accounts, and I get to pick the default one for each provider. If I have more than one, it will list the email beside it so I don’t get the wrong one. One right click, one left click to switch between all these accounts without having to log in, log out or anything. Pure bliss. I can leave Outlook at work, and never have to download emails to my computer, risking losing them or having to wait for huge attachments I don’t actually want to download like I used to.

Thoroughly recommend it.

Get Webmail Notifier for Firefox

Reviews: Kaushik, Moll

Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, Avinash Kaushik

I’m still reading Kaushik, though he’s been invaluable to dip in and out of to read up on subjects. We freecycled a lot of books recently from work as part of our clear out to move upstairs, and this book singularly replaced all the ones in the collection. It not only deals with commerce, it discusses SEO for blogs amongst other things which was different to other books.

Yes, it was cursed with being a little behind with things because of publishing and the time it takes to write books (hence my supreme lack of purchasing IT course books during my final years at university, because they got out of date so quickly for their expense). It not only discusses the previous version of Google Analytics, but Overture and other enterprise implementations that I’ve not met yet – GA does the job for us, and our previous stats provider which Microsoft bought and terminated isn’t a patch on it.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying you couldn’t find the information in this publication elsewhere – it has revised a fair deal for me and can sometimes be heavy going. However, because I dip in and out of it as I need or have time for, its a little more manageable in smaller chunks.

Recommend it for someone with a basic knowledge in the stats, who wants to take it further than visits and top pages, or a non IT person who has business knowledge instead and wants to get a grip on it for their company. I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner, there are plenty of web resources for that.

Mobile Web Design, Cameron Moll

Read in an hour or so (hah, that’s what education does, makes you into a skim reader) the book was written on the cusp of the iphone’s entrance to the marketplace. Moll is a very respected writer in the field, and I picked the book out because of this – and because the marketplace was full of books due to be published, or with little reviews or discussion on them, which makes me weary.

The most useful thing Moll does is discuss the different tactics one can take with making a website web compatible and their drawbacks – from leaving it and hoping it will just render, to the lack of support for mobile specific stylesheets, maintaining a second set of html or sniffing. He highlights even further how many different and non standard browsers there are.

The book left me feeling even more confused on where to start with mobile sites! Then, I drew out a diagram of the different techniques to more accurately weigh out the pros and cons while summarising it to colleagues. We all had differening experiences of web browsing on phones, and indeed in the past month, I’ve upgraded to the same handset as a colleague (see previous Katigori entry), while another has a jailbreak iphone and a third an android OS phone. The last two can connect to a local wireless network, support much more rich content.

We were amused when comparing the supported content of a colleague’s personal DJing website on each of the phones. Mine refused to display at all, and the other two did, with varying success. Incidentally, the site’s not complete yet.