I've been using Firefox as my primary browser for so long that Internet Explorer looks strange to me on those odd occasions when Windows Update or some other automatic Windows setting opens it. There are lots of reasons Firefox is my browser of choice, not the least of which are the great free add-ons for the program that neither IE nor any other browser can match.
Better Gmail 2 is a Firefox extension that collects a bunch of Gmail customization scripts from Greasemonkey under one control panel. The latest update, to Version 0.3, brings Better Gmail 2 mostly up to speed with features that were in the original Better Gmail, but had to be abandoned when Google rewrote Gmail's code last November.
The biggest of the latest additions include a revamped insertion of Google Reader into the Gmail user interface. This is not merely a rehash of what came before, but a better-looking, faster-loading UI that makes switching between Gmail and Reader seamless.
One of the niftier functions of Apple's Safari browser is the SnapBack function. Now a Firefox extension with the same name of SnapBack introduces this feature to Mozilla users and comes with some helpful options beyond the base function of providing a quick way to return to an impermanent bookmark.
There are Firefox plug-ins for just about every task imaginable. There's one to tell you how many e-mails you've got waiting to be read, and another that gives weather forecasts. You can change how the browser functions, you can manage your music players, and with FireFTP, you can transfer files using a top-notch FTP client.
As much as I love using Gmail, the Greasemonkey script-based Better Gmail plug-in made my favorite e-mail client, well, better. Integration with Google Reader, colored labels, built-in TinyURLing, and other features really made Gmail that much more useful. Since Google's recreated and upgraded most of Gmail's back-end, those scripts and most other Gmail plug-ins have broken.
To confuse matters, Google is slow in rolling out the new features, so not everybody is using the new interface. If you do have the new Gmail, you can access the old interface Better Gmail 2 v0.1 recreates some of the features in its predecessor, and promises to eventually feature most if not all of the old expanded functionality. For now, though, it's slim pickings.
Do you consider yourself to be a privacy aware Internet user? Are you concerned about your security online?
You've installed antivirus and spyware software, which you also keep updated. You regularly update your operating system for any security patches. You have a firewall on your home computer and have locked down your home wireless network with a WPA2 password. Most importantly, you've ditched Internet Explorer and jumped on the Firefox bandwagon.
Your job is done, right? Think again.
While installing Firefox (and not using IE) is one of the most important steps users can take towards a safe online experience, Firefox is (alas) not totally safe out of the box. Luckily, Firefox provides a very flexible framework for open-source programmers and commercial vendors to create their own software add-ons for the browser. A number of these software extensions fix critical design flaws in Firefox--or simply improve transparency so that users have a better idea of where they are and which sites they're interacting with. I've selected a few of the best ones, which I highlight below.