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My Firefox 3

So I’ve been living with Firefox 3 for a week or so now and I’ve pretty much got it under control. Here’s what my current browser window looks like.


As you can see it’s fairly customised, mainly to cut down on space and makes use of some rather nifty extensions.

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37signals needs icons

Over the past few years, I’ve linked to various new web applications and many of them were created by 37signals (Basecamp, TaDa, BackPack and so on). I still use some of their apps but not as frequently as those offered by that other small web app company, Google.

Now I’ve contacted them about this in the past, but I think they need to better “productise” their applications. By that I mean, almost solely, that they need to provide icons, distinct well designed icons, for their applications.


Well this came to light recently as I tried, yet again, to tweak and streamline my browser (the application I use more frequently than any other). It also highlighted why I’m still using Firefox, namely because I’ve yet to find a need that a Firefox extension won’t scratch… meet.. whatever.

I’m a big fan of maximising space, particularly as I use a lot of web-based applications these days, and the more space they can get the better. However, those self-same, often used, web-based apps provide a problem. How do I quickly and easily access them? Well Firefox has a bookmark toolbar which you can customise to your own needs (right-click an existing link to delete, drag from the address bar (or any web link) to create a new link in the toolbar), and so I have my most often used applications linked from there.

For the record, those applications are:

  1. Google Mail
  2. Google Reader
  3. Google Calendar
  4. Google Docs & Sheets
  5. Google Calendar
  6. Remember the Milk
  7. 37signals TaDa List
  8. Side Job Track
  9. 37signals Highrise
  10. 37signals Basecamp for current project
  11. Google Reader Subscribe favelet

And here they are (with thanks to the Smart Bookmarks Bar and Favicon Picker extensions):

Firefox Bookmarks Bar

And yes, the order is quite specific. I use Mail and Reader multiple times a day, the Calendar and Docs & Sheets, and Remember the Milk a few times a week, the Ta Da list once a week or less. Side Job Track is used ad-hoc, I’m still testing Highrise, and the Basecamp link isn’t permanent. The Subscribe link on the far-right lets me “one-click” to add an RSS feed to Google Reader, and it’s easy to hit as it’s on the end of the list.

Ohh and the Smart Bookmarks Bar extension expands to show the text next to the icon, in case you were wondering.

So, having setup that toolbar, I immediately noticed that none of the 37signals links had icons attached to them. This is purely because they don’t have “favicons” assigned to their website, but it made me realise that Google are certainly taking the whole “product” thing seriously. There are plenty of rumours around that with a couple of extra purchases they will soon be placed, and may formally start to bundle, an Office equivalent. All free, all online.

Whilst the 37signals apps are all excellent, I think they are missing that leap. The leap that pulls people from their desktop apps, and it may just be that a simple icon is all that it takes.

If you start to think about your browser as a web desktop, then the bookmark toolbar becomes the place where your desktop icons live. It’s not a huge leap, and not an original thought either, I know others have pondered the same.

Whilst there is a mindshift required and a couple of missing applications to be created (drag and drop files to… where? if you are in a web browser that is pretending to your desktop??), it is feasible to think that your local computer will only ever really be used as a storage device, with all your applications running online. Certainly for most general tasks that is already possible.

Not everyone will embrace this idea, in fact I’d guess that most people are still against moving to web apps at all, but for those that have bitten the bullet, these small details could be all it takes between adoption and desertion. If another web app comes along that offers similar functionality, but makes its play from a “product” point of view then maybe the 37signals guys may have a bit of a fight on their hands.

For now though, they are still the best around at what they choose to do, and if you don’t read either of their blogs, then you should. Plus the Official Google Blog, obv.

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Firefox Extensions Revisited

Been a while since I waffled on about Firefox, but with 2.0 in Alpha (no I’ve not tried it yet, and I’d suggest you leave it well alone too) I thought it might be a good time to look at the current extensions I’m using. I’ve tried many different extensions but have pared things down to what I actually USE, rather than things that might “just be useful” now and again.

Whilst it’s popularity is probably assured, Firefox is getting a little more heat from the competition these days, namely with the stream of news pouring from Redmond (Microsoft) about the version 7 of Internet Explorer. It looks like we’ll be back to some good old fashioned browser wars soon. Ohh and whilst I remember, and before certain people popup in the comments and remind me, there are other browsers available. Opera seems to have a good following but, for some reason, it’s never really broken through in the same way as Firefox. I’ve tried it a few times but never really felt at home using it.. not sure why, maybe it’s better aimed at the ‘more technical’? Dunno.

Tabbed browsing remains the core reason I stick with Firefox. It’s very easy to get used to, and once you learn some of the basic operations, and have tweaked the way tabs work to your requirements, it can be a real boon. To that end I’ll recommend Tab Mix Plus as my tab extension of choice, it includes a variety of useful options, including a session saver (remembers which sites you had open in which tabs when you close the browser), a loading status bar on the tab, rather than one common bar at the foot of your window (making it easy to see the sites that are taking an age to load), an “unread” indicator and a further swathe of options (you can download and import my options here to get you started – right-click, Save As…).

Onto the list then:

  • Autofill – Automatically fill out HTML forms
  • BugMeNot – Bypass compulsory web registration
  • Copy URL + – Copies to clipboard the document’s URL along with the title or the selected text
  • Download Statusbar – View and manage downloads from a tidy statusbar
  • DownThemAll! – The mass downloader for Firefox
  • Enhanced History Manager – Search Google for Enhanced History Manager
  • Ext2Abc – Alphabetizes your extension manager list
  • IE View – Open pages in IE via Firefox menus
  • ListZilla – Outputs an alphabetical list of extensions to a text, vB code, or HTML file (used to produce this list!)
  • Paste and Go – Lets you paste an URL from the clipboard and directly load it
  • Resize Search Box – Allows you to use a resize the search box
  • Sage – A lightweight RSS and Atom feed aggregator
  • Slim Extension List – Makes items in extension list shorter, so you can see more at once. Also, sorts them by name
  • Statusbar Clock – Display the date and time in your browser’s status bar (links to an old extension, but you can find an update one for 1.5… somewhere… maybe
  • Stop-or-Reload Button – Turns the stop and reload buttons into a single button
  • Tab Mix Plus – Tab browsing with an added boost
  • View Rendered Source Chart – Creates a Colorful Chart of a Webpage’s Rendered Source
  • Web Developer – Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools

So, there you have it. I’ve had many MANY more extensions installed, and looking back at my original post I’ve only got seven of that list still running which I’m sure tells you something… or not…

With 2.0 on the horizon I’m wondering if I’ll upgrade. At the moment I can’t think of anything that I’m missing, any one feature that would be a big enough draw. Security wise I’ve not had any problems, but I guess that’s only a matter of time (or usage) before I’m forced into an upgrade. Only time will tell I guess.

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