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Firefox 3 has been our browser of choice since its June 2008 launch. In this article, I will share with you a list of useful extensions each beginner should install & use. As you will see for yourself, they will greatly improve your browsing experience by providing additional features which cannot be found in Internet Explorer.
The extensions which I recommend are the following: Adblock Plus, Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer - also known as Xmarks, Speed Dial, Mouse Gestures Redox, IE View Lite, Forecastfox, Automatic Save Folder.
If you want to know more about each extension, continue reading the article as I will give you more information about what they do and how to configure them.
If you don't know how to install a Firefox extension, go straight to the end of this article and you will find a detailed tutorial on how to do it.
The first extension that I recommend is called Adblock Plus. This extension blocks advertisement and flash banners on any web page. It makes use of filters which are constantly updated in order to detect and hide advertisements from web pages. You will have the best results when using a filter updated with ads from your own country.
To subscribe or unsubscribe to a filter, click on the small arrow from the Adblock Plus icon and select Preferences.
Now click on Filters and then on 'Add filter subscription'.
Next, click on the filter you want and then on Subscribe.
Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer is a very useful extension, especially when using multiple computers. You can install it on all computers and it will automatically synchronize your bookmarks and passwords. This way, no matter where you are, you will need only Firefox and Foxmarks installed in order to have all your bookmarks and passwords with you.
When you install it and restart Firefox, you will be prompted with a login window. To create an account with Foxmarks, select the first option and click on Next.
Type the username you want to use, write a valid e-mail address and a password. Then click on Next again.
Once you receive a confirmation message saying that you have to validate your email account, click on Next. Once you get that e-mail, click on the link provided to activate your account.
Continuing with the Foxmarks Setup: you can now configure it to store your passwords. To enable this feature, click on Yes and then on Next.
You have to provide a PIN. Make sure it has a good enough strength and click on Next. Make sure you don't forget this PIN as you will need to provide it when setting up Foxmarks on other computers.
You will receive a confirmation message that the PIN was successfully created. Click on Next and Foxmarks will start synchronizing your bookmarks and passwords. You will receive some additional questions (such as the ones below) about how you want the synchronization to be performed. Select the options you prefer and click on Next until the wizard ends.
The next time you install Foxmarks on another computer, make sure you use the same account details (username, password and PIN).
One thing that I always liked about Opera or Chrome is the Speed Dial functionality. Each time you open a new window or tab you have in front of you the most visited websites you've been to. On Firefox the same functionality is available when installing an extension called Speed Dial.
After you install it and restart Firefox, you can configure Speed Dial using the small pop-up window shown below.
You can set Speed Dial to show up as your homepage or in a new window or new tab. You can also enable Speed Dial Groups. For example, you can have a group with work related links and a group with personal links.
Adding a page to a new speed dial tab is very easy. Click on the small icon that appears in the top-right part of the tab and the Add Dial window will open.
Type the address of the webpage you want to have on your Speed Dial tab, modify the other available settings according to your preference and click on OK.
To add a new group of Speed Dial links, you have to right click next to the first group and select Add Group.
You can type the name of the group and also set up a custom color scheme (if you want to). When done, click on OK.
Mouse Gestures Redox is an extension which allows you to execute common commands (like page forward & backward, close tab & new tab) by executing mouse gestures. You won't need to use the keyboard, the toolbar or the File menu.
To learn how to use it, go to the Mouse Gestures Redox homepage. If you want to adjust its default configuration, you can go to the FAQ page and learn everything there is to know about configuring this very useful extension.
Unfortunately there are still a lot of sites optimized for older versions of Internet Explorer. If you have problems viewing them in Firefox, you can easily fix this problem by installing the IE View Lite extension. It will allow you to navigate any webpage from Firefox using the Internet Explorer rendering engine when needed.
When you encounter a page which is not loaded properly in Firefox, right click and select 'View This Page in IE'.
This extension shows you the weather forecast for the next few days in the status bar of Firefox. After you install it, you will have to write your area code or search for it. In order to do this, click on the Find Code button and type the name of your city and country. Click on Search, select the correct location from the list of results and click on OK.
Automatic Save Folder is an extension brought to our attention by Lifehacker. It can sort your downloads and save them in separate folders according to their type. All you have to do is set some basic rules. For example, all image files with the '.jpg' extension can be saved in the Pictures folder while your '.mp3' files can be saved in the Music folder.
Unfortunately this extension has not yet been approved for public download so you will have to register and login on the Firefox Add-ons site in order to download it. It cannot be downloaded directly from Firefox.
After you install it, go to Tools -> Add-ons, select the Automatic Save Folder extension and click on Options.
To add a new filter, click on the + button.
Start defining a new filter according to your own criteria. For example, in the screenshot below, I created a rule which automatically moves all the '.jpg', '.png' and '.gif' files I download from any web site to the Pictures folder on my 'D:' drive.
Once you created all the filters you want to have, click on OK and start downloading.
NOTE: A great complement for Automatic Save Folder is DownThemAll!, an extension which works as a great download manager.
How To Find and Install a Firefox Add-on
You have two ways to install an add-on/extension in Firefox: you can either go the Firefox Add-ons webpage and install them from there or you can install them directly from Firefox.
If you choose the first method, you have to open the Firefox Add-ons webpage.
Search for a specific add-on and, once found, install it by clicking on the 'Add to Firefox' button.
To install an add-on directly from Firefox, go to the Tools menu and choose Add-ons.
Go to the 'Get Add-on' tab, click on the search box, type the name of the extension you want to install and press the Enter key. As an example, I am searching for AdBlock.
Select the extension you want to install and click on the 'Add to Firefox' button. An new window will pop-up, similar to the one below. Wait until the Install button becomes active and click on it.
After a while the add-on will be installed and ready to use. Before using an add-on, you must restart Firefox. To do this, click on the Restart button.
When you restart Firefox, some of your installed add-ons will ask you to configure them. Navigate through their menus and make the appropriate settings and then you will be able to use them.