Tuesday, May 31, 2005


I use Firefox as my primary browser, and it would appear so do about 50% of you reading this.  From time to time I have to drop down to IE because some site refuses to work with anything else, but I tend to avoid those sites.  If they are going to make me use a specific browser, forget it.  It isn’t worth the effort.

The two things that make Firefox enjoyable for me are

  • Tabbed Browsing
  • Extensions

Actually, those two points are really one – for the default tabbed browsing in Firefox isn’t that strong.  I use the Tabbrowser Extensions.  For me, tabbed browsing is just necessary, a browser without is is useless to me.  The reason – I use broadband satellite at home.  Very fast – once it is going.  High speed, but high latency.  So, clicking on a link typically involves a 1.5 second delay at least, the trip includes:

  • Wireless network to the next room.
  • Over a bridged network
  • Couple hundred feet of coax cable to the satellite dish
  • 22,000 miles up to a satellite
  • 22,000 miles down to a ground station
  • Over the ground network, back to the ground station
  • 22,000 miles back up to the satellite
  • 22,000 miles down to the dish
  • A couple hundred feet back to the bridged network
  • Over the wireless to my computer

All in all, the bits and bytes have travelled some 88,000 plus miles to get to me — with each and every click.  The satellite software does have a rather intelligent proxy server on it that appears to parse the HTML and figure out what I’ll probably be asking for next (images and such) and as it receives the page — it requests the images and such it doesn’t already have.  The performance difference with and without that proxy server is huge.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work at all with HTTPS pages (it does not decrypt the page so it doesn’t know what to get next).

So, why does that make tabbed browser really relevant for me?  Because of the way I browse now due to the satellite.  When I get a page back from google — I am shift-clicking on all of the links, they open in their own background tags.  So I’ll shift-click the first 2 or 3 interesting links and have them open in the background.  Then I peek at them and see if they were what I wanted.  At work, I would just click on the link – at home, or even with my aircard (ISDN like speeds over the Verizon network) I get into the shift click mode.  On asktom, my interface provides me with a list of pages that have new content (followups, new questions).  I do the same thing there — I shift click on 10 or 15 of them and start processing the tabs.  I don’t wait for the network that way.  Opening a set of pages in a tab group is great too.  I have my favorite news pages in a tab group — with a single click all 10 pages open up.  Same with my favorite blog pages and so on.  I have almost infinite bandwidth — just really high latency, and tabbed browsing helps me work effectively in that environment.

The extensions I use are as follows:

  • Adblock, I cannot imagine web browsing without this.  Every time I go into IE and am bombarded with moving GIFs, banner ads, flash that just annoys (is it just me or is anyone else annoyed by web pages that “move”).  I estimate over 30% of the images on typical pages is not down loaded because of Adblock — sites look very different without ads (easier to read if you ask me).  I have a couple hundred patterns that are blocked.  Not only makes the page easier to read but greatly decreases the amount of bytes you need to down load.  If I was allowed only one extension, this would probably be it.
  • Smoothwheel, makes the scrolling wheel work measurably better in Firefox.  (Thanks to Howard Rogers for forcing me to get this, since scrolling on his blog stopped working with his new stylesheets, this fixed that problem and does make the scrolling better overall)
  • Tabbrowser Extensions, you could down load 20 mini extensions to mimic the capabilities in this one extension — but I prefer the monolithic one here.  Tabbed browsing would not be the same without it.
  • Enhanced History Manager, ctl-shift-H and there it all is.  Sortable, Groupable (by site, by day, by day and site..), searchable.  Very nice.
  • Switch Proxy, Sometimes I’m behind a firewall, sometimes I’m at home (and want the proxy server for the satellite) and sometimes I’m on the road and want no proxy.  Switch proxy lets me do it easily with a single click.  I cannot remember how many keystrokes and typing it used to take — now it is just too easy. 
  • ForecastFox, a little weather toolbar on the bottom of the browser.  I like to have the 5 day forecast for where ever I am just there.  As I travel a lot, I just plug in the locations I’m going to and switch around.  See what the weather is where I am, where I’m going and back home.  Not life changing but lots faster than going to weather.com
  •  PDF Down load, sometimes I want the pdf in the browser, sometimes not, sometimes saved to disk.  This little extension gives me that choice — instead of the PDF being displayed, it asks me what I want (and sometimes what I want is CANCEL since I didn’t realize I was clicking on a pdf and don’t really want to wait for it)
  • StumbleUpon, for those of us with short attention spans, this is really cool.  Once upon a long time ago, Yahoo had a random button.  You could sit there and hit that button over and over and just go to a random site.  This is much like that but you get to pick categories and filters and rate the sites you are sent to.  A great diversion (as if I need more of them).  I found it somewhat addictive, you have to hit that Stumble button a couple of times a day — and the sites it pulls up are really pretty cool.

Well, those are the ones I’ve found to be truly useful.  Anyone have any others they find indispensable?



Anonymous Anonymous said....

Firefox is awesome. I installed Thunderbird and Sunbird because of that success and have been rather disspaointed so far... Word is that Oracle is actually helping out so maybe that will help those two along.

For your satellite connection you should consider the Google Web Accelerator. http://webaccelerator.google.com/support.html

In theory it will perform some of the same functions as your satellite provider proxy, but I'd bet that google (based on it's immense population sample size of toolbar users) can be much more adept at guessing and preloading pages than any one single provider can. Well, anyhow, give it a shot.

You're a big fan of proof... It also quantifies how much time it saved you by preloading those pages/images.


Tue May 31, 12:34:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Martin said....


What about: dictionarysearch

Makes it easy to look up the exact meaning of words you don't know e.g actionable ;-).

Tue May 31, 12:42:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Google Web Accelerator

thanks -- I'll try that out tonight in fact.


hah hah. I need one that pops up and says "you only THOUGHT you knew the meaing of that word"... I use the dictionary.com in the firefox toolbar (actually, I use google for spelling and dictionary.com for meaning)

Tue May 31, 12:49:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


I hate suggesting things that take cycles and run in the background...however I have found this one to be worth it, and very transparent after you set it up:


When you run it deselect all "options" (toolbar and answer bar)...and just use the feature that lets you

ALT-CLICK any word in ANY application to takes you to the same place that google takes you to define words....I have been using it for a month and really like it...like you I like definitions...

Interested in your thoughts on that program.

PS you "may" (and also may not) like this book but at least read the gist on amazon...it is interesting


Tue May 31, 12:51:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Corrected link:


Tue May 31, 12:52:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Martin said....

actually, I use google for spelling and dictionary.com for meaning

Well, I suggest you give it a try, it works easier then the toolbar IMHO. You can search dictonary.com or Google with just two mouse-clicks

Tue May 31, 01:10:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Axr2 said....

An unrelated question :
What do you think of the education system in general? If you had a say, what would you like to change about it? How much of the stuff that you learned in your undergrad / grad, do you still remember?

I went to a very decent engineering school..and frankly doubt that I even remember 20% of what I was taught. Be that - complex integration, macroeconomics, machine design or thermodynamics. A mere 5% of my classmates are into hardcore "engineering" (non-IT). Huge majority of us are into software, hardware, finance and management consulting.

So what was the point of learning all that good stuff in school? Am sort of rambling..but would like your thoughts on the subject.


Tue May 31, 01:19:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....

OK I gotta get pdf download. Do that all the time, and I mean all the time.

Tue May 31, 01:30:00 PM EDT  

Blogger bernice said....

I use this for dictionay/thesaurus-- http://thesaurus.reference.com/ . You click on the radio button to decide what you want. Also, it provides suggestions/corrections.

I also stumbled upon this toolbar available for IE and Firefox -
from an article I read about phishing/pharming. This tool bar tells you where the site it hosted so if you accidentially stumbled onto a suspicious site, at least you get some warning.

Tue May 31, 01:33:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

adblock - can't live without it.
tabbrowser preferences - I can live without it, I just find myself right clicking and opening stuff in a new window anyway.
bandwidth tester - yeah, I know it's corny and not very accurate, but I like to know what type of bandwidth I am dealing with on somebody else's network. (http://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?id=178&application=firefox)

Seems like 1/2 the time I am forced to use IE I end up fighting some spyware a couple days later.

Tue May 31, 02:52:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Howard J. Rogers said....

Regarding your recommendation of Tabbrowser Extensions...

Clearly, it works for you (but then we already know your unusual mousing habits!!)

But readers should also be directed to this page:


...in which the extension's own author happily admits to bugs galore, the breaking of other extensions, and the possibility of it slowing Firefox down or indeed making it entirely non-executable.

Instead, I prefer that mix of smaller extensions you mentioned as an alternative. I use:

Duplicate Tab 0.5.1 (clones a tab with its history)

Focus Last Selected Tab 0.8.1 (if you close a tab, focus switches to the last tab you had open)

Open link in... 1.3 (gives new options for a right-click on a link so that the link opens in a new tab that is in the background, or foreground, as you choose)

Tab X 0.9 (Adds a close button to each tab)

And... Unread Tabs 0.1 (marks tabs you haven't read yet).

All tiny downloads, and since they're on the official Mozilla extensions site, they don't break things.


Tue May 31, 03:42:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


In addition to the extensions already mentioned, I like:

All-in-One Gestures: Drag with mouse button down to send commands to the browser. So nice! Right-click and drag left goes backward in the page history; drag right goes forward. It becomes so natural that I end up trying to use it in Windows Explorer.

Flashblock: Disable Flash movies until you click on them. Like a proactive Adblock for Flash. Indispensible IMO.

SessionSaver: Start the browser where you last left off. Remembers tabs and even partially-completed forms. Nice when you have to close your browser (or something crashes) in the middle of a multi-tab session. Nice too for updating the browser on the fly: download update, close browser, install update, restart browser, keep working where you left off.

Paste and Go: One-click action to paste a URL into the address bar and load it.

Plain Text Links: Highlight a non-hyperlinked URL (even just a foo.com string) and right-click to load the URL in same or new window/tab.

Tue May 31, 04:39:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous bill thater said....


i run WeatherFox instead, plus many or the others mentioned. along with WebMailCompose and Just BlogIt.

Tue May 31, 05:16:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous IE dead said....

not sure whether this is really relevant..but there is a market rumour that ORACLE may buy out Firefox (or Mozilla) ..is that true?

wish that happens soon..we need a big time stable browser and get IE out of way

Tue May 31, 05:52:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Doug Porter said....

One extension I'm have been having a blast taking advantage of is GreaseMonkey. It lets you install extensions that alter the HTML content after it has reached the browser.

If you install it, you have to try out BookBurro. When you pull up a book on some of the major book websites (like Amazon), it gives you a pop up that will retrieve and display the prices of the book at other online bookstores. Very cool stuff.

Tue May 31, 09:26:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous emoe said....

If you use more than one computer Bookmarks Synchronizer is a must have!

Tue May 31, 10:06:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Peter K said....

Lots of good plug-ins. I would suggest the Netcraft toolbar

Here's the write-up on it:
The toolbar runs on any operating system supported by Firefox and displays the hosting location, country, longevity, popularity, and an abstracted risk rating for each site visited.

Additionally, the toolbar blocks access to phishing sites reported by other members of the Netcraft Toolbar community and validated by Netcraft, mobilizing the community into a giant neighborhood watch scheme which empowers the most alert and experienced members to protect the vulnerable against fraud and phishing attacks. Well over 7,000 phishing sites have been detected and blocked by people using the Netcraft Toolbar since the system started at the turn of the year.

Wed Jun 01, 12:26:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Joris said....

Indeed, extensions are great! In 2 hours or so, I've written an Oracle SSO autologin extension. It detects the sso page, logs in and done. No more typing my u/p 50 times a day.


Wed Jun 01, 01:47:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Robert Blackwell said....

conquery is awsome. You could even add a search to asktom with ease.

Also check out greasemonkey if have not already. It really opens up a new world of posiblities.

Wed Jun 01, 08:25:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous MDinh said....

Every day I learn something new from Tom. Thanks.

Wed Jun 01, 10:52:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Mark from NY said....

Firefox is great. We just need Oracle Web Conferencing to not be IE-only. :)

Wed Jun 01, 11:22:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

If you are using IE with Google/Yahoo/etc, then consider Browster. It preloads all the links in the background, and if you roll your cursor over the little lightning icon then it pops up that webpage. It makes it easier to determine which search result page to goto before actually going there. HTH

Wed Jun 01, 11:37:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

ForecastFox sounds neat but is says it uses AccuWeather for its data source. AccuWeather is not known for being the most consumer-friendly organization on the planet (they are trying to outlaw the US National Weather Service from publishing forecasts at the moment, for example).

Are there any problems with the data feed, or with spyware being installed? Is the data acquisition module seperate so that if AccuWeather suddenly imposes fees it can be changed?


Wed Jun 01, 12:36:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert G. Freeman said....

Tabbed Browsing rules!!


Wed Jun 01, 02:12:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Kevin Kirkpatrick said....


Nice blog, arguing for the superiority of FF to IE. My reaction to this might parallel your reaction to somebody espousing the benefits of using DB2 instead of MySQL: presumably, you would have a real hankering to pipe up about Oracle (especially if you feel the feature(s) that allegedly made DB2 superior to MySQL were even better in Oracle).

That said, on a rainy afternoon, you may want to give the Opera browser (www.opera.com) a shot. Tabbed browsing was an innovation of Opera many years ago, and it has been refined with each version. Tabbed browsing was reverse-engineered as an extension to FF only recently. Having used both, the FF implementation feels just like that: a reverse-engineered bolt-on.

My opinion: FF is more customizable than Opera (e.g. extensions); however, Opera has superior implementation and off-the-shelf integration of most of the FF features (e.g. tabbed browsing) that really surfing enjoyable, plus, it comes with features which are completely unequalled in FF, with or without extensions (you haven't really surfed until you've used Opera's mouse gestures).

Wed Jun 01, 07:15:00 PM EDT  

Blogger SiLVeR(C)HaiR said....

qoute : Tom said
I shift click on 10 or 15 of them and start processing the tabs

Tom, may be you should have a look to the extention linky . Linky will let you open or download all or selected links, image links and even web addresses found in the text in separate or different tabs or windows. It's one of the extentions I use the most.

Thu Jun 02, 06:46:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Aman Sharma said....

Hi Sir
Here is what HJR sir published on his blog.This is really very useful and makes the Firefox so much fast.Have a look at the link..
with best regards
Aman Sharma

Fri Jun 03, 07:50:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

google web accelator isn't available right now, looked interesting but after googling about it, has some big kinks to work out (it has been known to "eat" pages, causing them to be deleted. An admin page with a bunch of "delete me" links -- prefetch those guys and bamm! all gone)...


looked interesting, but didn't seem to "work" for me too well. (vnc and vmware is my life)

ForecastFox sounds neat but is says

well, if it changes and they charge me, I'll delete it and find something else :)

it is tied to that source as far as I know.

Nice blog, arguing for the superiority of FF to IE

it wasn't so much that -- I forgot to mention that cross platform is key for me, even more so than "IE vs Firefox".

I tried opera a while ago, it just didn't do it for me for some reason. Maybe too much going on, I don't know. Firefox is just so "simple".

I saw that, I'm a little hesistant. With my satellite connection -- things that make "normal" broadband better seem to kill me sometimes (hint: never install any tcp-ip 'tweaks', they can actually knock you offline with the satellite, vpn and everything else)

Fri Jun 03, 09:33:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Robert said....

I would suggest SpellBound for adding the ability to right click in web forms (like this one) and immediately be able to spell check.

Fri Jun 03, 02:53:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Ofir Manor said....

Hi Tom,
my extension list include(other than adblock and a few others that were aleady mentioned):
ieview - add "view this page in IE" to the right click menu, also let you "always view this page in IE" so you never have to look for IE, just click on a bookmark for an IE only site and it will open in IE.
Tab Mix - a great alternative to Tabbrowser Preference, works better for me.
Download Manager Tweak - choose between opening the download manager in a new window, a new tab or the sidebar.
Also, there are two nice things I added:
1. Added two gestures (all-in-one-gestures): RL closes a tab, LR does an undo (reopen the last closed tab). This is SO useful.
2. If you right-click a bookmark and go to properties, you can define a keyword, which will act as shortcut in the address bar. For example, if I type o at the address bar, I go to otn.oracle.com. Few other shortcuts I use:
m (goes directly to metalink main page, ask for password the first time)
mm docid (opens that docid in metalink, ex: mm 312470.1):
It just makes looking up notes much faster, when I come across one...

Sat Jun 04, 01:38:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

tab mix

Yeah, I knew tabbed extensions was "bad" and tab mix seems to cover the things I want most -- so, out with the old and in with the new.

Scratch Tabbed Extensions off of the list, Add Tab Mix and IEView (only because I need to test pages in that browser...)

thanks all.

Sat Jun 04, 07:09:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Err, Tom's main reason for using Firefox is "Tabbed browsing"? Opera does this since its early versions; and no extensions are necessary to "improve it". I like Firefox as well, but Opera still has some nice details which makes it my favorite. Just take the "Save Session" feature: It saves all open windows into a session file. That way, you can continue next time with the same windows open. Neat. Or the "Zoom page" feature. Or....

Tue Jun 07, 05:14:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Err, Tom's main reason for using Firefox is "Tabbed browsing"?

No, I said "I use firefox as my primary browser" (didn't really say "why")

And then said "two things that make firefox enjoyable for me are tabbed browser and Extensions"

I didn't choose firefox for tabbed browsing, actually - before I acclimated myself to it -- I didn't really like tabbed browsing at all (it was not a reason for choosing firefox). Now, I cannot live without it.

So, I didn't chose firefox for tabbed browsing, I chose firefox in spite of tabbed browsing in the beginning ;)

Tue Jun 07, 07:18:00 AM EDT  

Blogger James said....


I'm not sure if this was said or not, but I'm sure you have a wheel on your mouse (if you use a mouse). If you do, you could "middle-click" a link to open it in a new tab. I plug a mouse into my laptop, which you might not do... I prefer this to Shift-Clicking.


Tue Jun 07, 01:39:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....


Wed Jun 08, 10:23:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Tony said....


I was having problems using IE for iSQL*Plus and a friend introduced me to Firefox, and THAT WAS IT, now i have spreaded firefox in every single machine at work and i use it at home and work.
Tabbrowsing?? PERFECT i hated it on IE when i have to open like 6, 8 sessions just to have a wider look.
Love using Firefox when browsing the OTN pages, just open every single link in a new tab

I am also using Thunderbird too and i hope they inhance it's functionality.

Tony G.

Tue Jun 14, 05:10:00 AM EDT  

Blogger yas said....

SessionSaver is good. It restores all tabs that were open when you closed Firefox on next start.

Wed Jun 15, 04:14:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous matt fox said....

For viewing in Internet Exploiter, try the extension ieview, which allows you to spwn IE when you need it.
what the author says about tabbrowser extensions
"As for the user who finds no working links after installing IE View, if you're running TabBrowser extensions, there's your problem. It stomps over IE View and many other things. "

Thu Jun 16, 03:51:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Kimmo said....

The thing about Opera, especially 8, is its configurability. You can have the cleanest user interface you've ever imagined, it's just a case of going to the proper mode to edit the toolbars and stuff and then drag/drop/delete/add to your hearts content.

The problem is that many users don't realize just how much you can actually do, and think the stock look is what you've got. Nothing could be further from the truth, however - virtually every button, every search box, every divider can be deleted, moved or replaced at will. It's just a case of first figuring that out and then spending a few minutes rearranging stuff the way you want it.

It's also the snappiest browser around, especially when you start tacking on extension after extension to FF to try to mimic what Opera has built-in, and Operas security record is second to none.

Ad-filtering, popup-blocking and other nastiness is best handled with a separate program, anyway - like Privoxy, http://www.privoxy.org - that can filter for all browsers you have installed.

Fri Jun 17, 09:43:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Ad-filtering, popup-blocking and other nastiness is best handled with a separate program

I disagree, I've done both and nothing but nothing beats adblock for firefox. I wouldn't give it up for the world.

Working sometimes behind "firewall a with proxy" and "firewall b with different proxy" and "no firewal at all" - do the proxy to proxy sometimes and not others is a royal pain.

Fri Jun 17, 12:20:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Uwe Küchler said....

Ad-filtering, popup-blocking and other nastiness is best handled with a separate program

I strongly disagree either. I've been using Proxomitron and WebWasher before, but soon found myself in environments with NTLM authentication which neither of them supported at that time.
With firefox, I switched over to Adblock which uses easy-to-understand regular expressions that can even be ex-/imported. That way, I transfer my filters from the company to my home computer or to friends. Very nice feature.

Tue Jun 21, 09:07:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Uwe Küchler said....

BTW: Some folks confused "Tabrowser Extensions" and "Tabrowser Preferences". These are two different extensions and the latter is much less of a bug galore.
The things I loved about the ...Extensions is saving of sessions and timed reloading of tabs. What I need from ...Preferences is the option to force links to be opened in the same tab. When I click on a link, I usually don't want new windows/tabs to open, which is one of the annoying practices on many websites.

Last but not least: Have you played around with the keyboardlet and bookmarklet features of Firefox? These can come in very handy, too. I think I'll post some more about that in my blog...

Tue Jun 21, 09:39:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Chris Bucchere said....

I stumbled upon this post while looking for some information on configuring Oracle to use TCPS.

The best Firefox extension I've found is Web Developer, an amazing amalgam of nifty tricks that allows you to break apart Web pages in various ways: highlight tables, show images without alt tags, disable CSS, etc.

The highlight table feature has already saved me hours and hours of wasted time switching between border="0" and border="1", which was the way I did it back in the dark ages of the Web (before Firefox).

Anyway, great blog, but alas, I still haven't found ANY information on the Web about configuring Oracle to use TCPS. Perhaps you can point me in the right direction. Maybe you could do so in exchange for drinks at Lightfoot or Tusky's because I also live in Leesburg! :-)

Mon Jul 11, 08:26:00 AM EDT  

Blogger trade web links said....

It really works man.finding meaning of word is made simle.Other different properties of firefox is also very helpful.


Sat Jan 06, 03:26:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Unix Guy said....

Wow, 4 years later, I am reading this article on Firefox and still find it useful.

Thanks Tom

Wed Jan 20, 02:57:00 PM EST  


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