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
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?