Firefox for Power Users – Greasemonkey [Part 4]

FirefoxEver wanted to make a few tweaks to your favourite websites? Greasemonkey is for you!

Hot user scripts
Google Monkeyr – Google search results formatted how you like. Now also directly compatible with Opera and Chrome.
RSS+Atom Feed Subscribe Button Generator – Finds RSS and/or Atom links on a page and inserts feed subscription links for use by aggregators.

[Attention] This article is in progress. Help make it better by contributing your favourite userscripts in the comments.

Firefox for Power Users – Change the Look [Part 3]

FirefoxPart three of our Firefox for Power Users series shows you how to change the look and feel of your favourite browser to really make it your own.

The simplest way to personalise your Firefox is to use Personas. Personas are easy-to-use themes that let you personalize the look of your Firefox without even having to restart. There are thousands of Personas to choose from, with more added every day. Visit the Personas gallery and start looking for designs that fit your style.

Themes offer even more radical changes to how Firefox looks. They not only change the background but the look and feel of all the buttons and menus too. Head over the the Themes gallery to take a look.

The Stylish addon goes beyond what has previously been possible, even with themes. It allows you to not only style Firefox but also any web page. Just like the Greasemonkey addon (which we’ll be covering in a future tutorial), Stylish uses “user scripts” or in this case “user styles” submitted to the Userstyles website.
User styles are basically themes for web sites. The Google search page a little too bright for you? No problem, make it black instead with a userscript.

Let us know if you have some great customisations in the comments here or on Facebook and remember to share this post with your networks.

Firefox for Power Users – Search [Part 2]

FirefoxThe second part of our series showing you how to take using Firefox to the next level. This week, we’re taking a look at how to make searching quicker and more effective.

Search Plugins
A search engine plugin allows you to access a search engine directly from your browser. In Firefox, this is the box up in the top right corner. You can add your own choice of search engines my visiting the Mycroft Project as we covered in a a previous post: Make your browser’s search box more useful.

Tip: Quickly jump to the search box with the shortcut [Ctrl] + [K] (think K for keyword).

Quick Searches
Firefox has a great feature called Quick Searches which allows you to search directly from the address bar. This is a great alternative when there isn’t a search plugin available for the site you’d like to search. This isn’t quite as simple to set up but is well worth it for sites you often use.
The quick way:

  1. Visit the site you want to search and find the search box.
  2. Right click inside the search box and choose ‘Add a keyword for this search’.
  3. Enter a title for the search and choose a keyword you’ll use to execute it.
  4. Once you press Add, your search is set up and you can use it by typing your keyword followed by your search term into the address bar (e.g: flickr nasa).

The long way:

  1. First you need to do a little investigation. Head over to the site you wish to add (we’ll use WhoCallsMe in this example) and search for the term TEST.
  2. Bookmark the results page but before you click the ‘Done’ button, look at the URL that will be saved and find the word TEST.
  3. Replace the word TEST with %s (percent symbol and a lowercase s) and save the bookmark to the Quick Searches folder (you can save it anywhere but it’s a good idea to keep these all together).
  4. Find your new Quick Search bookmark, right click on it and choose Properties.
  5. Add something short and memorable to the Keyword field (wcm is ideal in this case).
  6. The Quick Search is now set up and you can search WhoCallsMe directly from the address bar like so: wcm 01953451231

More about Quick Searches.

Keyword bookmarking
You’ve seen above how adding something to the Keyword field of a bookmark makes getting to that site easy via the address bar. This doesn’t just apply to search, you can use this for any site. For example, you could bookmark our blog, give it the keyword blog, and get here simply by typing blog into the address bar. Keywords can be as short as 1 letter which is great for sites you use every day.

Tip: Quickly jump to the address bar with the shortcut [Ctrl] + [L] (think L for location).

It’s a bit annoying that you can’t enter keyword when you bookmark a page (you currently have to go to the properties of the bookmark once it’s saved). This is where the OpenBook addon comes in but there is a catch – it hasn’t been updated in some years and you’ll have to do a little hacking to get it to work. Follow the instructions in the reviews as it’s well worth having as it makes adding keywords easy, meaning that you’ll be much more likely to set them up.

Let us know what you think in the comments here or on Facebook and remember to share this post with your networks.

Firefox for Power Users – Addons [Part 1]

FirefoxThe first part of our series showing you how to take using Firefox to the next level. We’re kicking off with a round up of some of the most useful and downright cool addons.

Mozilla provide a whole site dedicated to Firefox addons and make a point of featuring some of the best. They also have a showcase site; Rock Your Firefox, featuring the cream of the crop.

Toolbar Buttons
One of Firefox’s best features is how customisable it is. It’s your browser, use it your way. You can literally rearrange all of the controls to your liking (go to the Firefox menu > Options > Toolbar Layout) and even bring some less often used controls to the fore with this addon: Toolbar Buttons. If you don’t think that you’ll need that many buttons, the Toolbar Buttons site allows you to simply make your own custom extension with their extension maker.

adblock-plusAdblock Plus
Next up is an extension that most Firefox users soon consider essential: Adblock Plus. It blocks almost all of the annoying adverts that you see around the web. We’ve already talked about how to improve your browsing speed and stay safe with Adblock Plus so check that article for more info.

Textarea Cache
Don’t you hate it when you type something onto a website (like a forum post or webmail) and just as you hit submit, something goes wrong and you lose your carefully crafted text? This is where Textarea Cache comes in. It saves the last chunk of text you typed and provides an easy way to copy it to the clipboard for re-posting.

Now we’re talking. Cooliris isn’t just useful, it’s pretty darn cool too (good name then huh?). It’s an image and video search tool that presents your results in a 3D, scrollable virtual wall which looks amazing and allows you to quickly skim through hundreds of images in no time.
Unfortunately, you need a reasonably powerful computer and a decent internet connection to really get the best out of it but do still give it a try on modest hardware – you may be surprised how well it runs.

Greasemonkey is more than just an addon – it’s the gateway to a whole world of customisation. Most of the addons above are changing how Firefox works – greasemonkey changes how the web itself works. It allows you to customize the way a web page displays or behaves, by using small bits of JavaScript.
Don’t be scared off by the mention of JavaScript, you don’t have to learn about that as there are a myriad of scripts already written for you and made available via
Greasemonkey is so powerful and wide reaching that we will be covering it more in depth in a later tutorial in this series.
Tip: A good way to get more out of Greasemonkey is to also include it’s companion extension Greasefire which links you to scripts available for the current page you are viewing.

Also worth a mention…

  • British English Dictionary – Spell check everywhere.
  • BugMeNotBypass compulsory web registration with the context menu.
  • Chatzilla – Internet Relay Chat in your browser.
  • Disconnect – Stop major third parties from tracking the webpages you go to.
  • Download Statusbar – View and manage downloads from a tidy statusbar – without the download window getting in the way.
  • Video DownloadHelper – The easy way to download and convert Web videos from hundreds of YouTube-like sites.
  • HTTPS-Everywhere – Encrypts your communications with a number of major websites.
  • Sage – A lightweight RSS and Atom feed reader.
  • Tab Mix Plus – Enhances Firefox’s tab browsing capabilities including: duplicating tabs, controlling tab focus, tab clicking options, undo
    closed tabs and windows, plus much more.

Let us know about your favourite addons in the comments here or on Facebook and remember to share this post with your networks.

Firefox for Power Users [Series]

FirefoxOver the coming weeks, we’ll be producing a series of tutorials to show you how to take using Firefox to the next level. These will include:

  1. Addons – An overview of some useful and just plain cool addons.
  2. Search – Tips to save you time when searching your favourite sites.
  3. Change the Look – Customise the look and feel of Firefox to your liking.
  4. Greasemonkey – Mentioned in the addons chapter, it is so powerful it deserves a better explanation.

Let us know if you have any particular part of Firefox you would like to see covered in the comments here or on Facebook.