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					LINUXUSER                                  Workspace: Firefox Extensions

Nifty Firefox extensions


                                                                 We look at a few extensions that can make your daily work
                                                                 with Firefox more enjoyable and efficient by removing tiny
                                                                 annoyances and adding nifty features. BY DMITRI POPOV

             hat do the Word Count Plus,            installed, the extension adds a couple of        specify a custom time format, change
             FoxClocks, and QuickNote               default clocks to the Status bar. To re-         FoxClocks’ position, and adjust the way
             Firefox extensions have in             place them with clocks that show the             the extension displays the clocks.
common? They all belong to a category               time in cities you want, use the
of tools that make a virtue of doing a              Ctrl+Shift+Q keyboard shortcut. This             dragdropupload
limited range of tasks well. In this arti-          opens the FoxClocks dialog window con-           Attaching multiple files to an email mes-
cle, I’ll cover a few such extensions that          taining a long list of continents and cit-       sage in Gmail can be cumbersome: Click
you might find useful.                              ies to choose from. However, you don’t           on the Attach a file link, locate the file
                                                    have to scroll up and down the list to           you want, press OK, then repeat for
FoxClocks                                           find the location you need: Just enter the       other files. It might not sound too bad,
If you work with people or companies in             name of the city you need in the Search          but if you have to send emails with at-
other countries or on other continents, a           field, and the Zone Picker window shows          tachments every day, this procedure can
world clock tool can help you better plan           the matching results as you type (Figure         become a nuisance quickly. The dragdro-
your day. The FoxClocks [1] extension               1). Select then the found city and press         pupload extension [2] provides a fix to
can help you not only keep track of time            the Add button to add
in multiple geographical locations, but             the selected city to the
also do it with consummate ease. Once               Watchlist window. If
                                                    the city you want is
             Dmitri Popov holds                     not on the list, you
             a degree in Russian                    can add a custom lo-
             language and com-
                                                    cation by selecting a

             puter linguistics. He
                                                    city in the same time
             has been writing
             exclusively about                      zone and pressing the
             Linux and open                         Add as button. To
             source software for                    tweak FoxClocks’ set-
             several years, and his articles have   tings, right-click on a
             appeared in Danish, British, North     clock icon in the Sta-
             American, German, and Russian          tus bar and select Op-
             magazines and websites.                tions. Here you can         Figure 1: FoxClocks puts world clocks in the Status bar.

92                ISSUE 99                          FEBRuARy 2009
                                                             Workspace: Firefox Extensions                          LINUXUSER

                                                                                               from chatting with your friends on Face-
                                                                                               book for hours, but psychologically, the
                                                                                               ticking timer can be highly motivating.

                                                                                               Here is a situation many users might
                                                                                               find familiar: You spend half an hour
                                                                                               writing a forum post, Firefox crashes,
                                                                                               and all your work is gone. Even if Firefox
                                                                                               doesn’t crash, too many things can still
                                                                                               go wrong and force you to start from
                                                                                               scratch. To avoid pulling your hair out
                                                                                               each time this happens, install the La-
                                                                                               zarus form recovery extension [5]. It
                                                                                               runs quietly in the background and
                                                                                               saves the text you enter into forms in a
Figure 2: Read your favorite websites with Morning Coffee.                                     database. When you need to restore a
                                                                                               form, right-click in it and choose Recover
the problem. After you install it, you can      Magazine, and other sites, you can add         Form from the context menu. Using La-
drag a file onto the Attach a file link to      them all to a specific set and open them       zarus’ options, you can specify how long
add it to the email. Better yet, you can        at once. The clever part is that you can       you want to keep the saved form data
drag and drop several files at once and         add a website to a particular day. For ex-     and protect the data with a password.
use the extension with other websites           ample, if your favorite blog is updated
and services such as Flickr and Face-           on Mondays, you can add it to the Mon-         Word Count Plus
book. The extension also adds the Drag          day set and check it once a week.              In some situations you need to know the
Drop Sidebar, so you don’t have to                                                             exact word count in a text area of a form
switch to your file manager to locate the       TimeTracker                                    – for example, when you are working on
files you want to attach. In Firefox,           The main purpose of the TimeTracker            a blog post of a specific length directly in
when you choose View | Drag Drop Side-          extension [4] is to make you feel bad          the browser. Such a situation as this is
bar, you can pick the file you need with-       about spending too much time watching          when the Word Count Plus extension [6]
out leaving the convenience of your fa-         YouTube videos and hanging on Face-            can come in really handy. First, select ei-
vorite browser.                                 book instead of working. Unlike other          ther a text fragment or all the text in the
                                                tools that simply register how long your       form, then click on the Word Count Plus
Morning Coffee                                  browser has been opened, TimeTracker           icon in the Status bar to view the word
If you had to choose only one extension         provides a few features that you can           count. To view the character count,
to take with you on a desert island (pro-       tweak to get a better idea of how much         mouse over the icon. That’s it!
vided you have an Internet connection           time you spend working or slacking (Fig-
and are allowed to take your computer           ure 3). For starters, you can add websites     Mouseless Browsing
with you), Morning Coffee [3] should be         to the Do not track filter, so TimeTracker     Although a netbook is a perfect machine
it. The basic idea is pretty simple: With       pauses when you navigate to any site on        to have with you on the road, its minus-
this extension, you can create bookmark         the list. The timer also stops after a spec-   cule trackpad can be a real pain. Also,
sets for each day of the week and open          ified idle time (60 seconds by default)        an airplane seat or a coffee table does
them with a single click (Figure 2). So if      and when Firefox is not in focus. Of           not have much space for a mouse. In
you regularly visit Slashdot, Linux Pro         course, TimeTracker can’t prevent you          these situations, you need the Mouseless

                                                                                 Figure 4: Browse the web without touching the mouse with
Figure 3: Track time with TimeTracker.                                           Mouseless Browsing.

                                                                          FEBRuARy 2009                               ISSUE 99        93
LINUXUSER                          Workspace: Firefox Extensions

                                                                                              Fox extension [10] allows you to do.
                                                                                              Although it’s not a full-fledged calendar-
                                                                                              ing tool, it provides all the features you
                                                                                              need to manage your tasks with mini-
                                                                                              mum effort. Besides reminders and to-
                                                                                              dos, you can use ReminderFox to create
                                                                                              so-called quick alarms, which you can
                                                                                              use to help you remember small things
                                                                                              (Figure 6).
                                                                                                 In addition to the default sections Re-
                                                                                              minders and To-dos, you can create cus-
                                                                                              tom task lists and group your tasks by
                                                                                              type. For example, to keep tabs on your
                                                                                              article deadlines, create a separate list.
                                                                                              When creating a custom list, you can
                                                                                              specify a link to an iCalendar file, and
Figure 5: Scribble notes with QuickNote.                                                      the calendar will appear as a separate
                                                                                              list. The features don’t stop here,
Browsing [7] extension (Figure 4). When        you save and share notes, but sometimes        though, because you can sync your Re-
you restart Firefox after you’ve install       you just need a simple tool to scribble        minderFox data with either an FTP or
the extension, you will notice that every      down notes and ideas quickly. In this          WebDAV server. To enable this feature,
link on any web page now has a unique          case, you need QuickNote [9]. As the           specify the synchronization options in
number. Now just type the number next          name suggests, this extension adds a           the Options dialog window under the
to the link you want to open and press         notes feature to your browser.                 Network tab.
Enter. In this way, you can navigate the          Although QuickNote installs as a con-
web without touching your mouse or             ventional Firefox extension, it requires       Final Word
trackpad. The Mouseless Browsing ex-           an extra step if you want it to load notes     In this article, I’ve covered just a fraction
tension has a host of options you can          in the sidebar (Figure 5). After installing,   of the simple yet useful Firefox exten-
tweak to make it behave the way in             restart your browser and enter chrome://       sions. If you are willing to spend some
which you want. For example, you can           quicknote/content/install.html in the Ad-      time digging through the official Firefox
make the extension show the ID num-            dress bar. Now press the Install Quic-         Add-on repository [11], chances are you
bers only when you press a specific key        kNote in the Sidebar button, and you are       will find dozens of other one-trick po-
combination, tweak the ID number style         set. From QuickNote’s preferences, you         nies that can make your daily computing
to minimize clutter, and enable the nu-        can tweak note colors and enable multi-        more efficient and even pleasant. n
meric pad for mouse-free browsing.             ple tabs, allowing you to manage several
                                               notes at once. All notes are saved as                            INFO
Screengrab!                                    plain text files, and you can always ex-        [1] FoxClocks:
Quite a few extensions are out there that      tract them from the browser by pressing             en‑US/firefox/addon/1117
you can use to take screenshots of web         the Save as button.                             [2] dragdropupload: addons.mozilla.
pages, but Screengrab! [8] lets you do                                                             org/en‑US/firefox/addon/2190
this with a minimum of fuss and has a          ReminderFox                                     [3] Morning Coffee:
few useful features to boot. With this ex-     Because you spend most of your time in              en‑US/firefox/addon/2677
tension, you can take a screenshot of a        Firefox, it only makes sense to use it for      [4] TimeTracker:
selected portion of the page, the visible      keeping tabs on your to-dos and remind-             en‑US/firefox/addon/1887
part of the page, the entire page, or even     ers, which is exactly what the Reminder-
                                                                                               [5] Lazarus form recovery:
an individual frame.                                                                     ‑US/firefox/
When taking a screen-                                                                              addon/6984
shot, you can save it
                                                                                               [6] Word Count Plus: addons.mozilla.
on the disk or copy it                                                                             org/en‑US/firefox/addon/4718
to the Clipboard. By
                                                                                               [7] Mouseless Browsing: addons.
default, Screengrab!
saves screenshots in
                                                                                               [8] Screengrab!:
the PNG format, but
you can switch to
                                                                                               [9] QuickNote:
JPEG if you like.
                                                                                               [10] ReminderFox:
The web is brimming         Figure 6: Keep tabs on your to-dos and reminders with              [11] Firefox Add-ons repository:
with services that let      ReminderFox.                                                  

94        ISSUE 99                             FEBRuARy 2009