10 great Add-ons for tweaking, customising and improving Firefox 4

April 1, 2011 – 11:00 by in Tips Print Share 5 Comments

The long overdue release of Firefox 4 has prompted a mixed reaction from users. It’s undoubtedly quicker than previous versions, and it consumes less system resources too. The streamlined user interface isn’t to everyone’s tastes however, while there are still functions missing that might prove to be deal-breakers for those weighing up the pros and cons of upgrading or switching from another web browser.

In this roundup we’ve dug out a selection of extensions that can speed up Firefox 4 further, help you regain absent options, customise the browser to your tastes or add in features found in other browsers that are missing here. So whether you’re enamoured or enraged by the latest Firefox browser, there’s bound to be something to charm or calm you in this collection.

1. Tweak the Firefox button
The Firefox button is designed to make the menu bar largely redundant by containing what Mozilla considers are the most popular menu items. That may work for you, but if you find yourself constantly having to press [Alt] to reveal the menu bar to access a particular option, you might wonder what the point of it is.

What you need is Personal Menu – this beautifully crafted Add-on contains all the tools you need to transform the Firefox button so that it shows the options you want to see, not what Mozilla wants you to see. You’ll never have to show the menu bar again.

2. Move the Firefox button
You might like the functionality of the Firefox button, but find its position in the browser toolbar far too intrusive. Moveable Firefox Button rectifies that particular problem by allowing you to recreate it as a more discreet App-like tab on the Tab bar, which can be positioned where you like.

3. Lose the Firefox button
You’ve tried tweaking the Firefox button. You tried moving it on to the Tab bar. But all to no avail. You could try re-colouring it using App Button Color, or make it less visible by rendering it transparent using App  Button Clear instead.

But, if the Firefox button has become a symbol of all that you hate about Firefox 4, and you’d rather replace it with the menu bar, simply install the App Button Remove Add-on. As the name implies, it gets rid. Permanently (or until you disable or ditch the Add-on, at any rate).

4. Speed up browsing
Like many applications, Firefox is configured to work on a wide range of setups, which means performance is often sacrificed in the name of compatibility. When it comes to browsing web pages, there are plenty of tweaks you can perform, but accessing them all might be a little fiddly.

Never fear: from the ashes of a long forgotten Add-on comes two new plugins offering to optimise Firefox for your internet connection. You can either remain true to the original with Fasterfox or ditch one of its more contentious features (Enhanced Prefetching) in return for a handful of new tweaks by opting for Fasterfox Lite instead. Which offers the better performance? Everyone’s setup is unique, so try them both and see which one suits you best.

5. Stay informed
For reasons we’re not entirely sure of, Firefox 4 ditches the Status bar, so if you rely on it to track the progress of downloads or web pages you’ll be sorely disappointed. Never fear, though, because there’s an easy way to get it back again: install Status-4-Evar and you’ll be fully informed once again.

6. Where’s the RSS feed?
Another strange omission in Firefox 4 is the RSS icon that flashes up in the Location Bar when you browse to a page containing a RSS feed. Want it back again? No problem: just install RSS Icon in Awsomebar – the only Add-on in this roundup that takes longer to say than to explain.

7. Search quickly
Perhaps surprisingly, Firefox 4 doesn’t ditch the Search bar, despite rolling some of its functionality into the main Address bar. Still, it has its uses – and if you regularly use it with a number of search engines you should install the Quick Search Bar, which speeds up the search process by placing icons of all your search engines in the bar: click your choice of engine, type your search terms and press [Enter]. Bam! You’re off and running.

8. Get your own speed dial
It’s interesting that Firefox 4 doesn’t include the speed dial feature now standard in both Opera and Chrome. Before dissolving in a fit of jealousy, though, install Fast Dial instead. It’s got everything you need for one-click access to your favourite sites – and a recent update makes it compatible with Firefox 4 to boot.

9. Download faster, more easily
Downloading files through a web browser is reasonably straightforward, but there’s always a better, quicker and more convenient way in the form of a download manager. But why install a separate third-party application when you can grab the DownThemAll Add-in instead? It allows you to not just manage and accelerate regular file downloads, but also makes it easier to download all the major elements of a web page too. It’s packed with options such as offering you the options of prioritising and pausing downloads to resume later.

10. Give yourself an identity crisis
Firefox 3.6 introduced Personas to the browser – these are small, lightweight skins for the main browser window. If you’re someone who plans to mix and match Personas on a regular basis, you’ll need the Personas Plus Add-on – once installed you can access new Personas directly from the Add-on Bar, plus set them to change randomly if you’re the adventurous type.

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