In a day and age where so many of us are highly focused on productivity, searching the Internet is perhaps one of the most time-consuming activities we could all benefit from streamlining. As such, I'm often amazed by how many people have never been introduced to the wonders of browser add-ons. They add so much to my life as a Web searcher, as well as a productivity nut. Accordingly, I thought I would share with you some of my very favorite Firefox add-ons. Yes, I also use IE, Chrome, Opera, and Safari, but Firefox is my go-to browser when the search engine querying gets intense.
In no particular order of importance (note: click the bolded name of the plug-in to visit its site):
Unlinker: If you're into searching for image directories, then this is an absolute dream of an add-on. When installed, it adds an "Unlinker" selection to your right-click menu that, when clicked, converts all image links to the images they link to! So, instead of looking through a directory full of links that you either have to either download all of, or click through one-by-one, the page is filled with all the images, loaded right there for you.
Unfortunately, Unlinker isn't as perfect as it could be. For instance, the add-on will freeze your browser if you try using it in a directory that's full of hundreds of images. Also, it doesn't load images to the size of your browser window. So, if you're loading high-megapixel images, then they will load at their full size, thus making them difficult to see without moving the page around. Even with this all being the case, the good far outweighs the bad for me, personally, where Unlinker is concerned.
Remove Google Search Redirects: How many times have you tried to copy a direct link to a search result from Google, only to find that the URL is longer than the Great Wall of China? It's also especially annoying if, like me, you search for lots of specific file types and would love to simply go down through the pages of Google results and "right-click, save as" on every result you're interested in (if you're not familiar with trying to save files/documents directly from Google, just know that you can't by default).
Well, now you can fix all of that with this genious little add-on! It removes Google's redirect formatting and leaves your Google results with clean URL formatting that you can copy, save directly from, and bathe in with the finest of oils and rose petals as you rejoice at this modern-day miracle, basically.
Docs Online Viewer: This beaut allows you to view just about every document file type imaginable, directly in your Web browser, without the need to download the document or even have its native viewer installed (i.e. you don't need to have Office installed to view .xls files). Docs Online Viewer leverages third-party APIs (Google Docs, Zoho Viewer, etc.) that allow you to click to see a document right there in your browser. It can take a number of seconds for a document to load, depending on the filetype and/or size, but as an in-line browser solution to replace numerous document viewing apps, it's worth it.
FireFTP: FTP might seem a bit old hat as a searchable protocol, but believe you me when I say that there is still a LOT of valuable information residing on FTPs! As a standalone application, I use FileZilla; however, when I go gunning for strictly FTP search results, it's awesome to be able to browse through numerous FTPs directly in my browser's tabs. It adds a certain continuity to my FTP searches that makes my research flow.
Search by Image for Google: I am forever trying to teach people about the wondrous beauty of reverse image search! I use Google's reverse image searching capabilities every single day (seriously), and thanks to this add-on, all I have to do is right-click on an image residing on a Web site, then select to have the image searched for in Google Image Search. Trust me, the savings add up, in a productivity sense. Typically, I'd have to right-click on an image, copy the link, bring up Google Image Search, click the little camera icon, paste in the image URL I copied, then hit search. Hey, have I mentioned how much I love add-ons yet? Because I do. Bunches.
DownloadThemAll!: Put simply, DownloadThemAll! is a mass file downloader and download manager for Firefox. It's very powerful and quite well-featured. If you're ever on pages that contain multiple files you'd like to download at once, this add-on is perfect for you, thanks to it's right-click menu functionality which allows you to (you guessed it) download them all! Also worth noting is the DownloadThemAll! AntiContainer add-on, which extends the functionality of DownloadThemAll! by bypassing many of the popular containers that prevent you from directly downloading images and other files. Pretty nifty.
NoScript: It doesn't require a search aficionado to dig up search results that could inadvertently hijack your browser and install malware on your system without your knowledge. This add-on helps to prevent those types of headaches by disallowing all scripts from every single site you ever run across. Of course, you have the ability to allow/disallow scripts from as many sites as you want, either temporarily or permanently. Additionally, if you run into a trusted site that just won't perform quite right, despite adding it to NoScript's safe list, you can disable the add-on globally while visiting that site. Then, when you're done, you can re-enable it.
Oh, and for those of you out there who, like me, play tech support for just about everyone you know and love, go ahead and install this on their Firefox install that you've convinced them to use in place of IE 6. You'll be glad you did, trust me.
Adblock Plus: I saved this add-on for last, since it's perhaps the most quintessential add-on -- thus, many people are aware of it -- but in the event that you're not, Adblock Plus is, bar-none, the best ad-blocking add-on out there. Just know that certain sites (especially Google sites, like their keyword research tool, AdSense portal, etc.) fail to function properly when Adblock Plus is enabled. Additionally, there are many pop-ups that Adblock Plus fails to block, so I highly recommend the Adblock Plus Pop-up Add-on. It greatly extends Adblock Plus's functionality by not only blocking most pop-ups, but also by giving you the ability to add to a blacklist the ones that do slip by.
So, with that, I'll bring this post to a close. I hope you find at least one of those add-ons to be a revelation to your level of productivity where searching the Web is concerned. I'm all about maximizing my efforts with something that consumes a large chunk of my time -- that is, Web search -- so in the event that you're in the same boat, give those add-ons a shot and see how they work for you.
Do you have any favorite add-ons that you'd like to contribute? No matter which browser you prefer, let us all know which add-ons have helped increase your productivity or enhance your Web browsing experiences!
10 Google Search Secrets
How to Become a Search Ninja: Harnessing the True Power of Google - Part 1
Search ninja part 2: How to find older versions of software (and much more)
Search ninja part 3: How to find unlisted YouTube videos with Google
Search ninja part 4: How to search FTPs with Google