Friday, May 30, 2008

Firefox Love

One of the things that makes Firefox the best browser is the abundance of addons out there that u can plug straight into your browser and be more productive. In one of my previous post, I made mention of PicLens, but there are lots of options out there that can make you more productive. I'd just mention a few that I use in my daily life and also in development.
  1. CoolIris: This addon is also from the developers of PicLens. It enables you to preview a link/page before you open it.
  2. Flash Switcher: As a good developer, you should cater for all kind of users when developing applications. Don't just build a website or an application that works only in the version of the browser that you have on your computer; you need to make provisions for everybody. When I'm building websites that involve including a flash movie, I try to cater for those that don't have the flash player installed on their system; either i provide a way for them to download the flash player and install, or I provide an alternate content to the flash movie. It's a poor practice to just include the embed & object tag alone on your website, which is what some developers do. Don't just generate HTML & SWF from within the Flash IDE, and then copy the embed section and then paste in your target document; this is going to turn out bad, either for you or for your users. Right from Flash 7, it seems Macromedia had started providing the option of injecting the flash movie into your page with javascript, and they still do in the current version. And if you don't want their option, SWFObject has a much reader and user friendly flash injection script that you can use. Back to what I was saying, before digressing, Flash Switcher frees me from the hassle of having to uninstall the flash player and then reinstall after I'm done just to make flash unavailable in the browser. One of the things that can make a developer unproductive is to waste time on an action that has an easier way of being carried out. That's where Flash Switcher comes to the rescue; you can switch between various versions of the Flash player, right there from within your browser, and you completely make Flash unavailable in your browser.
  3. FireBug: This tool is just like Google. Why did I say this? Can you imagine life without Google's search engine? Though their are other search engines, Google Search is the only search engine. Anytime I need to do a lookup, what only comes to mind is Google and when I need a better elaboration, I think of Wikipedia. In the same manner, I can't imagine life as a web developer without Firebug. Firebug is a great tool. Lots of amazing features that makes the life of a web developer interesting: From inline CSS editing(you edit any website's CSS inline and immediately see the results instantly without refreshing), style analysis (view the CSS code that makes a particular element on a page beautiful), Javascript editing and viewing, elements measurement (see the sizes of the various elements on your page), XHR (see the sizes of the various resources being put to use on your site, and also ow long it takes to load each one, view HEAD, POST and GET requests) and a host of more lovely features. Some people go to the extent of using this tool as an hacker's arsenal in downloading resources from sites like (YouTube, MySpace and some other sites like that); I wouldn't elaborate on how to go about doing this, but you can google it to find out more if you are interested.
  4. YSlow: Another good plugin that integrates with Firebug, enabling you to find out what makes your website slow. It grades your website based on some conventions adopted by Yahoo.
  5. Better GMail 2: I came across this addon a few weeks ago. Installed it but never put it to use. I just had a swell experience with it last night while I was about leaving the office and my Firefox browser asked if I wanted to upgrade to the latest version, of which I accepted. After installing the upgrade, I didn't feel the experience yet because I rarely log out of my account bacause I try to avoid having to type my username and password everytime I launch my browser and point it to GMail. Anyway, I did logout of my GMail account because I had one other GMail account I use for developmental purposes, that I wanted to checkout. God, I was completely sucked in with what I saw as regards the GMail interface that I saw. I first thought Google had revamped their site, but I remembered I just upgraded this addon. It was really beautiful (see screenshots above) Beautiful Interfaces wet my appetite, that's why Veerle is the one of the best women illustrators I have come to fall in love with her designs on the web. She's just too good.
  6. I'm used to the habit of bookmarking some of the websites that I use every now and then on paper, because I might at that time be using a public computer that wouldn't be accessible when next I have to browse. But I just decided to put the service to use, and having to navigate to their site every time I browse is a pain which they also know and have provided an addon that you can use within Firefox to bookmark or tag any link you want. So I can access my bookmarks on the web anytime without having to carry out my notebook or diary.
  7. IE Switcher: This addon is just like Flash Switcher too. It saves you time and makes your users or customers happy on the long run. It enables you to be able to view your sites in Internet Explorer, directly from within Firefox itself. What this means is that Internet Explorer is embedded right within Firefox, so you don't have to waste time launching a separate browser instance externally; you have it right there within Firefox. It's a little disheartening for me when I hear some developers say they develop on Firefox alone or on IE alone. One of my great pals once told me while we were working together on one website sometimes ago that we can enforce it on our users to use Firefox alone; this was because the site he designed was misbehaving greatly within Internet Explorer. I do debug for IE, but debugging that particular website was pain. The problem started from the habit that IE has, in ignoring transparency of PNGs, to some float issues I found very difficult fixing. So my pal was just like - we tell our users to use Firefox whenever they want to access the service, which I told him there and then that it was absurd. Eventually, we had to redo a new design that works perfectly well in both browsers.
  8. Clear Cache Button: There are times when caching helps you site load faster while developing, but at other times, it's just pain. This is because you don't get to see the recent changes you just made to a particular page because the browser has cached the old version and is not reloading the new one. In some cases, while developing with PHP, I've had to disable caching in the browser by sending an header request that expires the page immediately, so that on a reload, the browser has t o refetch a new page; though I heard that browsers often ignore this attimes. Anyway, I had to do a manually clear the myself, which is also a waste of time; having to click through several menus, checkboxes, and buttons just to clear the cache is a waste of time for me; I'm very conscious of my time and I don't want to watse it at all if I can help it. It's a pain to clear the cache in Firefox becuase I have to go to Tools -> Clear Private Data, then uncheck some checkboxes so that FF doesn't clear saved passwords, sessions and some other settings that I wouldn't want it to clear. Internet Explorer also makes this difficult because when you try to clear the cache, the browser freezes for a few seconds most of the time. The thought just crossed my mind last week while developing that there ought to be a FF plugin that will just allow me to click a single button and it will clear the cache. I did some Googling and there it was. My life is now easier with that addon.
  9. Tab Effect: This is not a productivity tool, but like one of my developer friends (Java personified, Dejjy); he so much likes those nifty effects you can find on desktops or in applications. There was a time his computer was sort of a toy because there was always something animated moving around. This addon takes your browser to 3D dimension with its 2D effects faked as 3D. You'd love it if you also fascinated by having some animated stuffs around you. The browser flips pages in 3D mode when you close or open new tabs.

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