Boost Your Browser “Tool Belt”
If you’re a do-if-yourselfer, you know that in order to work more efficiently around the house, you need to use the correct tools for each project. Well, you can think of add-ons as tools for your browser “tool belt,” helping you work more efficiently while online.
Add-ons (also called plug-ins) are simply computer programs that interact with a host application, such as a browser, to provide a very specific function “on demand.” Examples of the vast array of browser add-ons include extra toolbar buttons, search shortcuts, animated mouse pointers, stock tickers, and pop-up ad blockers.
By installing a few carefully selected add-ons, you can personalize your browser so it looks and functions exactly the way you want. The benefits of add-ons can include the following:
- Time-saving features that save steps and make online tasks easier.
- Enhanced browsing and website viewing experiences.
- Elimination or reduction of annoying aspects of websites.
- Faster access to information you find particularly valuable.
- Increased online security.
Today’s most popular browsers — including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari — offer a selection of handy add-ons that are free to download and easy to install. Firefox, for example, has 5,000 free add-ons in categories such as Alerts & Updates; Appearance; Bookmarks; Download Management; Feeds, News & Blogging; Photos, Music & Videos; Privacy & Security; Social & Communication; and Toolbars. Some add-ons are specific to a particular browser. Others, such as the award-winning McAfee Site Advisor, are available cross platform and can be used with multiple browsers.
As great as browsers have become these days, they can be even better with add-ons. Take advantage of these tools and you can accomplish more in less time.
What Add-ons Can You Add?
The best way to search for add-ons is to visit the official site for your browser. (We’ve listed some of them below.) This is because not every add-on that you find out there in the marketplace will end up being a positive addition to your browser; there are some add-ons that also install spyware or adware, or otherwise jeopardize your privacy. As always, make sure you’re downloading software from a reputable source.
To give you an idea of the power and variety of browser add-ons, we’ve compiled a list of a few favorites. Take a look at what these add-ons can do, and think about which tools you could add to your browser to make it work a little harder and make your life a little easier.
Check Out These Popular Add-ons
The selection of add-ons available for browsers can be a bit overwhelming. Below is a short list to give you a taste of some particularly useful ones.
Works with: Firefox
Do you get annoyed by all those ads and banners on the Internet that often take longer to download than everything else on a webpage? You can get rid of them if you install Adblock Plus. It takes the ads away from the webpage without disrupting the webpage’s look. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much faster a news site will load, for instance, when you use Adblock Plus. If you chose a filter subscription, it will block most advertisements automatically.
Works with: Safari
This add-on doesn’t allow any Flash to play on a website until you give permission for this to happen — which means no more auto-starting videos or songs because of a Flash auto-play. ClickToFlash also gives you the power to view blocked Flash with just one click, and allows Flash on certain websites and in certain applications. It’s all up to you.
Works with: Selected versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari (See www.cooliris.com/product for details.)
Cooliris is designed to transform your browser into a lightning fast, cinematic way to enjoy photos and videos. From Flickr to YouTube to Kodak Galleries, Cooliris can take images and video from basically anywhere and create an impressive cinematic presentation. Cooliris allows you to search, turn images into a true full-screen layout, share your content with others, and look at it all on one infinite wall that looks like a horizontal Star Wars story screen.
Works with: Firefox
Let’s face it — it’s easy to spend more time than you want to visiting certain websites. LeechBlock is a productivity tool that allows you to block or limit time spent on whatever websites you think are taking up too much of your day, especially during the workweek. All you need to do is specify which sites to block and when to block them, and LeechBlock does the rest.
You can specify up to six sets of sites to block, with different times and days for each set. You can block sites within fixed time periods, after a time limit, or with a combination of time periods and time limit. LeechBlock also keeps track of the total amount of time you have spent browsing the sites in each block set.
Works with: Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari
SiteAdvisor is a browser plug-in that gives safety advice about websites before you click on them, helping you to avoid risky sites. With SiteAdvisor software installed, your browser will display small site rating icons with your search results. These rating icons are:
- McAfee SECURE: Tested daily for hacker vulnerabilities.
- SAFE: Very low or no risk issues.
- CAUTION: Minor risk issues.
- WARNING: Serious risk issues.
- UNKNOWN: Not yet rated. Use caution.
Also featured with SiteAdvisor is a browser button that validates the site rating, and a secure search box for worry-free searching. Together, these alert you to potentially risky sites and help you find safer alternatives.
Works with: Firefox
WeatherBug puts the forecast where you can see it on the bottom frame of your browser. You’ll get live, local weather conditions as well as forecasts, radar, and severe weather alerts from WeatherBug’s community of neighborhood weather stations.
Works with: Firefox and Internet Explorer
Yoono is a sidebar for your browser that lets you connect to all your social networks (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, AIM, and more) in one place and update your status across all of them at one time. Yoono also enables easy sharing of links, images, and videos across all your networks, and gives you real-time friend updates whenever you’re online. The Discovery widget recommends websites, videos, images, products, and more that are related to the site you’re viewing.