As a web developer, I spend a lot of time in Firefox – indeed, according to Slife monitoring, it’s my most-frequently-used application. Part of this time is simply reading web pages and checking sites, but some of it is because Firefox has quietly morphed from being a browser to being an application platform. With thousands of add-ons available, Firefox has become an easy way for me to have a variety of useful applications available as I move from computer to computer and operating system to operating system.
Recently three more extensions have made their way into my everyday usage: CyberSearch, ColorZilla, and the HTML Validator. All three have been stable and useful for me in Firefox 3.0 on OS X. Read on for the details.
CyberSearch is designed to extend the functionality of the Firefox “awesome bar.” The awesome bar (and its incremental search of your bookmarks and history) seems to be one of those innovations that people either love or hate; if you hate it, move on to the next add-on. But if you love it, take a look at CyberSearch, which integrates Google search results in with your history and bookmarks. You can set up searches of specific Google properties (like news or images), color-code the results so they stand out, and adjust the size of the address bar result list. I haven’t quite decided to remove the search box from my Firefox yet, but with this extension, I’m getting close.
ColorZilla, as you can probably guess, is a color-management utility. It incorporates simple color-picking functionality – showing you the color beneath the cursor, and letting you copy it to the clipboard in a variety of formats – but there’s much more here. It also includes color palette management, letting you see the palette from any web page together with the CSS rules that control each color, plus bookmarking and sharing of palettes (including ones you make up yourself). You can jump from color-picking straight to the Firebug inspector for any element. You can measure pixel distances and zoom in for more precise operations.
HTML Validator incorporates the functionality of HTML Tidy and the W3C Markup Validation Service – and does it entirely on your own computer so that you don’t have to ship pages off to other sites to check. The add-on automatically checks pages as you load them, and shows the status – number of errors and warnings – in the Firefox status bar. Double-click this if there are errors, and you get a much more details rundown, showing the page markup and what’s wrong with it. From there you can jump to Htmlpedia for more information or automatically produce a cleaned-up version of the page source.
Software being what it is today, there are alternatives for the functions of these three add-ons. You can search Google through its own UI, investigate colors with an application like CSSEdit, or use the online HTML validators. But I find that shaving keystrokes and avoiding window-switching increase my productivity – which is what makes these extensions winners for me.