5 Developer Add-Ons for Firefox 3

As we’ve covered several times already, Firefox 3 is on the verge of being released (RC2 came out a couple of days ago). The new version is, at this point, very solid – faster than FF2 and with a lower memory footprint (though of course your mileage may vary depending on your browsing habits). It also includes a number of useful new features.

But the underlying philosophy of extensibility is still very much a part of FF3. Rather than trying to build all things for all users, the Mozilla developers are content to let add-ons carry much of the specialized load. If you’re a web developer, you can still benefit from bringing in extra functionality to make Firefox 3 even better. Here are some of the add-ons I’ve been using heavily with the new version to make my life easier.CS Lite – This extension gives you easy cookie management abilities, including blocking and allowing on a per-site and per-session basis. In addition to making it simpler to work with session-related code while you’re developing a site, this also helps preserve your privacy.

Firebug – Most web developers know Firebug by now; it handles HTML, CSS, and JavaScript live debugging. It can also monitor the network traffic to any site and even debug and profile your live JavaScript code. I almost always have Firebug open when I’m tweaking a site to look and work its best. If you’re on FF3, you’ll need to install the latest 1.2 beta release, which is itself quite mature.

ScreenshotHttpFox – When you’re trying to track down an obscure server problem – say, the wrong image is being delivered, or a cookie doesn’t seem to be working – HttpFox is the place to turn. It shows you the incoming and outgoing HTTP traffic, including things like headers, cookies, etags, and more. Start and Stop buttons make it easy to record a particular session and then inspect it for details.

User Agent Switcher – I use this one mostly to get around the annoyance of other sites that don’t recognize FF3 as a valid browser – even though they support FF2 perfectly well. Install this one, and in a couple of clicks you can tell the browser to pretend it’s FF2, Opera, IE, or anything else you care to set up.

Weave – This is a Mozilla Labs project, and probably the shakiest of the five I’m recommending here (though it’s been working fine for me in its most recent builds). But I find it very useful as I use multiple copies of FF3 on multiple computers for my testing. As we explained when it first came out, Weave unifies the browser history and bookmarks between different copies of Firefox. I’ve gotten so used to it now that I only notice when I use an unwoven copy of FF, and the URLs I’m expecting to be able to leap to immediately aren’t there.

I don’t expect (or want) Firefox to ever include every feature I can use. As long as the add-on community continues to thrive, this is a perfect state of affairs: take what you can use, and leave the rest.

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