If you’re a web worker, you likely spend plenty of time using Google (unless you’re one of those folks is concerned about their continued strides towards world domination). And judging by the numbers we’ve seen, you probably use Firefox as well. If that’s your combination of choice for searching, you’re in luck: there are some Firefox add-ons that can make using Google a much improved experience. Two in particular are worth looking at: CustomizeGoogle and GoogleResultsWalker.
CustomizeGoogle gives you checkbox control over a large number of Google options – some that Google builds in themselves (like the ability to force a GMail connection over https) and some they would never dream of shipping (like the ability to remove ads from search results). I find that carefully choosing the right features here adds a lot to the overall usefulness of Google as a part of the wider web. For example, you can get links to instantly re-run your search on a different service, image links that go right to the image concerned, and filtering to get rid of sites you never want to see in your search results. You can even get a “river of results” that never forces you to go to the next page, or defang some of Google’s ability to track your visits and clicks.
GoogleResultsWalker is designed to let you browse through results without leaving Google’s site; it’s targeted narrowly to the main web search page. It squashes the information provided by Google into the left part of the page, and adds a new frame to take up the right side of your browser. As you hover over search results, GoogleResultsWalker goes out and pulls live previews of the sites into the other frame. This one is still a bit rough around the edges, but if you find you spend a lot of time sorting through search results looking for the perfect place to visit, it can make your life simpler.
Tools like these addons (as well as similar tools such as custom GreaseMonkey scripts) make it possible to customize the web to your tastes, instead of just taking what someone else thinks is perfect for you. If your ideas about good software don’t quite match Google’s, it’s worth tweaking things to make your life easier.