Blog Post

Why I Still Use Firefox: More Add-ons I Can't Live Without

Simon’s recent post about testing Firefox’s speed got me thinking: If Chrome (s goog) and Opera are really faster than Firefox, why haven’t I switched?

Speed is always an issue, of course. But for me, and many others who use Firefox, its advantage is that it’s really more than just a browser. With the judicious addition of some well-designed add-ons, it can be a tool for managing multiple email accounts, testing and troubleshooting web pages, managing passwords, synchronizing data, and much more.

Other browsers offer add-ons, too, but as far as I know, no other browser has all of the add-ons that I use. Some I’ve written about before, but others are relatively new additions to my toolbox.

  • Gmail Manager. I use this add-on constantly. It allows me to manage multiple Gmail and Google Apps Mail accounts without opening multiple tabs or a separate email program.
  • Google Shortcuts. I also use a lot of other Google products (like Reader and Webmaster Tools, for example), but find that their URLs aren’t necessarily memorable. This add-on lets me create simple shortcuts to the Google pages that I often visit.
  • Firebug and Web Developer. These add-ons are tools that no web developer should be without. They provide a huge range of functions for testing and troubleshooting HTML, CSS and much more.
  • 1Password and LastPass. These add-ons manage password data and sync it with other computers, as well as mobile devices like the iPhone (s aapl) and iPod touch. Yes, I probably don’t need two password managers, but each has its advantages, and I really can’t afford to lose the huge number of passwords I have. So I use both; they co-exist surprisingly well.
  • XMarks. In addition to passwords, it’s handy to be able to sync browsing history and bookmarks between computers, which XMarks does well. It can also sync passwords, although I don’t use it for that.
  • Screengrab and NoSquint. These add-ons make minor, but very useful, improvements to the built-in features of Firefox. Screengrab allows one to take screenshots within the browser, and NoSquint lets one adjust zoom levels on a site-by-site basis.
  • All-in-One Sidebar (AIOS). I do like one feature of Opera — the ability for one’s history, add-ons and downloads to show up in a sidebar rather than popup windows. AIOS is a very configurable Firefox add-on that makes for a much cleaner browser display.
  • Finally, Adblock Plus.

Of course, as a web developer, I do need to make sure that the sites my company makes are compatible with many different browsers and operating systems. But frankly, I spend most of the day in a browser, and so far, that browser is still Firefox.

What is your preferred web browser?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): What Does the Future Hold For Browsers?

29 Responses to “Why I Still Use Firefox: More Add-ons I Can't Live Without”

  1. Ondrej

    I use Firefox only as a “bookmark manager” anymore, as Diigo works marginally in Chrome. And don’t get me started on the lack of separator in Chrome bookmarks. FF is also good travel browser, as USB Roboform doesn’t work with Chrome yet. But speaking of lack of NoScript, you can turn scripting on/off on site basis in Chrome, it’s just buried deep in the menu (wrench>options>under the hood>content settings>javascript>exceptions). Somebody should write a plugin that would make it as accessible as NoScript, that’s all what’s needed.

  2. I recently moved from FF to Chrome. Best move. I too had Firebug/Web Dev Toolbar, however the in-build console for Chrome is simply perfect.

    I have noticed some slowdown issues with Firebug in the past, and never with Chrome, the JS Debugger is also vastly better, and the JS Console has code completion.

    FF is still my second browser, I don’t like Opera, and I only have IE because I have to support it.

  3. Without NoScript, fuggedaboudit.

    Except for individual (and exceedingly rare) emergency issues with compatibility, I won’t run a browser without NoScript on any of my computers. If it was fully functional on Chrome I’d give it a go.

  4. Doug Petrosky

    Isn’t firebug built into Safari’s inspector? And can’t you do most of the Google shortcuts with a bookmark folder on the toolbar or some other extension. These sound like excuses to keep using what you have been using, which is fine, you do what you want. But when making a case to the masses you really need to emphasize the differences because someone reading your article would think that the above features do not exist in competing products. Maybe a nice comparison chart would clear things up better for everyone?

  5. Earle

    you missed Finjan for tagging infected links in a search and 1-click weather and paste email for username/password management or cool previews for opening sites in separate window without leaving current site

  6. Stephen

    As for firefox in Ubuntu I have no issues with Google documents.

    I do love firefox. But I have been unable to use Google ‘new version ‘ spreadsheet in Firefox windows. I have tried it in different computers and always get an error when I try to open up a Google (new version) Spreadsheet. This does not happen in Chrome and in Opera.

  7. Esteban

    I do love firefox. But I have been unable to use Google ‘new version ‘ spreadsheet in Firefox windows. I have tried it in different computers and always get an error when I try to open up a Google (new version) Spreadsheet. This does not happen in Chrome and in Opera.

    As for firefox in Ubuntu I have no issues with Google documents.

  8. RandyN

    I’ve used FireFox since version 0.5 but lately have gotten fed up with stability issues and switched to using Chrome. FireFox is more polished and has some great features but is definitely slower than Chrome. If FireFox 4 fixes these issues, and properly implements extensions and tabs in separate processes, I’ll switch back.

    One suggestion: instead of using Google Shortcuts extension, check out keywords in FireFox. For gmail, my keyword is gm — so when I want to go to email, I only have to type gm in my address bar and press enter and I go to my gmail account (this is one great and often overlooked feature).

  9. I had the same thoughts as you regarding ditching Firefox but staying for the add-ons. My last upgrade of Firefox, though, made it incompatible with my most essential plugin, Roboform (password manager), and a few others (including Web Developer) and now I find myself using Chrome more often, especially when I just want to do a quick search.

    • I feel the same way. Actually, with Chrome, I find a need less extensions overall than I did with Firefox. Between bookmarklets and many of Chrome’s built-in tab management and toolbar features I’m able to function with way less extensions than I did before.

  10. I still really like having bookmarks in the sidebar, so I can easily click through my morning browsing routine without 50 trips through a bookmarks menu. This is really the only thing keeping me on Firefox as my primary browser.

  11. None of the browsers are good :(

    I use Firefox but there are parts of it that I find infuriating. E.g.

    • broken session management that the developers refuse to acknowledege/fix.
    • broken password manager (does not include URL paths, only domains)

    However the other browsers have even more annoying problems!

    I hate the way that Chrome makes my text fields yellow and it is impossible to stop it! And I prefer Firefox and Firebug to the Chrome developer tools.

    Hmm actually maybe I will try Opera again.

    • Charles Hamilton

      The password manager problem is indeed annoying, especially for a domain like, where I have lots of different logins. That’s why Gmail Manager is so useful, since it allows instant access to many different accounts.

  12. Firebug/WebDeveloper, 1Password/LastPass and XMarks are also available on Safari and Chromium.

    So I’m not sure you can use them as argument not to switch away heavy Firefox.

    • Charles Hamilton

      You are right that some of the extensions I mention do exist for other browsers, although many (notably Firebug) aren’t as full-featured.