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This Week’s Thoughts: Tuning your browser

11 April 2010 by J.M.

Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera or Chrome - there is more than one program to surf the Web. Chances are high that you too have your favorite browser. Or even more than one. Many people don’t know: Each browser is extensible nowadays. You can download small add-ons and customize your personal surfboard. Here is how it works and which extensions are most useful.

Add-ons for Firefox, IE, Safari and more

Modern browsers like Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or Chrome are able to do lots of things. They are comfortable, easy to use and fast. As different users have different needs though, browsers are extensible. So-called add-ons extend a browser, adding additional features to it.

Google Chrome extension gallery

Browser add-ons for small wishes

The concept is great: All browsers ship with the most important features that everybody needs. You can go online, open websites, manage bookmarks. Everything is there - and that’s enough for most users. At the beginning, that is. Sometime extra wishes might arise in you, and you will expect more from your browser or want more comfort. Then you simply download the necessary extensions. They are called add-ons or plugins. Such add-ons are small programs that you can download for free. Just for Firefox, there are more than 6,000 of these extensions. For free. For any case to imagine.

Good-looking photo search: Cooliris

Cooliris slideshowIf you work much with photos and find the photo galleries in Google Search boring, you can install an extension creating appealing 3D views from them. A good-looking photo canvas, much more comfortable for finding your desired image. This extension is called Cooliris. Sure, that’s something for the eyes only. Other extensions help with hiding advertisements in websites, speeding up your browser - or they make it easier to manage music, videos or photos. In short: It’s worth taking a look at the extensions available.

Simply turn off ads: Adblock Plus

Firefox has the largest add-ons repository; more than 6,000 add-ons are available. The most popular one is Adblock Plus. That’s a really useful ad blocker, hiding most of the advertisements displayed in websites. To install an add-on, just click “Add” — that’s all you need to do.

Dictionary, Maps, ...

Internet Explorer AcceleratorsInternet Explorer is extensible too, especially with features helping to research something. For example, a word in a foreign language. Just select the word and look it up in a Web dictionary. Or an address. Just select it: Internet Explorer displays the address in a Web map. Such useful extensions exist for other browsers too, like for Chrome, Safari and Opera. There are not that many add-ons available for those — yet. But: There are some useful ones among them too. It’s worth the effort.


Browser add-ons not compatible with each other

You ask yourself: Why are there different extensions for the different browsers? Sadly, you cannot swap extensions like you want, the add-ons are not compatible. A Firefox extension cannot run in Internet Explorer — and vice-versa. That is something you cannot change.

Simple to install — and as simple to remove

Important: Trying an extension is free — and mostly risk-less. You decide when you want to get rid of an extension. Each browser has an overview displaying all currently loaded add-ons. You can disable them one by one — and remove if you don’t like or need one anymore. It’s just a matter of one mouse click.

Fun and useful add-ons

Just for fun? Sometimes that’s true. There are even small games available for download, for example a 3D car racing for Chrome. With an extension for Firefox, you can watch TV while surfing. But most extensions are just useful. It is worth browsing the extension galleries and just try the one or other add-on.

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