Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Firefox Extensions: An Embarrassment of Riches

One of the great things about the Firefox web browser is the rich mosaic of extensions which are available for it. I recently excitedly installed an extension called Hyperwords which promises to pop up a wealth of references from any word which you highlight. It looked awesome but once I restarted Firefox and had a chance to play with it, I realized that I already have several extensions which already do much the same thing. CoolPreviews does the same thing on a smaller scale—it only pops up results from Google, Google Images, The Free Dictionary, and Wikipedia while the list of references is Hyperwords pops up is too long for me to list. But CoolPreviews also pops up a minimalist window on top of my current one with a preview of any url without opening seperate page. This is a huge time saver for me which allows me to go through web pages more quickly but it's still a duplication of functionality.

And it's not the only one. Ubiquity is also an extension which I installed enthusiastically and it too replicates a lot of the functionality of Hyperwords. But it is also one of the most ambitious extensions ever created for Firefox. Essentially a command line for the web, Ubiquity can bring up everything from maps to the weather and email, twitter, slice, and dice them in many different ways. It's tremendously fun to play with and useful and it promises to grow more sophisticated as it continues to develop.

But in the meantime, I have a growing list of extensions (twenty four in all) and Firefox no longer loads instantaneously as it did when I first installed it. In fact, it actually takes about thirty seconds to start which doesn't seem like a lot but it means that Chrome, which is Google's web browser, loads instantaneously but it lacks the powerful extensions to which I've become accustomed to on Firefox. It's an interesting conumdrum, speed versus power. It's compelling enough that I often run Firefox and Chrome side by side. But that's life on the modern Internet I guess, tons and tons of information and tons and tons of ways to use it and manipulate.

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