Manage Firefox add-ons in centralized manner - Tutorial


Updated: October 28, 2008

Firefox 3 has been out some time and I just realized I have not reviewed it all. Well, it's about time. Today, I'm going to talk about Firefox add-ons. Veteran Firefox users need no introduction, but hold your horses! Firefox 3 brings in a new, refreshing centralized way of managing the add-ons, without bothering with manual visiting different websites and downloading themes and extensions. This may be something you did not know - or just plain missed, being used to Firefox the way it was up until version 3.

Firefox is quite likely the most versatile browsers out there. Apart from great robustness, a simple yet practical design, stability, and security, Firefox also offers additional functionality that can not be easily found in other browsers. This added functionality is provided by - aptly named - add-ons.

Introduction

Also known as extensions, the Firefox add-ons allow Firefox users to extend the basic functions of their browser significantly. The add-ons may be used for innocent things, like weather forecast and online bookmarks, more serious matters, like per-site control of scripts, plugins and cookies, or even "hardcore" tricks and hacks, which can help the users make their browser work with the latest nightly alpha builds of other add-ons.

Then, there are extensions that can significantly enhance the visual experience of the Web, archiving and catalog add-ons that will help users handle large repositories of links and files, and even mouse gestures for the lazy.

There are hundreds of add-ons available for Firefox. Most of the add-ons officially supported by Mozilla can be found in a single online repository (Firefox Add-ons). Less known, less popular or less stable add-ons can be found at their developers' sites. But there's no reason to go any site. Firefox extensions (but also other types of add-ons) can be installed from within the browser itself. To manage add-ons, go to Tools > Add-ons.

Get add-ons

This will bring up the Add-on management utility, which allows you to list and review the installed Extensions, Themes, Languages, Plugins (like Flash, media codecs), and install new ones.

This is done by clicking on the Get Add-ons button.

Firefox add-ons - get add-ons

By default, you will get a list of Mozilla-recommended add-ons, some of which you may or may desire. In our case, we would like to install the Sage RSS feel extension, which will allows us to subscribe to and read RSS feeds from within the browser.

Firefox add-ons sage

You will get a brief review of the extension, as well as its popularity rating, marked by 1 to 5 stars. While this does not promise anything, it is not a bad indication of what to expect. To install, click on Add to Firefox.

You will have to confirm the installation.

Firefox add-ons safe confirm

After the extension installs, you will have to restart Firefox.

Firefox add-ons sage install complete

Once Firefox restarts, the Add-ons management windows will pop up again, informing you of the install. This is particularly useful when you have multiple extensions installed and during periodic upgrades.

Firefox add-ons sage restarted

Now it's time to see our new extension in action.

Firefox add-ons sage running

Conclusion

Managing the installation of Firefox add-ons in the latest browser version is extremely simple and comfortable. You can fully enhance the experience of your browsing without bothering about visiting 10 different websites, each offering its unique content. While developers' sites often provide additional information about their extensions, most people can use the built-in function without any loss of usability.

Furthermore, this also helps increase the security. By using the browser's functionality, clueless users are less likely to be fooled by social engineering tricks into visiting bogus sites and downloading potentially broken or malicious extensions.

The centralized approach is a great idea unto already an great browser.

Enjoy!

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