Pimping Firefox: The Basics (Matt Mullenweg, Garrett Camp, and More)


Don’t pimp real foxes. That’s just mean. (Photo: wildphotons)

38.16% of the people who visit this site are still using Internet Explorer (IE). It’s like buying a hybrid car for the gas mileage and then driving with flat tires and the doors open.

This post will serve two purposes: first, to introduce beginners to features of Firefox (FF) that make it worthwhile; second, to introduce more experienced users to the favorite add-ons of Matt Mullenweg (lead developer of WordPress) and Garrett Camp (co-founder of StumbleUpon). Perhaps you’ll like one or two of mine…

If you aren’t using Firefox, here are a few short reasons to start:

* Built in spell-check
* Lightweight and fast
* Intuitive shortcuts
* Continually being improved
* Better than a college degree (some think)
* Extensions (also called “add-ons” or “plug-ins”)

Extensions lead us to this post. Kid in a candy store time.

After you’ve made the leap and switched to Firefox (download it here), here’s are the extensions you can use to take it to the next level:

Google Toolbar

Installing the Google Toolbar is the key to Firefox efficiency. It is the starting point.

It gives you one-stop access to Google RSS, Google Docs, Google News and Google Blogsearch. Google Docs lets you store and collaborate with word processing without being tied to local Microsoft applications. Google RSS lets you read news without surfing and Google News and Blogsearch are two of the best methods for bloggers to track trends and events. I use Google Highlighter to find terms on pages with tons of text.

The FF search bar in the top-right corner is one of the most helpful features of the browser. Instead of going to Google.com to do your searches, you can search Google and others sites from a drop-down window in the top-right of any window. Just hit Cmd + K to jump to the top-right search box, then Cmd + arrow up or arrow down to choose among searching on Amazon, Creative Commons, eBay, and more. If you get stuck without FF, you can do the same in the Google search field on any browser with “parkour site:youtube.com” to find parkour videos on YouTube, for example.

Alexa Sparky Toolbar

Try and use simple tech tools to separate professionals from amateurs whenever possible.

The Alexa toolbar – a small plug-in – lets you do that in a ruthlessly numerical way. As you surf, it gives you each site’s traffic rank (and historical chart of traffic, like a stock chart), based on several metrics, in the bottom right-hand corner. I often use the web for meme research, media filtering, and competitive analysis instead of web dev, and this tool is my first line of defense.

Some estimate that a million-plus rank is just a few dozen people a day. In the mid-six digits (Ex: 200,000), you’re looking at people with sizeable audiences, and once you crack 100,000, you’ll begin to find professionals, some with readerships larger than most newsstand magazines.

General Rule: Alexa is a valuable first-look tool to keep you from giving too much credence to a professional design, or — alternatively — being scared off by site that doesn’t care much for first impressions.

Alexa is not a complete rank, however, and is flawed in many respects. It’s the first step for me when evaluating media opportunities or baseless traffic claims, but I supplement Alexa with the following analytic tool: SEO for Firefox.

SEO for Firefox

The SEO for Firefox add-on is used for search engine optimization. I don’t use it for tweaking this site. I use it for media and competitive research, as it allows you to see in normal Google results — once turning the add-on “on” — the resulting sites’ pagerank, links on Yahoo!, Alexa traffic rank, Compete traffic rank, Bloglines rank, Technorati rank, and much more. To supplement this, if serious about competitive research, I suggest viewing Quantcast when possible.

Important: turn off this add-on when not in use.

I’ve used clunky dictionary extensions for Firefox before and — in all cases — I’ve found simple to be better. Definr is a company that takes clean interface to a new level – the homepage has four links and one of them is the search button. It caches the most commonly searched words so it doesn’t waste your time.

Using Delicious, every article I’ve ever felt was worth saving is available to me anywhere in the world from any computer. This is something we’ve discussed here before.

Delicious lets you batch your daily read (I tag things with “to_read”) into one single task instead of an unending barrage of distractions or tangents. It also makes it possible to quickly and conveniently track down things resources you’ve used in the past, so you don’t waste time in fruitless searches.

Make sure you install the Classic Delicious extension — it’s cleaner, easier to use, and less prone to feature abuse.

Matt Mullenweg and Garrett Camp’s Favorites

Matt Mullenweg‘s favorites, which he explained on a ferry en route from Santorini to Milos island in Greece, include:

Foxmarks – syncs bookmarks across multiple computers

Google Browser Sync – syncs cookies and passwords (see these newer substitutes)

PWDHash – auto-generated customized passwords for various sites

Firebug – according to Matt, “one of most significant web dev tools of the last 3-4 years.” It’s a “net profiler” that indicates how long each element on a page takes to load.

Google Gears – faster and improved browser performance (local caching, etc.)

Garrett Camp‘s must-haves include:

TabCatalog – shows contents of all of tabs as a thumbnail-style list (using F8 or other hotkey you designate). Great for not having to flip through tabs to see what is open or find what you’re looking for.

Stylish – Customize the look of your browser or mail client. Stylish is to CSS what Greasemonkey is to JavaScript.

StumbleUpon (please slap yourself if you’re surprised) – Learn how to stumble across things you like, kill memes dead, or spread idea viruses. Here’s the description of how it works.

Experiment, extend, and go nuts. Have any of your own favorites to share? Better alternatives to the above? Please share in the comments.

Posted on: July 10, 2008.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

99 comments on “Pimping Firefox: The Basics (Matt Mullenweg, Garrett Camp, and More)

  1. I truly adore the Firefox, but the newest version has some challenging non-visible scrollers which seem to not be as obedient [sometimes they react, sometimes they scroll up when I want to go down, etc.] as the visible ones. makes me want to go back to the old one…am I the only one experiencing this?


  2. Well spoke Tim, Firefox has been my browser of choice for years.

    Now move up to Thunderbird for mail, and then onward and upward to Linux :-)


  3. IE7 imitates but doesn’t do anything better than any other browser and brings nothing new to the table. Best used only when needed.

    Safari windows is fast but they need to let the OS handle the fonts. As it is the fonts are to small and blurred to be usable. It also has security holes that you could drive a bus through.

    Opera, one of the fastest, lightest footprints does just what you need. Get’s the UI right. Sadly, even with 9.5 still no colorawareness feature. I have a wide gamut monitor so Opera gathers dust till they add this feature.

    FF3. FF3 has so many great things going for it but the biggest are the plugins. Its biggest problem, instability and bugs but FF3 is vast improvement over the last couple versions of 2. For me FF3 is my #2 choice to Opera but the one feature that lifts FF3 above everyone else that no one has mentioned yet, it’s coloraware like Safari (Apple version only). Its the only way for anyone running windows to get right colors on the web if you have a wide gamut monitor. Its not turned on by default but like most things FF, a plugin comes to the rescue. DL, enable, your wired. Color Management Plugin


  4. Hey Tim- great post. It was funny to hear Matt’s in Greece I’m reading your post from Mykonos in Greece. Were living the mini retirement lifestyle for the next three weeks and defining alternate activities!


    Oh, jealousy! I can’t wait to get back to the Greek islands. Top 5 places I’ve been for sure. I love friendly people.

    Have fun!



  5. I use firefox as much as possible, and I do love it. However, it is far from lightweight. The current instance I have running has two tabs open and is using over 100mb of system resources.


  6. First to J: Yes, I am having those intermittent scrolling problems too. It’s not just you.

    I am a long time FF fan as well and I love FF3. People are talking about grabbing screen shots. I have a small utility called Fast Stone Capture that you can run in the quick launch bar. It will get page, frame, scrolling window or there are 2 options to draw your own frame if you only want a section of the page. I’ve had it for years and use it all the time. After it grabs what you want you can re-size, print, save, zoom, write a caption and a tons of other things. Better, it’s shareware. http://www.faststone.org/


  7. I’m using Flock, which is better than FF if you user web 2.0 services like facebook, twitter, digg etc. These services are built into Flock – FF addons usually work just fine in Flock.
    Add-ons I like (not mentioned by Tim):
    - twitterbar: great for sharing links fast
    - Session Manager (mainly for link recovery after crash)
    - PicLens (fast image search)
    - FireFtp (great for FTP)


  8. The thing is– correct me if I’m wrong– Firefox 3.0 is not compatible with the Del.ici.ous toolbar! I can’t quick-click sites into my delicious file??? This is a war crime!


  9. Hello Tim,

    I am fairly new to the blogging community, and was introduced to your site and your book just yesterday. Your solutions for lifestyle design in the the 4-Hour Workweek, are a true inspiration for any like minded entrepreneur. I know this comment is irrelevant to the post but I was hoping you would give me some advice regarding dodging bullets. My most recent post is the bullet dodging experience I had today.


  10. Tim,

    Great stuff and I’m going to have to check out a few of those, however there is one I have to disagree on. Del.icio.us used to be my defacto form of saving things for future reference. However, I found that with their late-to-the-game strategy of implementing Web2.0 tech, I had to look elsewhere.

    Evernote has become invaluable to me for all the same reasons as Del.icio.us used to be… However, no more dead links and many more options for search and recovery. Enjoy!!


  11. I already use google toolbar with ff2 and many other plugins, but i think i need to use Alexa Sparky Toolbar. anyways… there are many important plugins that i use, and that do not support ff3, so its good idea for me to wait few months more before migration..


  12. Hello Timothy,

    I emailed your tech people, who redirected me to you. FYI, I have been trying to get the sample 6 month dreamline and blank dreamline off of the website, but keep getting an error message that says “file is damaged and cannot be repaired”

    Is there any other way to get this worksheet?



    Hi Frances,

    I can’t duplicate the problem from this page: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/lifestyle-costing/

    I’ve asked Jared, who created one of the forms, to check it out as well.




  13. firefox 3.0 is the shiznit. you might also wanna try seoquake instead of the seo toolbar. theres a feature that lets you sort google search results based on pr.


  14. Firefox rocks. Been using it regularly now since version 3.0 and I find its a really improved product and runs very well without a hitch. I am primarily an Opera fan, but Firefox 3.0 is really good and impressive especially in terms of performance. I am impressed to say the least.


  15. Hello! Excellent topic. And in the spirit of time-saving, I recommend:

    1-Click Weather
    Can run in your status bar with current and forecasted weather. Quickest way to figure out what you’re gonna wear tomorrow.

    Do a lot of research online? Clipmarks is the fastest and most convenient way to “highlight” the web and save your highlights in one, access-from-anywhere repository.

    I believe someone mentioned this already, but really it deserves being mentioned again. This is the fastest way to pick up a hex color. Which makes it great not only for designers, but also for developers.

    Cooliris Previews
    I use this addon not so much for its main previewing-a-link feature (which is also a time-saver), but so far it is the fastest way to forward a web page to someone (right-click on the page, choose Cooliris – Send link, enter an email address, and off it goes – though I would like to email the creator to suggest the email address field remember and pre-populate the addresses you’ve entered before).

    Dictionary Tooltip
    Someone already mentioned this one as well, but thought I should add that you can also very easily and very quickly look up alternate definitions in other dictionaries listed in the tool. Awesome if you’re writing an essay or term paper.

    Also mentioned already, but thought I should add not only can you quickly make a screengrab of a web page, you can also edit and crop the image in seconds!

    Control iTunes from your browser’s status bar! Saves me tons of time when I’m developing and simultaneously boppin’ to my favorite beats.

    Web Developer
    Also already mentioned, but thought I should add that the combination of this addon and Firebug has significantly reduced the amount of time I spend testing and re-testing different coding solutions, especially when you’re working with controlled development environments where you’re not allowed to play around with alternative solutions. These two together turn your browser into your very own development sandbox!

    Those are my favs. Hope other people can use them to save time.

    And thanks so much, Tim, for your life design guidance. My latest application of one of your suggestions is no more multi-tasking at work. Benefits so far: the quality of my work is up; it forces me to save time in more effective ways so as to keep up with quantity; and the pain in my shoulders from stress has actually decreased.

    This Argentine-American thanks you! If you’re ever in Los Angeles and want to try the best empanadas and flan in your life, drop me an email! My mother’s empanadas and flan are famous within the San Gabriel Valley Argentine community. ;o)


  16. Where are you reading about “Thinking Systems” and “Charlie Munger”? Where are you moving to? It sounds like you like the SF area so I bet not too far from there.


  17. @Sean,

    I’ll be talking more about thinking systems soon. Much to discuss. Where am I moving to? Where the wind takes me, of course :) Tomorrow, off to FL, then NY.

    Pura vida,



  18. I use IE6 because that what they make us use here at Bank of America. I wish they would understand firefox. Thats Legacy stuff for you right.


  19. Firefox is a laggard. Seriously, take a look at IE beta 8, it rocks and you can do stuff on the web you didn’t even think was possible.


  20. I use FoxyProxy with ssh tunnels to browse inside clients’ networks; it’s a huge timesaver. Also TwitterFox – I don’t need all of those tweets on my phone, so I read most using TwitterFox.


  21. Hey Tim! Hope u’re well. Just catching up on your blog. Great post on my favorite web browser. Some great plugins listed in your post and comments.

    One that no one has mentioned yet – QuickNote. Sidebar or Tab with up to 4 note pages. V. useful for jotting stuff down if needing. :)


    With the new firefox3, lots of old plugins were rendered useless, but just over the last couple of days for example ImageShack has come out with the new plugins. Great for image uploads. Will write up more on this and a few other great plugins worth mentioning on my new personal blog and will link it over to yours too.

    Take care


  22. I am one of those 36% of non-FF users. The thing is I have only one computer, my work laptop, on which i cannot install anything! Thought of getting another laptop for home, but that sounds wasteful and honestly I don’t need another computer. Is my logic wrong on this one?


  23. To those who are saying they use a work computer, you can pick up portable versions of Firefox and other apps at portableapps.com. Just install them on a usb stick and you can run your browser through there, meaning you can get all the add-ons you like and also, since your cache is on the usb stick, don’t have to worry about your work finding any of those “private” sites you visit ;)


  24. In the process of catching up with my blog reading I had to add to the flood of responses to this post. I love Firefox not because it’s faster than IE (it’s not), but because of the add-ons – and they work! Three of my favorite add-ons that are not mentioned in your posts or subsequent comments are Session Manager, Morning Coffee, and ScribeFire. I listed others in a post on my blog; http://paretopluspeter.blogspot.com/


  25. Very helpful post. Thanks for the tips! From one Firefox user to another…

    One of my guy friends just heard you speak in at the NSA conference last week, and he told me that I had to subscribe to you. Right on. I am looking for that blog entry about outsourcing dating. Is there one? I need to do that.

    What are your thoughts on Google Analytics? Do you use it?… I find it more accurate than Alexa.


  26. I was one of the non firefox people until my computer was so slow I was encouraged for the millionth time to start using firefox. Can’t believe it took me so long. Hopefully I’ll move faster on putting on the extensions.


  27. Tim,

    I recently read your book and when looking for my muse I realized what I’m an expert in… Property Taxes!! lol. I’ve been working for the LA County Assessor’s Office for five years and know them like the back of my hand. I know things that most who work in my office don’t know. I have the knowledge to help hundreds of thousands in California save thousands of dollars. I understand how the law works and how it can help people when applied creatively. I want your input on this since I do work for a gov’t organization and it is very taboo to share ‘secrets.’ Also, there may be some liability. However, this informational/audio CD that I am in the process of creating could be HUGE!! And help so many! I’m freaked out though. Please help!



  28. This is my contribute to Zotero.
    It does not replace an application that I know, so I will not compare it to any.
    It’s a research tool that lets you download pages, highlight content, make notes on them and even write up mini-reports. Many information sites support Zotero and are able to give Zotero all the bibliography information needed. Zotero, with one click, can export bibliography info in many different forms (even print them directly). Because Zotero saves webpages, you can work offline. It’s a must for any high school or college student. Also, don’t worry about crashes. Every letter you type is saved when you type it with no noticeable lag time.


  29. I too have loved firefox, but found stome instability when visiting facebook. Not real sure why. Someone above mentioned Flock, which was also interesting and seems to work pretty well.


  30. Personally I use both Chrome and Firefox. Chrome is definitely faster but firefox is what I’ve been using for years now so making the switch wouldn’t be easy with firefox having all that fancy addons. I know I won’t be dropping firefox anytime soon.