Somebody schooled in zen philosophy once said that there are as many Firefox extensions as there are grains of sand on the beach. Well, we're going to focus on those grains of sand and pick out the 10 best grains, I mean extensions, of the year.
Some here at the Firefox Extensions and Grains of Sand Counting Division of CNET Download.com think that Tab Mix Plus is the best Firefox extension ever, and that's hard to argue with. Tabs Mix Plus can change nearly every behavior and action performed by tabs. With it, you can browse tabs with your scroll wheel or mouse gestures, specify where pages will open, duplicate a tab, prevent it from closing, merge tabs, and more. 2007 saw some bug-fixes and mid-level feature tweaks, and we're hoping that the publisher continues to improve this must-have extension.
MR Local Tech Install is designed for those who want more control over their plug-ins. The best tool this application gives the user is a Restart button that reboots Firefox quickly and re-opens all the tabs that were closed. Users are given control of nearly everything concerning plug-ins, from the folder the plug-ins are saved in, to context-menu choices, to more complex hacks. The interface is basic and a bit overwhelming given all the choices it offers, but if you download only one extension, make it this one so that all the others you get will be far easier to handle.
Firefox has always been lacking in one area: sidebars. Inspired by the Opera browser's sidebar management, All-in-One Sidebar not only gives you a sidebar, it gives you plenty of things to do with it. You can set it to live on either side of the browser, use hot key controls, and even command other Firefox pop-ups, like the download manager, to open in the sidebar itself. Up until a few weeks ago, it might not have made this list for a lack of upgrades, but now All in One Sidebar is compatible with Flock and Firefox 3 beta, and comes with even more options.
CustomizeGoogle lets you tweak your Google services in a myriad ways, such as removing ads and sponsored links, adding position rankings and links to other search engines, and forcing secure loading (https) for Gmail and Google Calendar. The coolest new feature of CustomizeGoogle is the ability to stream Web search results. That's right--you can kick that Next button to the curb. Simply scroll to the bottom of a search-results page, and more results will appear automatically. You can also use Firefox's Find function to search the entire results content.
There are two other top-notch Google-based extensions in this year's top 10. One is Gmail Space which turns that fast-approaching 6 gigabytes of free online space for e-mail into free online space for whatever you like. Accessible via a toolbar button or from the menu bar, the extension opens a new tab with an FTP-style interface. You can transfer files by highlighting them and hitting the directional arrow. When you finish uploading, it sends an e-mail with the file as an attachment to your Gmail account. By creating an appropriate filter and folder, it can be quite easy to keep track of the files you've uploaded. Drag and drop is not available, but there's a music player mode and a buggy slide show mode for photos.
The other is the excellent Better Gmail, which compiles multiple Greasemonkey user scripts into one location and comes in two flavors--the original, designed for the old Gmail interface and loaded with goodies, and the newer version, designed for the new Gmail interface and off to a good start. Make no mistake though, Better Gmail 1 so far has all the cool toys, including Google Reader integration, icons for attachments, a search-by-date option, a search string saver, and some skins. Some of the features, like label colors, have proven so popular that Google adopted them. Better Gmail 2 does have some neat features, like forcing a secure connection, Thunderbird-style folders, and expanded keyboard macros.
FireFTP turns Firefox into a full-fledged FTP client. It has all the major tools that you would expect a stand-alone FTP client to provide. It can handle multiple accounts and remember different logins, passwords, and connection settings for each. It supports authenticated TSL, authenticated SSL, and implicit SSL for secure transfers, drag-and-drop, and CHMOD changes. It can't transfer files larger than 4 GB, and it's buggy on Windows Vista, but it's surprisingly stable and not a resource pig.
Perfect for image hunters, DownThemAll is a download manager that finds everything downloadable on a page and lets you designate which files you'd like to download. You can not only pause and resume downloads, but set download folders with one click, set filters to avoid file types you don't want, like software, and more. It also features a download accelerator for speedier transfers and lets you set a maximum number of transfers, so your broadband doesn't get clogged pulling in YouTube videos.
AdBlock Plus effectively blocks ads and banners from a predefined list of ad providers, and you can expand the list by right-clicking on an advertisement. Adblock Plus runs unobtrusively in the background. Clicking on an ad brings up a bland, text-based message box, through which you can easily add to the list of blocked ads. Removing an ad from the blocked list also is as simple as clicking and choosing the appropriate option.
Auto Copy adds Linuxesque functionality to your clipboard as long as you're working within Firefox, so that simply highlighting a chunk of text will copy it. More than an auto-copier, it offers up an extensive options menu to determine how and where the clip you've just copied gets deposited. One option opens up a context menu just after you finish highlighting, giving you instant post-copy choices. You can also configure a keyboard shortcut.