Tag Archives: firefox

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Three Reasons to Go Get Firefox 3.

Firefox 3 is officially out, so go and get it.  Wondering why you should be excited about a new web browser?  Here’s three quick reasons why you should got get Firefox 3 now:

1.  It is much, much faster when it comes to complicated javascript, AJAX, and multiple iframes.  I don’t have any benchmarks on me, but I do some pretty intense stuff with Firefox and the improvement is immediately apparent.  This is very important because even normal web browsing is becoming pretty intensive, from Google Maps to Gmail to normal blogs with 100 widgets plastered on their sidebars.

2.  It’s even easier to manage add-ons and downloads.  The real power of Firefox is the ease of creating and installing extensions, and the interface has been improved making it easier to find new add-ons.  The download manager has been polished as well, which should help end the old “where did that file go” blues.

3.  The smart address bar is very cool.  I almost never have to finish typing urls anymore…  and it gives me immediate feedback on typos as well.  Hopefully this will put a damper on lame business models like typosquatting.

An interesting use of Greasemonkey – Troubleshooting other people’s sites

Detriot-Superior and Center Street Bridge I’ve played around with Firefox’s Greasemonkey add-on here and there but never really delved into it until recently.  I found most of the common uses for it to be either too specific to someone else’s use habits or already covered by other extensions.  For example, there are probably a million ad blocking scripts out there, but I already have Adblock.

I’ve grown to appreciate Greasemonkey a lot more since I learned that you can make AJAX calls in scripts – now we can do some real damage.  But this post is not about that, it’s about a totally different use case that I hadn’t thought of before.

If you’re a web developer with any friends or family you’ve probably heard this one before:

“Something’s wrong with my web site, can you take a look?”

Often, though, you won’t have access to a dev server, database, or even a copy of the server-side code.  All you can see is the HTML and Javascript source and the HTTP transactions going back and forth.

Greasemonkey can’t rewrite PHP code on someone else’s server but it does make it really, really easy for you to alter forms, delete and change cookie values, and patch and debug Javascript on the site you’re looking at, without changing any other variables.

This can be really, really useful in some situations.  So now it’s officially added to my volunteer/web-developer/brother-in-law toolbelt.

Setting up a Firefox extension development environment

Procrastato, a Firefox productivity extension I have a Firefox extension called Procrastato.  It reminds you to get back to work when you’re mindlessly surfing the web.  Procrastato is a very simple add-on but I’ve found that getting started in developing Firefox add-ons isn’t so simple.

Although I’ve just dipped my feet into the world of XUL and Firefox Extension development I thought I would share what I’ve been using to get up and running.

First things first – take a look at the Building an Extension page at Mozilla.org.  Make sure you at least read through that page before getting started.  It can be a little disappointing to see how much you need to have in place in order to do a simple “hello world” test extension, but it’s worth getting an overall picture before jumping in.

Also, before getting to “hello world,” there are a couple of extensions that are useful for developing extensions:

If you’ve used Eclipse for Java or PHP development you’ll probably want to use it for extension development with the XulBooster plugin.  XulBooster is useful for two reasons:

  1. It helps with housekeeping chores like setting up your install.rdf and chrome.manifest and exporting a .xpi package.
  2. It give you some code coloring and syntax highlighting for those .xul files.

Now you should be ready to go.

A couple of notes:XulBooster will automatically include an empty <em:updateURL/> element in your install.rdf.  If you don’t have a secure URL for updates (starting with https://), you might get this warning from addons.mozilla.org when you try to upload your new version:

Add-ons cannot use an external updateURL. Please remove this from install.rdf and try again.

Just open the install.rdf file and deleted that line to solve the problem.