03 August 2008

My browser set-up

Craig McGinty and I have been discussing our browser set-ups and challenged each other to blog about it. So here's how I operate.*

I spend a lot of time on the internet every day. If I'm wearing my journalism hat, I'll be researching, fact-checking, hunting for quotable experts or bouncing off other hacks. When I'm editing, the huge array of online dictionaries come into their own. When I'm copywriting, I can check out the websites of my clients' rivals. I need a browser that can let me do all these and much more, with ease.

I switched over to Firefox a couple of years ago, when the applause became too loud to ignore and reviews persuaded me that it was more secure than IE (it is). I was hooked immediately, loving the tabs (now copied in IE7) that allow me to have multiple windows open at once without clogging up my system tray.

What I love most about Firefox, though, is that it is totally customisable. No two Firefox users will have an identical set-up. I'm not too fussed about skins - all I require is that the icon buttons are a sensible size (neither too big nor too small) and it looks "clean". I'm currently using the Classic Compact skin for Firefox as I like the button size, which is a slightly smaller version than the default skin.

Bookmarks - I like to have these open in the left sidebar because I find that handier than pulling down the menu option in the navigation bar. If I need to, I can toggle in History or a few other options such as the calculator add-on. I used to have the old Delicious add-on prior to Firefox 3.0, which came with a couple of handy toolbar icons for adding links or viewing your account. I don't like the new Delicious add-on at all, chiefly because it merges your Delicious selections with your bookmarks - in fact, installing Delicious Bookmarks turns the bookmarks menu into a Delicious menu. I have good reasons for wanting to keep the two separate, as I use Delicious as a dumping ground for URLs I want to save for future use but know I won't use enough to justify keeping them bookmarked in my browser. Delicious is very handy for stashing web pages that I might use as background research and the tagging makes it easy to find them. I disabled the new add-on and a trip to Delicious's home page provided me with a couple of additional buttons to post to and access my pages without surrendering my bookmarks menu. The bookmarks toolbar is also indispensable. You can just drag and drop your most frequently used bookmarks onto the bar instead of having them in the sidebar. I keep here the 20 sites I visit the most frequently.

Navigation bar: here I have some essential add-ons - Stumble Upon, Undo Closed Tab, Me.dium, Fireshot, Clipmarks and ReminderFox.

My other add-ons include: Adblock Plus and the accompanying Filterset.G, for blocking ads; the British English dictionary; Customise Google; FireFTP; NoScript, which allows you to decide whether to allow a page in full; TinyUrl Creator; and WikiLook, which has to be the handiest ever dictionary look-up tool.

Over in my search engine bar, I have installed, among others, Wikipedia, Creative Commons, a couple of dictionaries, CrossEngine (which cross-searches multiple search engines) and Rollyo - this last allows you to create your own search options within fixed parameters. I have several set searches on here, chiefly for cross-searching multiple dictionaries, but you can instruct Rollyo to search almost anything.

What else? Let's see... ah, yes, Twitterfox, which I prefer to TwitBin. SEO for Firefox is handy for looking up my search engine rankings on my blogs and website (sorry, can't find the link). I have the plug-in calculator but rarely use it, as it's quicker to access one from my keyboard. Menu Editor and Favicon Picker are great for further customising the look of your set-up. What I really miss at the moment is FEBE, which has not been updated yet for FF3, but performs backups of bookmarks, extensions, preferences, passwords and more. There is a beta for FF3 but I'm waiting until the bugs have been ironed out.

I have a few other things installed, too, but they are things I use rarely so I'll leave them out for now. And that's about it. I'll be very interested to see how Craig's set up Firefox on his computer and also to hear from anyone else about handy extensions or useful tips.

* All my set-up is based on a PC using Windows XP Pro.


Anonymous said...

You should try Flock!!!
I was a Firefox addict myself till I tried it when My Firefox died on me and refused to be resurrected!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for talking about us in your blog! I am part of the community team at Me.dium and if you have any further comments, critiques, or questions please send me an email at gfigg@me.dium.com Thanks again for the great post.