Posted by: lsinrc | May 25, 2009

TIP: Firefox Add-ons for Browsing Flexibility

Choosing a single browser to cover all needs on the Internet is getting harder and harder. Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and other browsers each have their own advantages and unique features. Using multiple browsers is not just a power user game anymore–it is becoming more of a necessity for everyday users, yet it is unwieldy and horribly inefficient to switch browsers midstream while surfing.

If only one could utilize one “home” browser to work from, where you could easily call up a current web page into another browser on the fly. Well, that is possible from Firefox with these add-ons.

IE Tab allows access to Internet Explorer in two ways: opening a tab within Firefox that emulates IE, or opening Internet Explorer application separately with the current web page being browsed.

FF IETab3

As you browse the Internet, often is the case where a particular web site is more suitable to one browser over another. For example, Microsoft Outlook web access is made to work more closely with Internet Explorer. Contrast the two views in plain Firefox vs. an Internet Explorer tab in Firefox:

Plain Firefox

Firefox with IE Tab engaged

FF IETab2 FF IETab1

The plain Firefox version forces  the user through a process to choose each non-standard folder individually for it to be displayed on the left. The Internet Explorer view, on the other hand, automatically displays the folders and options in a manner that emulates Outlook. Accessing Outlook in Firefox is a pain, enough to avoid using Firefox if you access your email on a regular basis. IE Tab makes Outlook (and other Microsoft-oriented websites) a breeze in Firefox. There is even an option to automatically open IE Tab by identifying a specific URL, thereby alleviating the need to switch it on.

Oddly enough, there is a “reverse” Firefox add-on that puts Firefox browsing as a right-click option in Internet Explorer:
FirefoxView :: Firefox Add-ons

It seems counter-intuitive to add an extension to Firefox that changes Internet Explorer, but it works (and is very handy).

There are other add-ons that provide right-click options in Firefox to open Google Chrome and Safari browsers as well:
Chrome View :: Firefox Add-ons
Safari View Win :: Firefox Add-ons (there is a separate one add-on for Macintosh Firefox users)
I find that Google Chrome it typically a fast browser that works particularly well with Google services like Google Docs–a great utility for Firefox to access easily.

FF ChromeSafari

If you don’t like dealing with all these separate add-ons, this extension blends multiple browsers with one installation. I have not used it yet, but it may be worth investigating:
Browser View Plus :: Firefox Add-ons


Are Browser-View Add-ons Worth It?

Browsing the web is becoming more complex, enough so that using a single browser is nearly impossible. As we utilize more and more web 2.0 tools, often one browser works more effectively over another, yet not the same browser for different sites.  Invariably, when someone has trouble with a website, it becomes necessary to utilize a second browser to troubleshoot the problem. Tools like these add-ons used to be the exclusive domain for power users just a couple years ago. Now they make using multiple browsers manageable even for the casual browsers.

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