Better Gmail 2 Add-On for Firefox

I never really used Gmail until earlier this summer when I got an Android phone which is heavily integrated with Google’s various offerings. So I went from a complete Gmail newbie to essentially dumping most of my life into it — for me Gmail acts as my own private knowledge base searchable from anywhere I can get a signal with my phone.

Gina Trapani’s Better Gmail 2 add-on for Firefox is indispensable in using Gmail. It bundles together some of the best Greasemonkey scripts for Gmail. Personally, I couldn’t live without the Folders4Gmail script that lets users build hierarchical label structures in Gmail.

Yes, you could go out and download all of these scripts and install them, but it is very nice that Trapani has rolled them all together in one easily updated add-on.

Long Term Browser Usage Trends

Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler made some waves when he posted this graph based on data from Net Applications Browser Market Share report.

Long Term Browser Trends

The most obvious feature is the steady decline of Internet Explorer’s market share from 90 percent in 2004, to just around 66 percent today. Firefox and Safari are the two browsers that have gained most from Microsoft’s losses.

One way to look at this is the glass is 2/3rds empty — the vast majority of Internet users still use crappy Internet Explorer despite all of its problems, security issues, etc. On the other hand, the 1/3 glass full view is that this is a phenomenal achievement. As one of the commenters to Dotzler’s post notes,

It is [a bit depressing that IE’ share is still so high], but then you have to remember these are percentages of the whole web-using population. A few percent a year equates to millions of users switched. When you consider that it has happened without OS-bundling, without huge paid marketing campaigns, and without major web sites mandating particular browsers, then it’s actually an incredibly impressive rate of adoption. Even as it stands, the market share of non-IE browsers is enough to keep Microsoft honest, and force them into a more proactive and standards-friendly approach. IE8 may still be way behind the competition in many areas, but at least it pays far more attention to web standards than any previous IE release, and we have Firefox and Safari to thank for that.


FoxyProxy is a Firefox add-on that helps automate management of proxies, including based on URL patterns. So, you can tell FoxyProxy to only use a proxy when visiting certain URLs, or use one proxy for certain URLs and a different proxy for other URLs. I primarily use it to post on a certain popular website that insists on IP banning me from doing so.

FoxyProxy’s features include,

  • Animated statusbar/toolbar icons show you when a proxy is in use
  • Define multiple proxies
  • Define which proxy to use (or none!) for arbitrary URLs using wildcards, regular expressions, whitelists, blacklists, and other conveniences
  • No more wondering whether a URL loaded through a proxy or not: FoxyProxy optionally logs all URLs, including which proxy was used (if any), which pattern was matched, timestamps, etc.
  • Out-of-the-box support for Tor with the unique Tor Wizard – zero configuration!
  • Temporarily or permanently dedicate all URLs to go through a particular proxy
  • Temporarily or permanently disable use of a proxy
  • Automatically add blocked sites to a proxy and have them reload through the proxy
  • Optional status bar information about which proxy is currently in use
  • Complete Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) support
  • Download a link using one of your defined proxies with a simple right-click (coming soon)
  • Unobtrusive presence, stable execution, premier support
  • Optionally force Firefox to perform DNS lookups through a SOCKS4a/5 server. Note that Firefox without FoxyProxy always performs DNS lookups through a SOCKS5 server if you’ve defined one. Only with FoxyProxy can you instruct Firefox to not use defined SOCKS5 servers for DNS lookups.

Are Open Source Browsers Leaving Proprietary Ones in the Dust?

Nice roundup here and here on browser benchmarks suggesting that Firefox and Chrome are 3-4 times faster than the recently released Internet Explorer 8 RC 1. Opera fares better against Firefox/Chrome, but is still signficantly slower.

Yeah, that open source model will never work.

Of course, I doubt speed is the primary reason most of us use Firefox. I do have one suggestion, however, that might at least get me to use Internet Explorer more than once a month — either bring MSN Search into the 21st century or switch the default to Google.

Every so often I leave Internet Explorer open in my second monitor and before I realize I’m doing it, I pop in a search term and hit submit. I swear to god I think Alta Vista gave better results back in 1998 than MSN does today. The gap between what Google gives me vs. what MSN Search gives is like the difference between Pong and Far Cry.

Not to mention MSN Search’s design aesthetic seems to have been lifted from spam sites.

Everything about the IE user experience is just awful from beginning to end above and beyond any speed issue.

Fireshot FTW

I’ve had the Fireshot screenshot extension installed in Firefox for a long time now, but I mostly used it just to take the occasional shot of some web page or another in my browser and never really investigated its feature set. Holy cow.

Like a lot of screenshot utilities these days, Fireshot will take a screenshot of a webpage, including the portions not visible on the screen. Nothing real special there.

What kicks it up a notch is that Fireshot can take a full screen shot of every open tab! Hell yeah. Yes, I have a series of 27 or so pages I want to take a screen shot of every day. So, open a new Firefox browser, open all those pages, bookmark them as a group, then its just a matter of opening that bookmark and telling Fireshot to please take screenshots of all of them. Gone in 60 seconds.