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A Shower Of Thoughts

Firefox Add-Ons that should be built into the browser already!

Published on . Updated on .

One of the many great things about The Web and web browsers is the inherent ability of users to extend the browser's abilities and functionalities via extensions/add-ons, which ultimately improve our experience and agency on the web and empower us as its users.

Popular browser extensions can often end up becoming native browser features; e.g, Firebug, one of the most important and influential Add-ons in Firefox for web development, has been integrated into Firefox natively (in its Developer Tools).

Through the Test Pilot program, Mozilla created a bunch of Add-ons with the aim of eventually taking the learnings and best results and build them into a better Firefox. Even though Test Pilot is now over, it gave us some truly fantastic functionality in Firefox via these Add-ons.

I really like some of those Add-ons, so I wanted to talk about them because I believe you would find them useful as well.

The thuth is the majority of regular users will not dive deep enough into the browser's capabilities in order to take advantage of Add-ons in general. That's why I think these following Add-ons should be baked into Firefox by default already, so everyone can easily start using them from the get go.

While we wait for that, they are available to us right now, of course. So take a look and improve your browsing:

Containers #

I see Containers as sort of an evolution of "Private / Incognito" mode. When you open a Private/Incognito tab, whatever you do in there stays isolated from your normal browsing, and when you close the Private tab, any storage set by any site you visited gets deleted.

Containers work similarly- any Container tab's activity stays isolated from your normal browsing or from any other Container profiles. But unlike Private tabs, Container tabs don't delete the sites data when you close them. This is a good thing, because it allows you to easily maintain different online profiles in the same browser.

Read more about Containers here.

Some of the things I like using Containers for is:

  1. A "Work" container, so opening on a Work tab will open my work email, while opening on a normal tab opens my personal email. Any other service I use for work, I open it in the Work container.
  2. A "Shopping" container, where you exclusively browser web shops such as Amazon, keeping your shopping behaviour separate from the rest of your regular browsing.
  3. Having a specific "Facebook" container, where any visits to will automatically open a Facebook container tab, so Facebook cannot keep track of your browsing behaviour elsewhere.

Containers represent a concrete example of Mozilla's focus and effort of protecting users' privacy online; they should be baked into Firefox already!

Snooze Tabs #

I like to treat tabs as a sort of "to do" item; read this, watch that, listen to this, try that. And once I'm done with that "task", I can just close the tab.
So naturally, I've never liked having endless amounts of tabs opened while I work, as it feels overwhelming and distracting- "so many things to do!".

This is why Snooze Tabs is such a brilliant utility.

Just hit the Snooze button in the topbar, and choose a time and date. The current tab will then inmediately close, only to be automatically re-opened at the specified date and time.

It's a super quick way to easily manage your browsing activity, and one of the most valuable tools for my productivity.

Side View #

Whenever I'm developing a web page, it's natural that I'd have to test it on narrow(er) viewports, for mobile and tablet scenarios (I even built a super simple utility for quickly doing so). Side View provides a convenient way to do that, while also potentially enhancing your browsing experience and productivity outside of development.

This super neat add-on adds a button on the location bar and top bar, and a context menu option that will open the current tab within the browser's sidebar. It also requests the site with a "mobile-like" User Agent string, which combined with the sidebar's generally narrow width, results in (most) websites rendering in their mobile version.

Navigation to the same domain stays within Side View, and anything else opens in the current normal tab. This enables enhanced browsing possibilities, such as:

Unfortunately, it doesn't play well with Containers; even if a page in on a Container, once it's sent to Side View it will not longer be "contained"- it will just be on the regular/default browser context.

Overall it provides a neat way to browse and use the web, and it's definitely a great tool for testing responsive-designed websites.

Update 11-02-2021: updated link to one of the apps as previous one was broken.

More about: development browsers