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  • Browser Add-ons
    by Dinos Lambropoulos
    It wasn't long ago that Web browsers were designed using a one-size-fits-all approach. If a browser lacked a certain feature that would make your life easier, there wasn't much you could do about it.

    Today, the major Web browsers give you the power to decide what extra features you want. They do this through browser add-ons—useful tools that help you boost your productivity, give you fast access to information, enhance your security, and more.

    The EarthLink Toolbar for Windows is one example of an add-on; it adds anti-phishing protection, spyware scanning, pop-up blocking, privacy tools, and other features to Internet Explorer and Firefox. We encourage you to give it a try—it's free!

    There are a lot of other add-ons out there. We'll look at some of the most useful ones and discuss how to install, uninstall, and manage them.
    Tips for Using Add-ons

    Before we dive in, there are some things to keep in mind about using browser add-ons:
    • Check supported browser version: Add-ons typically work for certain versions of a Web browser. Installing an add-on for an unsupported browser can cause you lots of headaches. Check the add-on's description for compatibility before downloading it. If you really want to use that add-on, consider upgrading your browser.
    • Test the waters: Install add-ons one at a time, and use an add-on for a few days before you install another one. Why? Some add-ons can cause conflicts that may cause your browser to become slow or unstable. If you install a lot of add-ons at once, it'll be tough to pinpoint the one that's causing your browser to misbehave.


    Add-ons for Internet Explorer

    Microsoft's Add-Ons for Internet Explorer site is a good place to go when you're looking for ways to enhance IE 6 or 7. You'll find both free and commercial add-ons here. Here are a few free add-ons that we've found useful:
    • Accuweather.com Toolbar: This add-on is a weather toolbar that provides up-to-the-minute forecasts, weather alerts, satellite maps, and more.
    • IE7Pro: IE7Pro lets you customize the behavior of IE 7 tabs, use mouse gestures to complete tasks, auto-scroll Web pages, and more.
    • 1-Click Answers: While reading a Web page, alt-click any word you want to learn more about. A box displaying information from Answers.com appears. A bonus: This tool works in all your programs—not just in IE.
    • ieSpell: Do you type a lot of text in Web page forms? Use this add-on to run a spell check on what you've typed.
    • Inline Search for Internet Explorer: Add a search-as-you-type feature to IE. Hit ctrl-f to open a search box at the bottom of your IE window, then start typing inside the box. The add-on highlights the first matching word on the page dynamically.
    To install IE add-ons: IE add-ons are typically installed like regular programs; that is, you download an installer program, double-click it, and follow the instructions on your screen. You'll typically need to restart IE after the installation process for the add-on to work.

    To uninstall IE add-ons: Remove IE add-ons just like any other program, by running Add or Remove Programs in your Windows Control Panel (for you Windows Vista users, select Programs in the Control Panel).

    To enable/disable IE add-ons: You can turn add-ons on and off by using IE's Manage Add-ons screen (click the Tools menu and choose Manage Add-ons). You may need to close and restart IE for the change to take effect.

    Add-ons for Firefox

    The official Firefox Add-ons site features free add-ons for both the Windows and Mac versions of Firefox. Here are a few handy Firefox add-ons to start you off:

    • Tab Mix Plus: This add-on gives you ultimate control of how tabs behave. If you find Firefox's use of tabs lacking in any way, this add-on can probably fix it.
    • Map+: Highlight and right-click a postal address on any Web page, and this add-on will give you the option to quickly display a map of that location.
    • FoxyTunes: This add-on places a compact bar on the bottom of your Firefox window with buttons that let you control your favorite audio player, such as iTunes or Windows Media Player.
    • Forecastfox: Display weather forecasts for the location of your choice along the bottom of your browser window.
    • Answers: Highlight any word or phrase on a Web page, then right-click. You'll see an option to look up your selection on Answers.com.


    To install Firefox add-ons: Simply click the install link or button on the add-on description page. When the Software Installation window opens, wait a few seconds for the grayed-out Install button to change to Install Now. Then click the button. Close and restart Firefox for the change to take effect.

    To uninstall Firefox add-ons: Click Firefox's Tools menu and choose Add-ons (or Extensions in older browser versions). Click the add-on you want to remove and click the Uninstall button. Close and restart Firefox for the change to take effect.

    To enable/disable Firefox add-ons: Click Firefox's Tools menu and choose Add-ons (or Extensions in older Firefox versions). Then right-click an extension and select either Enable or Disable. Close and restart Firefox for the change to take effect.

    Add-ons for Safari

    Safari users have a good assortment of free and commercial add-ons to choose from. One site that collects and presents them well is the colorfully named PimpMySafari.com. Here's a list of add-ons available there that are worth trying:

    • Saft: This add-on is packed with enhancements for Safari, including the ability to save browser windows upon quitting (and restore them the next time you launch Safari), search bookmarks and history, keyboard shortcuts for opening specific bookmarks, full-screen mode, drag-and-drop tab rearrangement, PDF export, and much more. ($12 shareware)
    • PithHelmet: This add-on lets you block unwanted content on Web pages, like ads, animations, and sounds. ($10 shareware)
    • SafariStand: Use this add-on to search your bookmarks and history, add new items to your context menu, control the appearance and behavior of Web pages on a site-by-site basis, and more. (Free)
    • Safari Enhancer: With this add-on, you can tell Safari to download rather than display all PDF files, change Safari's brushed-metal appearance, import bookmarks from other Web browsers, change the search engine in Safari's toolbar, and more. (Free)
    • SafariSpeed: SafariSpeed speeds up page display by changing a few internal Safari settings (it also lets you restore any settings you change). ($8 shareware)


    To install Safari add-ons: Follow the instructions provided by the add-on maker carefully; they vary from one add-on to another. Generally speaking, as with most programs available for Mac OS X, you'll download a disk image (.dmg) file, which you double-click to open (unless it opens automatically). The disk image may contain a document describing how to install the add-on. If it doesn't, visit the add-on's Web site for instructions.

    To uninstall Safari add-ons: Again, follow the add-on maker's instructions carefully. If you run into problems or can't find instructions for uninstalling an add-on, Apple's support page about Safari add-ons might help.

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