Jan 13, 2011

Make your browser more intelligent

I have my face stuck in a web browser all day...every day, so it is important that I have a good collection of tools and resources available to me with a minimum of work.

Enter browser extensions! These are little tools that you add to your browser's program to give you more functionality or personality...well...not you, but your web browser! I use Firefox for my primary browser and I think it is by far the best browser around for someone like me that visits a ton of sites, and does a lot of production with Web 2.0. I use extensions to bookmark and manage important web sites, to extract video from websites (so I can show them without needing Internet access) and for other needs or wants.

Here is a small collection of browser extensions I use to make my life easier...and more fun!

1. Delicious Bookmarks

 If you bookmark websites to your Delicious account often, which I do, this tool is really a must! I can simply click on the "Tag" button when I want to save a site to Delicious. I add my tags, and click save. If I want to visit my bookmarks, I click on the checker board button. I don't use this...but if you want to see your Delicious bookmarks permanently, you can click on the sidebar button and it will extend your window and add a little sidebar window of all your Delicious sites.

2. Easy YouTube Video Downloader 
You won't see this as a button in your web browser, but after you install it and then visit YouTube...you will have a new button called "Download As..." under any video you watch...and you can choose from a variety of file types to convert the video into.

3. SimplyBox
If you teach younger students or want to make a related collection of websites available to your students, SimplyBox is the tool - and you use it by adding its extension (Firefox only for now). Once you install the extension and create an account, you visit a site you want to "Box" and click on the button called "Box It"...SimplyBox walks you through the steps to save and organize your saved site into separate storage areas called boxes. I really, really like this tool! It is visual for your students, easy for you to use and really easy to collect and store subject specific web sites.

4. WiseStamp
WiseStamp lets everyone see your activity on the Internet...I mean this in a good way. So, for example...if you have a classroom blog and you want people to visit it, you can add that blog as a button in the My profiles section. If you look up at my example, my signature is my name and title, then I have my profiles for my blog, my delicious and my Buzz (like Twitter). I also added a gadget that shows my last bookmarked site in Delicious. You can make this more social by adding your FB and MySpace profiles...but...yuck. The cool thing about WiseStamp is you can choose to use the signature or not, and you can have multiple signatures! I have dumped my GMail signature and will be using WiseStamp!

5. Google Shortcuts

If you look at the picture above, you can see that directly below my main toolbar (where my address bar is) is a complete toolbar with shortcuts to all my Google tools: Gmail, Create a new Gmail Email, Google Reader, Google search, Image search, Calendar, YouTube, Picasa, Blogger, and several Docs buttons (create for specific Docs tools). There are so many Google tools and you can customize all of them to fit your needs. Now, I don't have to set iGoogle as my home page, I can get to it anytime by clicking on my iGoogle button. Big grin for this extension.

6. New Tab King
If you like the way Safari or Chrome create a collection of your most-used websites when you click New Tab...you now have that option in Firefox. You can customize the number of sites you want to see, what sites you want to see, and what the page looks like. I really like this extension because I am often visiting the same site multiple times a day and then closing the tab...oops! Now, I can just get a new tab and choose from the visual list!

7. Themes
Okay, so not all of my extensions have any more purpose than to make me smile, like this theme called "Worm Party"! Give your browser a little personality by add a theme - yes, themes are considered extensions!

Seven is probably enough to get you interested in themes, but know that there are way too many extensions to count available to you and for all different purposes. My recommendation is to try one or two at a time, if it works, great, if not...you just uninstall it.

You can access your extensions by going to Tools > Add-Ons in your browser software. Here you can search for extensions, set the preferences for each extension and remove those that you don't use or that aren't working for you.

Explore, be adventurous and let me know what you Add-On.


Jason Neiffer said...

For more information on this topic, I will be presenting a sectional on workflow at NCCE that will discuss the need to trick out, if you will, your browser.

Desiree Caskey said...

Please share your tools you would add! Since our district doesn't send anyone to conferences, none of us will be able to attend.

Anonymous said...

I would really like to know more about these tools...and maybe some guided practice? Is this a possibility for a TILT meeting topic?