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How to add tools to your web browser

  JDBiersdorfer's Photo
Posted Sep 08 2009 02:42 PM

Your browser program is not just your window to the Web. With handy tools and mini-programs called add-ons, you can teach your browser new tricks. Add-ons can do things like show the weather forecast in the status bar or display buttons to control your MP3 jukebox software so you can pause the music without having to switch to the jukebox window.Both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox make it easy to add cool stuff to your browser.

  • In Internet Explorer, choose ToolsAttached ImageManage Add-onsAttached ImageFind More Add-ons. You end up at the Internet Explorer Add-ons Gallery, where you can stroll through neatly categorized lists of IE helper programs and install them on your browser with a click of the "Add to Internet Explorer" button.
  • In Firefox, choose ToolsAttached ImageAdd-onsAttached ImageGet Add-ons to see a list of available and recommended goodies. (You can also click the Browse All Add-ons link in the box to jump put to Mozilla's official Add-ons site for Firefox.) Select the add-ons you want and click the "Add to Firefox" button to install them.

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One word of caution, though: Piling up too many add-ons may slow down your browser or cause it to crash. If you're having problems, you can turn off or uninstall add-ins in the same browser menu you added them from. In IE, choose ToolsAttached ImageManage Add-onsAttached ImageEnable or Disable Add-ons and turn off the misbehaving code. In Firefox, choose ToolsAttached ImageAdd-ons, find the bad one in the clickable Extensions, Themes, or Plug-ins lists, and click either the Disable or Uninstall button.

Tip: Netbook screens are on the puny side, and sometimes browsing can feel like you're looking at the Web through a pair of binoculars. To see a little bit more of the page, press the F11 key to ditch the address bar and expand the main browser window into full-screen mode. If you feel lost without your toolbars, though, there are other solutions. The Littlefox or Classic Compact add-ons for Firefox can help a bit—both squish the toolbars and other browser elements into a tighter space so you have more room for your main Web window.

You can also find browser add-ons by searching the Web. For example, if you're into social networking, Yoono (www.yoono.com) for IE and Firefox puts a pane on the left side of the browser window that keeps a running list of status updates from people you know on Facebook and other social sites—and it keeps your bookmarks in sync with other computers you may use. Photos your thing? The Cooliris add-in (www.cooliris.com) turns your browser into a 3-D wall of images. Although an add-on's website can tell you more about the software, it's generally safer to get the add-on from the IE Gallery, Mozilla Firefox Add-Ons page, or other closely monitored browser repository.

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Tip: The XMarks add-on for Firefox is another way to keep your bookmarks up to date across your various computers. Just install it from the Get Add-ons list on each of your Firefox-equipped computers to keep your bookmarks backed up and in sync across machines.

Browser toolbars

In addition to browser add-ons, you can enhance your browser with additional toolbars, especially if you're using Windows. (On Linux, check the toolbar's system requirements before getting too excited.) These toolbars usually add things like search shortcuts, links to maps, pop-up ad blockers, and more. In fact, most of the major search engines have their own toolbars available that do things like highlight your search terms on pages or make suggestions for relayed searches. Here's where to find more info on each of these toolbars:

People not into searching may just be annoyed by the extra buttons gunking up the top of the browser. But for people serious about the ability to search, these types of toolbars can help you dig around the Web more efficiently.

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Tip: One very popular browser add-on is StumbleUpon (www.stumbleupon.com). Just click the Stumble button in the toolbar to land on a random site that other people have really, really liked. It's a lot of fun and you never know what you might find.

Netbooks: The Missing Manual

Learn more about this topic from Netbooks: The Missing Manual.

Netbooks are the hot new thing in PCs -- small, inexpensive laptops designed for web browsing, email, and working with web-based programs. With this Missing Manual, you'll learn not only which netbook is right for you, but also how to set it up and use it for everything from job-related tasks like working with spreadsheets to hobbies like gaming and photo sharing.

See what you'll learn

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