Firefox add-ons are small pieces of software that let you add new features and change the way your browser works. You can install these add-ons yourself without the need for a call to the Help Desk.
There is a very large community of developers that create these add-ons, so the chances of finding one that does what you want is pretty good.
An important security note about add-ons is that you need to be VERY careful about where you get them from because they may harm your computer or violate your privacy. Unless clearly marked otherwise, add-ons available from Firefox's Add-on gallery have been checked and approved by Mozilla's team of editors and are safe to install. I recommend that you only install the approved add-ons and never install any of the add-ons marked as Experimental because they have not been reviewed. Never ever install an add-on from an unknown source!
Once they are installed most people just forget about them. But, as I discovered recently this is not a good idea. I got a call from a library with an unusual problem with Firefox. When they right-clicked within their Firefox browser they got a menu that was longer than their screen was tall. After much research I discovered that this problem was caused by an out-of-date add-on. Since the add-on was no longer needed is was disabled and then the problem was resolved.
If you're having a problem with Firefox one way to tell if it is being caused by an out-of-date add-on is to start Firefox in Safe Mode. The easiest way to do this is from within Firefox. You go to the Help menu and choose "Restart with Add-ons disabled...". Then a window called "Firefox Safe Mode" with some troubleshooting options appears. Here you would click the "Start in Safe Mode" button. Never ever click the "Reset Firefox" button as this will reset Firefox to a default state by creating a new profile, migrating only essential data and then moving all of the old Firefox data to a folder on your desktop. Warning! This change cannot be reversed. Once in Safe Mode see if your problem persists. If the problem is gone then it's a pretty good bet that it is an out-of-date add-on causing the problem. So now you know you need to update your add-ons. When you are done testing and want to get out of Safe Mode, just close Firefox and wait a few seconds before opening Firefox for normal use again.
So now you're asking, how do I keep my add-ons up-to-date? It's really easy. Just follow these steps:
- Open Firefox
- Go to the Add-ons Manager by clicking "Add-ons" in the Firefox (or Tools) menu
- Click on the Extensions tab on the left
- You will now see a list of all of the add-ons that you have installed
- In the upper right corner you will see a gear
- Click on it and a menu like the one below will appear
- If the "Update Add-ons Automatically" option is checked you're done
- If it is not checked click on it to check it then you never have to worry about old add-ons again
- If you want to update them now just click the "Check for Updates" option
- Firefox will then update all add-ons that have a newer version
- Once all the updates are done you may need to restart Firefox
My two favorite add-ons are Print Edit, which gives you print preview with edit capability, and Print pages to PDF, which gives you the ability to print the content of one or more browser tabs into a PDF document. Please leave a comment and let me know some of your favorite add-ons.