Find a need and fill it. Find an aggravation and fix it. That’s the kind of thinking that drives a small army of independent Firefox developers. These imagineers continue to improve the Web browsing experience with their innovation. They see problems or irritations, then create small, simple, often-elegant solutions (called extensions) that fix or eliminate them. Best of all, almost all of them are free.
Flashblock is especially welcome. At last those obnoxious Flash animations are history. While the technology is terrific, its primary use — as a means of pushing commercials at you — is terribly annoying. Flash ads are the Internet equivalent of a pushy used-car salesman pestering you while you’re trying to browse. (Flash developers, please note.) Personally, I refuse to buy anything that’s sold via spam or Flash animations.
With Flashblock, all that blinking and zooming and, um, flashing is gone. It’s replaced by a calm blank space and a small “f.” If, for some perverse reason, you actually want to view the stupid animation, mouse over the “f” and it changes to a right-facing arrow. Click and watch. Whatever floats your boat.
Flashblock is free, and works hand in hand with another indispensable Firefox freebie: Adblock, which does just what the name implies. Adblock’s big strength is that its use of wildcards, so you can block all or some of the ads from particular servers (or sub-directories).
Other extensions I’ve installed recently that make my heart sing are Gmail Notifier (which gives you a real-time peek at incoming mail to your Google Mail account) and Copy Plain Text, which strips the formatting from web page text. Perfect for writers and researchers like me.
(Wish there was one for MS apps.) Update: There is one for MS apps! It’s called PureText, and it’s the equivalent of pasting text into Notepad, then copying and pasting that into the final document. Thanks, Lifehacker for the tip.
So raise a glass to these innovative Firefox developers. You guys and gals absolutely rock!