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Nov 4, 2008

How to Turn FireFox 3 Into A Blogging Toolbox

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Today Jeff Chandler shares with us how FireFox 3 can be a great tool for bloggers.

If there is one thing that sets FireFox apart from any other web browser, it would have to be the third party support in the form of themes and extensions. There are so many extensions available for the browser, you can virtually do just about anything. As I become more entrenched as a blogger online, I’ve started to transform FireFox into more than just a browser, it has become my ultimate blogging toolbox. The following twelve FireFox extensions will give you a head start on turning FireFox into your own personal blogging toolbox.

Many Google Services In One - These days, it seems as though Google has a bazillion services. Having individual buttons for each service in FireFox would not only be cumbersome but it would also take up valuable screen real estate. Thankfully, there is an extension which enables access to all of the Google Services from one button called Gbutts. After installing this extension, you can configure which Google Services show up in the drop down menu, allowing you to only see the ones you actively use.

In Browser Feed Reader - I use FeedDemon as my stand-alone FeedReader of choice, but I also use one within FireFox called SageToo. I use this extension primarily to keep tabs on forums I am a member of. Since I need to have the browser open to reply to a forum post or start a new thread, having quick access to new posts/threads within the browser is a time saver versus reading the feeds in a stand alone feed reader.

ScribefirePublish Content Right From The Browser - ScribeFire should be of no surprise for longtime readers of Problogger. ScribeFire enables me to have quick access to a blog editor. If the publishing system you use has XML-RPC support, you can configure ScribeFire to connect directly to your blog. I use ScribeFire to quickly publish drafts or full blown posts to my own blog, right from the browser.

See Ranks Without Researching - With the SearchStatus extension, you can easily see a particular URL’s Alexa Ranking as well as its Google Page Rank. Finding this information used to require researching the site by putting the URL through a Page Rank service.

SnagItTake Snapshots From The Browser - People are continuously surprised to find out that TechSmith has a FireFox extension (SnagIt Extension) available particularly for those who use their SnagIt software. This software makes it easy as pie to take screen captures. The extension takes things one step further by enabling access to the software through the browser. In my arsenal of tools, this extension is probably used the most as publishing how-to articles or reviews requires an abundant amount of screenshots.

Built In FTP Client - One of the reasons why I used Internet Explorer long after FireFox was released was because of the built in FTP client. Convenience of the client kept me from using alternatives. Once I discovered the FireFTP extension however, I really began to fall in love with FireFox. FireFTP adds an FTP client right into the browser which I have found to work better than any stand alone software alternative I have tried.

TinyURL CreatorEasy to Digest URLs - Thanks to services like Twitter which limits messages to 140 characters or less, we now have a myriad of services online which aims to shrink that mile long URL into something more manageable. Despite the other services that are available, I am been a big fan of TinyURL. So it should be no surprise then that I am recommending the TinyURL Creator. This extension can create tiny URLs from links, page links, and the text that is displayed in the address bar of the browser. On top of that, the TinyURLs that are created are automatically copied to your clipboard leaving you with the only step of pasting the link.

Tweeting From The Browser - Although Twhirl makes for an excellent stand alone application to handle your Twitter needs, having access to Twitter from within FireFox adds a convenience factor not to mention it is one less program running on your machine. When accessing Twitter from the browser, I recommend the TwitKit extension. When activated, Twitter will load in a sidebar within FireFox with a list of the 10 latest tweets. I typically use TwitKit to publish quick thoughts or links without the distraction of being sucked into the endless stream of information that Twhirl provides. As an alternative, you can use TwitterBar.

Auto Fill FormsAuto Fill Forms - Most blogs have a commenting section made up of four fields. Name, URL, Email and a text area for your comment. Instead of typing in your Name, URL, and Email over and over again, you can use the AutoFill Forms extension and configure it so that when you press a keyboard shortcut, these fields will automatically be filled in with the configured values. This extension has saved me a ton of time as well as keystrokes. One caveat though, this extension does not work on blogs who use a third party commenting system such as Disqus or CoComment.

Copy Only The Text - Ever copy a section of text from a website and then paste it into a Word Document or into a WYSIWYG Text editor? Generally, not only is the text pasted but so is the formatting. I know at times, this has driven me insane. Thankfully, there is an extension which prevents this from happening called Copy Plain Text. This extension adds an option to your right click context menu that will say, “Copy Plain Text” which does exactly what it advertises.

ShareaholicSharing Across Multiple Services With One Button - While I tend to stick with using the Delicious Bookmarks extension as that is the only bookmarking service I use, I figured that limiting the bookmarking services to just delicious would be premature. So, introducing Shareaholic. Shareaholic is similar to the GButts extension in that, users have access to multiple social bookmarking/networking sites from one icon. After configuring the sites for which you have accounts with, sharing a site is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse. At least seventeen different services are supported which should be enough to get you started.

Relevancy In The Browser - When you’re writing that next blog post, don’t bother spending time using Google to look up related posts, images, etc. Instead, use the Zemanta FireFox Extension. Zemanta presents images, links, articles, tags in a simple interface. It encourages re-use and linking to other content with as little effort as possible. In the world of blogging, being related is usually a good thing.


These extensions are what make up my own toolbox, but why stop there? Perhaps you use an alternate extension to get a chore done versus the one I suggested. This is your chance to tell me which extensions you use to make you a more productive or efficient blogger. Based on your responses, there may be a follow up post filled with reader suggestions.

This guest post was written by Jeff Chandler who is currently a writer for Performancing, BloggerTalks and is the host of two podcasts, WordPress Weekly and Perfcast.

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