Extensions, Add-ons and Digital Crutches

Posted on 23. Mar, 2012 by in Thoughts



Browsers. I’ve poked my head in a few.

There have been hundreds of different browsers since Nexus (originally WorldWideWeb) over two decades ago. We’ve been to the Opera and spritzed on the Lynx. We’ve taken a dive with Sea Monkey and been on Safari. We’ve Konquered, Weaseled, Voyaged and Flocked. It’s a pretty sure bet that including more obscure browsers would turn those hundreds into thousands. Each has benefits, each has pitfalls.

Browsers

More than you could shake a stick at

Nowadays though, a browser isn’t enough. We need shortcuts and timesavers, assistance and support. “It looks like you’re writing a letter” is the proverbial knife in our modern day gunfight – and the knife is a blunt paperclip.

There are a number of reasons a user might prefer one browser over another, but (for the purpose of this post) extensions and add-ons are paramount. For example; Internet Explorer has only a handful and none sit very neatly within our day-day use. The plethora of uncomplicated, “plug and play”, app-style extensions and add-ons available for Chrome and Firefox is game-changing*.

*There are other contenders – Safari, for example, has hundreds of extensions and ought not to be written off.  The following has been generated on the basis of regular use of Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome.

Useful Extensions.

Permit me to share some of my favourite extensions. For your SEO. For your day-day. For your friendly neighbourhood disaster aversion.

Lazarus: Form Recovery

Number one. Top of the list. Must have. Just installed a browser? Install Lazarus.

This little extension records anything you type into a form. Whenever you see the little Ankh symbol in a text box you can recover previous entries.

Lazarus Form Recovery Example

Spot the Ankh!

Good for comment boxes, blog posts, searches and so on. When a page crashes, reloads or otherwise “naffs off” Lazarus picks up the pieces.

I strongly suggest you install it before you’re given a reason to wish you had.

Download for Firefox or Chrome.

Web Developer toolbar

From the source: “The Web Developer extension adds various web developer tools to a browser”.

This is your one-stop-shop for functions such as “Outline” (headings, frames, external links and more) and “Information” (Object information, JavaScript, meta tag information and more). It’s the easiest way to break down web-dev elements with ‘no holds barred’ functionality.

Web Developer Toolbar Screenshot

Really handy for understanding the layout of a page. Give "Outline" a go on this post

When I began my journey into SEO this was the first tool I was advised to look into by our SEO tech wizards. I’ve never looked back.

Another really useful tool within the Web Dev toolbar is the ability to alter CSS code within the browser. You can import a section of code onto an existing page to see how the page would change. Don’t worry; it doesn’t make any permanent changes.

Download for Firefox or Chrome.

Link checker

Link Checker is a simple, visual tool that gives you a quick breakdown of link performance on-page.

Clicking on the extension starts a check of all visible links; displaying three different coloured highlights for the status of links on a page.

You’ll see a green highlight for all successful returns, a red highlight for links that have returned an error code and a blue highlight announces those that have experienced an error sending the HTTP request or timed out.

Link Checker Screenshot

Euelthon needs work...

This is a great little tool if you’re scouting around for linking opportunities. Is your client link returning an error code? Are there opportunities for you to offer content for a link that needs redirecting?

Download for Firefox or Chrome.

YSlow

Page performance is a fundamental part of a website’s success. Conversion rates, page views and abandonment are just a few areas impacted by web page load time – all of which pertain to poor usability and trust. Research suggests that users may actively avoid slow-loading websites all together (read more here: Bank Systems & Technology/Forrester Consulting on page load speed).

YSlow is a page performance diagnosis tool from Yahoo!. After running a “test” you can see a list for performance of content, scripts, server features and more. Each is broken down into grades (A-F) and includes fix suggestions.

YSlow Screenshot

Remember folks; the tortoise only wins the story!

Example: “Put CSS at top – Moving style sheets to the document HEAD element helps pages appear to load quicker since this allows pages to render progressively.”

Page performance is top of the pile for us as SEOs, so it’s easy to see how YSlow can come in handy.

Download for Firefox or Chrome.

uSelect iDownload

Another adherent to the vowel-followed-by-word branding credo, uSelect is a tool that allows you to select links on a page by click-dragging a selection box. You can then bookmark or open the selected links.

It’s another one on my list that falls into a ‘simple yet invaluable’ category; well worth installing for those occasions you may not have foreseen. Imagine, for instance, coming across a blog post’s worth of extensions that you’re interested in downloading. Draw a box around the lot and you can open them in an instant!

uSelect iDownload Screenshot

Great when teamed with "Link Checker"

This comes in handy if you’re collating extensive amounts of link locations – think link scouting lists.

It doesn’t seem to be available for Firefox. Download for Chrome.

AutoPager

This is awesome for search engines or cumbersome content hosting websites that take a little while to load. It works by stitching together page-breaks in the same instance – pages that would have otherwise been separated by “see more” links or similar. Google and Flickr are great examples of this.

Autopager Screenshot

Load as many pages as you like - super fast browsing

Instead of loading group after group of photos you can have them all on a single page; scrolling down a never-ending list that avoids re-loading page headers and so on.

Download for Firefox or Chrome.

TooManyTabs & Speed Dial 2

Double whammy.

Whether you’re a glutton for information or just plain lazy, you’ll know that tab hoarding can cause all sorts of problems – lost pages and lag to name a couple.

Visibo’s TooManyTabs can save you valuable time by keeping you up to speed with your tabs. Hit the “TooManyTabs” button (already displaying the amount of tabs you have open overall) and navigate via a colourful dashboard of thumbnailed pages. No messing.

TooManyTabs screenshot

Import/export saved tabs between browsers

Download for Firefox or Chrome.

Speed Dial 2 is a slide-out sidebar that gives you a run down of saved applications, bookmarks and recently closed tabs. Prepare yourself a series of “dials” (favourite websites) and fill your new tabs with shortcuts galore.

Speed Dial 2 screenshot

Chrome only. Too fast!

It doesn’t seem to be available for Firefox. Download for Chrome.

Pair these two together and you could “keep tabs” (har har!) on your movements. All jokes aside – it’s another addition to ‘fail-safe’ extensions. Save yourself ahead of time.

Over to you – any favourite extensions?

This list is by no means a “best of”. In fact, the curation process was largely made up of scanning my toolbar. There are many and more that could be added. Please feel free to throw in your two cents!

Interestingly Microsoft would have us believe that IE 9 has improved of late. See the recent “Browser you loved to hate“ campaign for more.

Feel free to share and comments/questions below and have the final say!

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