Mozilla Labs announces the winners of their official Extend Firefox 3 Contest, and they're an impressive crop of new and updated extensions for your favourite browser. I was honored to serve on the judging panel for this year's contest (alongside some huge names in the browser biz), and we rated the entries based on how easy they were to use, and how well they took advantage of new features in Firefox 3. Let's take a look at this year's best new and updated add-on grand prize winners.
Note: There are gadzillions of indispensable and innovative Firefox extensions out there, but this is the Extend Firefox 3 contest. Therefore, you'll notice the winners' entries primarily involve new Firefox 3-specific features, like bookmark tags and web page preview capabilities.
Best New Add-ons
The best new add-on grand prizes are "awarded for entries that make use of new capabilities being introduced in Firefox 3 and that demonstrate excellence in user experience, innovativeness, and use of open standards." Here are your best new add-on contest winners.
The Pencil extension for Firefox adds a full-featured sketching and prototyping tool that lets you design web pages and make diagrams right inside Firefox. Once you install Pencil, from the Tools menu choose "Pencil Sketching" to launch the Pencil editor. There you can literally design software, web pages, or just sketch out diagrams using the menu of prefab shapes and widgets Pencil provides. Drag and drop annotation tools, shapes, lines, text boxes, labels, buttons and more onto the Pencil canvas and save your work as a Pencil document in its tabbed editor.
Firefox 3 comes with the blue star icon at the end of the address bar for quick, one-click bookmarking. The Tagmarks extension takes this concept further with more one-click icons that bookmark and assign frequently-used tags to the current URL. Here's more on how Tagmarks works.
Just can't think of the right tag to describe a new bookmark? Want to get into the habit of tagging your bookmarks but feel kind of lazy about the whole thing? HandyTag suggests applicable tags for a given bookmark, pulled from various sources. With HandyTag installed, when you bookmark a URL, HandyTag adds buttons below the Tags field that present checkboxes for tags that apply—from your current list of tags ("Perso"), the web page's author ("Webmaster"), KGen, and Delicious. Click on any button to see that source's suggested tags for the page, and check off the ones you want to add to your bookmarks.
Runners-Up for Best New Add-on
There were so many great new add-on entries, a runner-up nod also goes to the following new extensions.
Badges on Favicon (Install)
Adds iPhone-like informational badges to web pages indicating new unread items, like on Gmail or iGoogle, as pictured. (This was one of my favourites.)
A Quicksilver/Launchy-like command launcher for Firefox, Devo adds a keyboard shortcut that invokes a launcher panel. Type your keyword—like "google" to launch searches, and access your favourite webapps. Here's a full list of Devo commands, which includes dictionary look-ups, Twitter posting, Flickr and Wikipedia searches, and more. You can add your own actions, too—like searching Lifehacker's archives or opening up a Gmail Quick link. The only thing I don't like about Devo is its default key combination—Shift+X—which gets in the way when you're trying to type an uppercase X.
Close 'N Forget (Install)
Adds a toolbar button that "closes and forgets" the current tab—meaning, deletes the page from your history and its cookies. If configured, Close 'N Forget can remove the whole domain from your history (like, um, any page on fleshbot.com). Great for those pages you'd rather browse stealth, and not come up in the AwesomeBar's ever-helpful suggestion list. Close 'N Forget didn't quite work for me as promised on my Windows installation; hopefully kinks will get ironed out soon.
The Callout extension makes the notification services of your computer's operating system available for web pages and Greasemonkey user scripts. This means that, for example, a web page like Gmail can trigger a Growl or Windows taskbar notification that you've got new mail. The Callout extension itself doesn't add notifications; you need to be on a web page or running a user script that utilizes the API Callout provides. (Note: Callout did not work for me in my tests, but the concept is still killer. If you decide to try it out, be prepared for it not to work as advertised.)
The Reasy extension is an RSVP (Rapid Serial Visual Presentation) reader. With Reasy installed, select any text on a web page and Reasy will play it to you, one word at a time, at a speed you configure in the extension options. Here's more on Rapid Serial Visual Presentation at Wikipedia.
Best Updated Add-on
The Extend Firefox 3 contest's Best Updated Add-on grand prizes are "awarded to existing Firefox Add-ons that are updated for Firefox 3, and that show significant improvements in user experience and performance." Here are the winners in the Best Updated Add-on category.
When you run across articles and videos online when you're at work that you want to check out later on at home or when you're less busy, add'em to your "to read" list with the Read It Later extension. Described as a "staging area for bookmarks," your Read It Later bookmark list is for stuff you just want to check out one time—but don't have time for at the moment. Read It Later offers features a simple "to read" tag in your bookmarks doesn't: Like the ability to add a link to your RIL list, offline reading, syncing across computers (for access to the "read it later" links you saved at the office at home), and RSS feeds for various reading lists. You can even add all your currently open tabs to your reading list for instant storage when you have to get back to work. Check out our full review of Read It Later's Firefox 3 integration.
Slice and dice your Firefox 3 bookmark tags with TagSifter, an extension that adds a bookmark tag cloud to your sidebar, related tags, and advanced tag queries for filtering your bookmarks by tag. An essential add-on for heavy bookmark taggers, check out our full rundown of what you can do with TagSifter.
Bookmark Previews (Install)
Get a Cover Flow-like or thumbnail view of your bookmarks with Bookmark Previews, an add-on that grabs screenshots of your favourite web pages and makes them easier to identify. Bookmark previews can even update the screenshot thumbnail it keeps every time you visit a web site, so they're always up to date regardless of redesigns. Check out our full Bookmarks Preview extension review.
Best Music Add-on
Finally, the best music-related Firefox 3 extension was awarded for "the best music-related entry that demonstrate excellence in user experience, innovativeness, and use of open standards." The grand prize winner is:
Fire.fm integrates the social music site Last.fm into your Firefox chrome with a toolbar that lets you stream music from Last.fm. Log into Last.fm, enter one of your favourite artists, and just start listening.
We judges had our say about these new and updated extensions for Firefox 3; now it's your turn.
What extensions do you want to see for Firefox 3? Put on your thinking caps and fire up some developers in the comments. Thanks to Mozilla Labs for asking us to be involved in the Extend Firefox 3 contest, and congrats to all the developers who entered, especially the grand prize winners.