Firefox users no longer have to register with Mozilla to install an experimental Firefox extension; now it's just one click. So here's some low-hassle ways to get cleaner reading, new tab features, and other goodies.
Note: Despite the one-click registration process, these Firefox extensions are still unapproved by Firefox's maker, Mozilla, and require the standard warning to use at your own risk, because they're both unofficial and not tested by as wide an audience as for approved extensions. Still, many experimental extensions are often just in the queue for approval, so it can be worth living on the bleeding edge for a great new add-on.
Are you a social snooper? Do you like to (or, for your work, have to) search out contact information and related pages whenever you stumble across a fairly intriguing person? Identity does the leg work for you. Hit Alt+I (that's an "i," by the way) on any home page—blog, Twitter profile, Flickr stream, etc.—and the extension uses Google's Social Graph API to crawl around that person's inter-connected pages and return all their links and any short bio information they've posted. Potentially stalker-iffic, but also a cool tool for an increasingly inter-connected web.
We showed you a bit of TidyRead's smartphone-friendly bookmark power last week, but its Firefox extension could be a boon to anyone who likes to, or would like to, do some actual reading on their laptop or desktop—if it weren't for all those ads, compressed, off-font text, and other distraction. TidyRead's extension doesn't require any clicks or keyboard shortcuts once you get it going. Its "Smart Mode" automatically converts any page with a centrally-focused block of text into a more readable format, from which you can modify the font, size, and margins (or go with what you set in TidyRead's defaults). There's also an "Allow List" and "Block List," if you just want, say, the Washington Post and New Yorker to show up in more readable fashion, while letting Perez Hilton be as splashy/trashy as he wants.
Until Mozilla makes their functional New Tab Page final in Firefox 3.5, anyone who wants something more than a blank background or a home page on their new tabs has do a little DIY configuration. Desktop lets you do exactly that, adding web page thumbnails, search boxes right from your installed search bar plug-ins, or even file links and previews from your own desktop. Everything's either a "widget," a "search," or a "folder," but it seems open-ended enough to inspire some pretty geeky new tab designs. From our rudimentary tests, it also seems to load pretty quickly, even with sites like Gmail thumbnailed. Don't take our word (alone) for it, though—check out the DemoGirl blog's screencast of setting up a Desktop new tab page:
Along the same lines of Desktop, WebReview gives you a start page that's a lot more functional than white nothingness, but this one's a lot more automated. Tracking your browsing habits and site history (without reporting anything back over the net), WebReview gives you four categories of links on every new tab page: Recently Closed, Most Visited, Visited Daily, and Proposals for Today. The first three are kind of self-explanatory (and Visited Daily is a neat little psychological hack), but Proposals for Today is the neatest one. It looks at your browsing history across weekdays, weekends, and other date data, and figures out that if you, for instance, only head over to BoingBoing on weekends, well, it's Saturday, so here's a link. WebReview also ffers actual charts, graphs, and organisational charts showing how you usually get from one page to another. If you've ever wanted to know way more about how you spend your time online, this here's the extension for you.
Got an experimental extension that's worth the beta-test burden? By all means, tell us about it in the comments, and tell us what you think of this batch as well.