Ed. note: Reader, Harsha Kotcherlakota, wrote in to our tips box with a very detailed, very cool guide to how he uses a few Firefox extensions we've featured to create dedicated, always-available-yet-unobtrusive tabs for Gmail and Google Reader. Here's how.
So here's the deal. I like having my Gmail always open. (Who doesn't, right?) It's literally the first thing I go to in Firefox. But I don't want it to be my homepage, and frankly, I don't like the fact I have to always leave a full sized tab open just to keep an eye on my inbox. I am a fan of minimal, yet functional and attractive interfaces.
So I went searching for the perfect setup, and I'm happy to say, I found it! Using Gina Trapani's Better Gmail 2 add-on (specifically the Unread Count Favicon feature) and two other extensions, I found an extremely easy and attractive way to keep an eye on Gmail and have it open all the time without taking up a lot of space.
Here's what I did. (I'm doing all of this on the nightly build of Firefox 3.7 with Nightly Tester Tool installed, and it works just fine, so I'm positive this works for ALL versions of Firefox 3.0+.)
First, I downloaded and installed Better Gmail 2, and after enabling the Favicon option, ended up with this:
Looks fantastic, of course, but still, since I am currently using a netbook, I want to save as much space as possible. So I searched and searched until I found the FaviconizeTab extension, also previously mentioned on Lifehacker. Essentially, it adds an entry to the context menu when you right-click a tab that allows you to shrink it down to ONLY the Favicon. Here's how it works.
Right-click the desired tab and click FaviconizeTab.
Which gives you favicon-only tabs like you see in the screenshot. (I did this for both Gmail and Reader.)
Looks awesome, right? Well, I thought so too! Until I closed Firefox, and when I opened it again, I realised my faviconized Gmail tab did not stay faviconized. I also wanted a solution in which Gmail and Google Reader always appear when I opened Firefox. I knew how to set up multiple homepages in Firefox, but it's not quite right for what I want. For one, if I do that, every time I press the "Home" button, all those sites load up at once in multiple tabs.
So I went off hunting again for a permanent tab solution. But wait! Lifehacker, many moons ago, highlighted an extension called PermaTabs, an extension that preserves selected tabs through sessions and prevents accidental closing.
Sadly, the developer of that extension has long since forgotten it. I was annoyed, but after a bit more searching, I found another extension called PermaTabs Mod. It's the same as the original extension, however it's updated and modified to work with Firefox 3.5. Essentially, this add-on allows you to make a tab permanent—that is to say, it cannot be closed by accident, actions such as "Close other tabs" in the Tab context menu do no affect it, and better yet, the tabs stay where they are in the order they are even if you close/shutdown Firefox! Here's how it works:
We right-click the tab we want to make permanent, then select PermaTabs -> Permanent Tab:
Now, you'll notice that the tab we just PermaTabbed is now a slightly different shade, and when you try to right click, you'll notice the option to close it is now grayed out!
So here I am, jumping with joy, excited to see if my experiment will work. And lo and behold! It does! When I open up Firefox, here's what I see!
As you can see, this also works with Gina Trapani's Better GReader and its Favicon Unread Count feature, and is equally useful.
Here's the skinny on what's absolutely awesome about this setup:
- Permatabs are not affected by closing Firefox, cannot be closed automatically, and can be "un-permafied" at any time when you want to get rid of them.
- When you first start up Firefox, the Permatabs DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY LOAD THEIR PAGE. They only load them when you click on them, which is insanely handy for me for when I'm on a terrible connection and I don't want all my Permatabs to load up instantly when I start up Firefox. (This is why I do not like having multiple homepages—I cannot control when they load.)
- With this setup, you don't have to make Gmail or GReader your home page. Your home page is separate; in my above example, I have about:blank set as my homepage, but this won't affect your setup at all.
- Permatabs are not set in stone as far as location goes. You can reorder Permatabs by dragging them around. (Be warned, you can also pop-out Permatabs, but once you do, you must pop them back in or add them again manually.)
- Using this setup, I don't need to use toaster popups from extensions like Gmail Notifier or any third party app. All I have to do is glance to the top right to see if there's any new messages.
Quick Note: If you use any sort of script/extension that forces Firefox to show the Close button on all tabs all the time, this setup WILL visually break that feature. Try it to see what it looks like, if you're unsure.
So, now a bit of eye-candy. Since the above screenshots are shown with little to no visual customisations at all, here's a look at what my current setup looks like, optimised for my netbook:
(Click the image above for a closer look.)
A few notes about my my web setup:
- I'm using a 1024x600 resolution(Asus Eee PC), so minimal interface design is key for me.
- By default, I hide my Menu Bar and my Status bar. My Menu Bar is easily brought up by pressing Alt, and I use Fission to display both on-hover links and progress bars in my address bar. It works very well and adds a nice Safari-like touch as well as save space
- My theme is Heaven.Cube with small icons.
- I'm using Stylish for the custom about:blank page and the removal of the Go button and the Search button in the main toolbar.
Nice work, Harsha, and thanks for the guide!