The web is rife with annoyances. Pop-over ads when you visit a page that you have to dismiss, sites that auto-play audio even in background tabs, pages that reload and take all the text you entered with it, they all suck. Here are some browser add-ons that make the web a better place for everyone.
Tagged With plug-ins
The slow death of the old-style browser plug-in continues. Earlier this week we saw Google announce plans to eliminate NPAPI plug-ins by 2014, and now there's a similar schedule from the Mozilla team that builds Firefox.
From an IT management point of view, browser plug-ins are a nuisance: they're one more thing to maintain and deploy. So from that point of view the news that Chrome is going to drop its support for NPAPI, the plug-in architecture originally developed for Netscape, can only count as a welcome development.
Windows Live Writer stands out among Microsoft's Live Essentials pack for being a convenient multi-platform blogging tool. The Live Writer team made it even handier for WordPress users by adding comment moderation powers to their desktop app with a plug-in.
Windows only: The freeware Google Earth plug-in integrates Google Earth with your web browser, embedding the 3-D glory of Earth in Firefox or Internet Explorer. The results, which you can see in the video above, are impressive. There isn't a ton of Google Earth plug-in integration on the web yet, but check out the samples to understand the possibilities, like switching between Google Maps and Earth on-the-fly. The Google Earth plug-in is Windows only, supports Firefox and Internet Explorer. Google Earth API
Linux only: Convert audio files from inside your favourite music/playlist manager with transKode, a free plug-in for Amarok. If you've never installed an Amarok script, it's simple—grab the package ending in .tar.bz from the link below, head to the Tools->Script Manager menu, then hit the "Install" button and point to where you put that package. The plug-in is highly configurable, being based on the Mplayer multimedia tool, and accessible by right-clicking a file from the playlist. transKode is a free plug-in for Linux systems running Amarok only.
Windows/Mac/Linux (All platforms): Multi-protocol instant messaging client Pidgin can do a lot of things, especially through built-in plug-ins, but has yet to integrate internet calling service Skype into its offerings. Enter the Skype API Plugin, an early attempt at getting Skype's instant messaging features working in Pidgin (or Adium for OS X users). The good news: It's relatively easy to install and actually works. The bad news: Voice calls can't be made from Pidgin, and you have to keep the Skype application running in the background (which you might do anyways to make and receive calls). The plug-in also imports every out-call and phone contact in your Skype account as a contact, so heavy Skype users might keep this plug-in disabled by default. All in all, however, it helps reduce the number of contact windows on a desktop and provides a promising early look at (hopefully) tighter integration. The Skype API plug-in is a free download for Windows, Mac and Linux systems. Skype API Plugin
Windows only: iTunesControl, a free iTunes add-on, adds two killer features that make open-source player AmaroK so appealing—namely, seriously customisable universal keyboard shortcuts and a pop-up on-screen display with album art and song information. Some of this functionality is offered in other add-ons (see Adam's list of 23 great ones for examples), but iTunesControl is a preferred choice for those who really like to control their music. You can assign play/forward/back-type commands to nearly any key, including Function-switched keys for laptop users, and have the display pop-up anywhere on the screen, in any font/color/line combination you'd like. Better still, iTunesControl can be anchored to iTunes itself, starting and stopping whenever you launch the music app. iTunes Control is a free download for Windows systems with iTunes 4.6 or later only. iTunes Control
Cross-platform, multi-protocol instant messaging application Pidgin is very functional, but by default it's not what most people would call sexy. But like many great software projects, from Firefox to foobar2000, the looks and extra functionality are there—you just have to know where to find them. Today we're taking a look at 10 of the best Pidgin plug-ins for taking Pidgin from drab to fab.
Windows only: Freeware Microsoft Outlook plug-in Xobni (that's inbox backwards) adds a handful of killer features to its new Outlook sidebar. Among those features: Email analytics, extraordinarily useful contact cards, fast search, threaded (Gmail-like) conversations, and more. The video above gives an excellent overview, so give it a look. Seeing as Xobni has successfully made Outlook appear exciting (which is no easy feat), this freeware, Windows-only plug-in looks like a winner. Currently Xobni is in a closed beta, but the first 50 readers to head to the download page and enter the code "lifehacker" can download. Once you're in, you should be able to invite friends, so if you use the code, keep an eye on the comments and help out a fellow Outlook user. Outlook lovers, let's hear how it works for you in the comments.
The free cross-platorm image editor GIMP can do a whole lot with images on its own, but its extensible nature lets it do much more, from goofy transformations to custom algorithms. Technology blog techZilo offers a handy list of more than 40 free plug-ins that cover tools many photography enthusiasts (noise reduction, red eye removal) and web designers (anti-aliasing, "save for web" functionality) would especially find useful. The plug-ins should be easy to install on Linux and Mac systems, and a few offer pre-compiled Windows versions. For help getting your plug-ins working, check out the official documentation.
Top 40+ GIMP plugins
TextMate is a super-powered word processor beloved by coders and productivity geeks like Merlin Mann and Matt Haughey and available in a Windows port, but where does that leave Linux users? If they haven't already fallen under the sway of Vi or Emacs, they can download a few files and plug-ins to give GNOME's default text editor, gedit, many of the features—including word completion, quick file browsing, and highlighting switches—that Mac users have enjoyed for so long. Some of the plug-ins touted by the handy guide below are installed by default in gedit and just require an enabling click, while others require a bit of unpacking and placement. For writers and coders just getting started, it could make gedit a great learning tool with a gentler learning curve.