Team LiB
Previous Section Next Section

Hack 24. Install Complementary Tools

Get the rest of the standard gear you need for a fully featured Firefox.

This brief hack explains how to add some general-purpose tools that aren't bundled with the standard Firefox install. Such additions are either necessities or lifestyle options. This book is full of options that you can explore, particularly extensions and search engines. This hack focuses on the more critical tools, such as these:

  • Plug-ins

  • Java JVM

  • Fonts [Hack #30]

  • Mozilla Application Suite tools

  • Helper applications

  • Search engines [Hack #36]

The first stop for the most commonly used extras is the Firefox Central page at For more detail and more options, read on.

3.4.1. Managing Plug-ins and Java

For popular plug-ins and Java, this URL contains everything you need to know:

If a plug-in isn't listed on this site, the plug-in likely won't work.

The default Windows-specific page lists the most popular plug-ins; a set of links near the top lists a much larger collection of plug-ins alphabetically.

Mozilla works hard to be backward-, forward-, and sideways-compatible when handling plug-ins. Plug-in files are not merely added to the plugins folder inside the install area; they are also recorded in Mozilla registry files. pluginreg.dat (Windows) in the profile area is an example. Firefox can exploit plug-ins added to its own install area, plug-ins that exist in other installations of Mozilla, plug-ins that are present in Netscape product installations, and even plug-ins that are installed elsewhere in the operating system, such as the Adobe Reader plug-in. The first time Firefox starts up, it scans the operating system (on Windows, this means the Windows Registry) for plug-in IDs (PLIDs). You can read about them and the associated issues here:

The upshot of all this is that plug-ins can be messy to manage if more than one browser is installed on a given computer. The best advice is to collect together all plug-ins so that they are installed into Firefox, even if there are duplicates elsewhere. That way, if upgrades or cross-grades are ever required, then at most the contents of the Firefox plugins folder can be copied over in one action.

The heyday of Java applet technology is now a fading memory, and there is decreasing wisdom in installing the Java JVM. Perhaps the only real remaining use is to support "legacy" Web applications that are still bound to applet technology.

3.4.2. Finding Substitutes for Application Suite Features

The Mozilla Application Suite (MAS) and Netscape Navigator/Communicator products include several features that Firefox does not have by default; Firefox is a leaner, meaner product. Some of those features are available as extensions and can be added via the Extension Manager. Some are available as applications, and some are not available at all. Table 3-1 provides a rundown.

Table 3-1. MAS features and equivalent Firefox extensions

MAS feature name

Equivalent Firefox extension

Composer (HTML editor)

The Composer equivalent is installed as a separate product. Get it here:

What's Related sidebar

None, but see [Hack #36] .

Netscape Buddy List sidebar


AOL Instant Messenger


JavaScript Debugger

JavaScript Debugger (at

Profile Switcher


Java Console

Open Java Console (at Java JVM must also be installed.

Mail & Newsgroups

Thunderbird (at is a full application that is installed as a separate product.

IRC Chat

ChatZilla (at

3.4.3. Top Two Helper Applications

Finally, of all the numerous Helper applications that you might install, two classes of application stand out as noteworthy for the Windows platform:

Download Managers

Firefox and Mozilla do not yet support FTP sessions that can be resumed at a later date or that can be reduced to low network priority. The FireFTP extension also suffers from this limitation. An integrated download manager is therefore a good idea. Tools such as those offered by are ideal.

Disk Caretakers

Those with tidy minds might want to complement Firefox with a disk cleanup tool, such as Crap Cleaner ( Firefox is not particularly messy, but such a tool can automate the tidying up that some users might want to do on a regular basis.

    Team LiB
    Previous Section Next Section