Archive for the ‘browsers’ Category

Week 11: Browser Tools

This week, we’re exploring browser tools. This post will give you a brief overview of browser tools, explain the activities for the week, and provide links to some additional readings for those who would like to know more!

The 411 on Browsers
At it’s simplest, a browser is a piece of software that allows you to view web pages. But, browsers today can be so much more! Firefox is an open source browser that provides additional functionality that allows you to customize your browsing experience and interact with online content in new & exciting ways! And Internet Explorer 7 (the latest version of IE) also provides added functionality through the use of add-ons.

Firefox Add-ons
Add-ons are small programs that add functionality to a Web browser improving the user’s experience. There are many types of browser tools available including some that offer security, help with navigation, supply web development tools and provide entertainment. Keep in mind that too many add-ons will slow down your browser’s performance and therefore you should limit the amount of add-ons you install. Also, for security reasons, you should download add-ons from reputable sources.

Check out this page for a list of Firefox add-ons (extensions), or from the Firefox Tools menu select Add-ons and then click the “Get More Extensions” link. Some examples of extensions include Auto Copy, URLFixer and one of my favorites, Web Developer. Advanced users should check out Greasemonkey which allows you to customize the way a web page looks and behaves. Greasemonkey requires userscripts (written in javascript) to control web pages. You can write your own userscript or install existing userscripts from sites such as GreaseMonkey UserScripts or UserScripts.org.

To uninstall a Firefox extension, go into the Tools menu, select “Add-ons” and select the extension you want to uninstall. Click the “Uninstall” button.

Internet Explorer Add-ons
For a list of Internet Explorer add-ons, visit this page or from the Internet Explorer Tools menu, select “Manage Add-ons” and then select “Find More Add-ons”. Internet Explorer add-ons include Microsoft Windows Defender, GoogleToolbar and ieSpell.

Bookmarklets
Bookmarklets are bits of javascript code that are embedded into the URL of a bookmark/favorite which perform an action (such as searching a specific database from another web page or retrieving information about a web page) when you click on the bookmarklet. You can create your own bookmarklets or install existing bookmarklets. You may have already used bookmarklets in week 5, if you installed the del.icio.us browser buttons. To install a bookmarklet that has been provided by a Web site, just right-click the link and either select “Add to favorites” (IE) or “Bookmark This link” (Firefox). Some sites may also provide an executable file to easily install their bookmarklets.

Last year, Wiktor Rzeczkowski created a few bookmarklets to allow searching of our MORRIS catalogue from any Web page. Once you install his bookmarklets, all you have to do is highlight text and then click on the bookmarklet to run the search. Derek Bragg has created a version of the bookmarklets to work with Firefox and Opera. Check out this page for more information.

Activities for this week

  • If you don’t already have Firefox on your system, download it from this site. You don’t need to have administrator rights to download and install Firefox (if you need technical assistance, email libit@mcmaster.ca).
  • Check out some Firefox add-ons and install at least one (if you need technical assistance, email libit@mcmaster.ca).
  • Visit the MORRIS bookmarklets page and install a bookmarklet or two (or all!). Test out the MORRIS bookmarklet you installed by visiting any web page, highlighting the text you want to search MORRIS on and then clicking on the bookmarklet to perform the search.
  • Add a post to your blog outlining which browser tools you found useful.
  • Have fun!

Further Readings (optional!)

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