Share Firefox Add-ons with Collector

Ever had problems finding Firefox extensions? Want to tell the world about the extensions you find most useful? Now you can, using the Firefox Add-on Collector.

Firefox’s Add-ons site has gone social. Firefox users can now maintain “collections” of their favorite add-ons for Firefox, and share with other users. This isn’t just a social feature, though — read on, and you’ll see how this can help you manage your add-ons between computers, too!

What is a Collection? It’s a set of Add-ons, published on the Firefox Add-ons Web site. If you subscribe to a collection in Firefox, you’ll see the entire collection in your Add-ons manager, and (if you choose) add those extensions to Firefox.

What’s it good for?

So this is a nifty feature, but what’s it actually good for? In short, a couple of things: recommending new add-ons, helping other Firefox users find useful add-ons, and keeping your add-ons synchronized between computers.

The Editor’s Picks are a great place to start. Right now, the Mozilla folks have a couple of collections that are full of useful Add-ons, including Web Developer’s Toolbox and Reference Desk collections that have a ton of nifty Add-ons I probably wouldn’t have stumbled on otherwise. With literally thousands of extensions to choose from, it’s pretty hard to sift through everything on your own.

Perhaps some hands-on information is in order.

To manage collections, you’ll need to register on the Add-ons site and install the Add-on Collector extension. Once you’ve done that (and restarted Firefox), you can subscribe to existing collections, and even start publishing your own.

You can also add items to your own collection via the Add-ons Web site. Just look for the “Related Collections” box. You can add an add-on to any collection you own, whether or not you have it installed. Why would you want to do that? It’s useful if you find an add-on when you’re at work or on another computer where you can’t install the add-on right away. Or if you just want to keep a set of Add-ons you’d like to try out at a later date.

Keeping in Sync

As much as I like the recommendations found via the Collector, my favorite feature is the ability to sync up my collections between computers. I’m running Firefox on six separate systems, and keeping them synced is not trivial.

To create a Auto-publisher, go to Tools -> Add-ons. Click “Preferences” and then you’ll see the “Auto-publisher Settings” Choose the name (it might futz things up if you choose a name you’ve already used) and select the types of information you want automatically published. You can also choose to publish (or not) that information.

Note that Weave is expected to do synchronization in the future, but doesn’t do it at this time — and doesn’t provide the publishing features that Collector does.

Once you’ve set up an Auto-publisher, you should be able to see this collection in all of your instances of Firefox. You still have to add the updates manually, unfortunately, but after the first time it shouldn’t be too onerous to keep up with new add-ons.

Collections are a simple but powerful feature for Firefox. It’s another way for Firefox users to tie into the Firefox add-on ecosystem and leverage the Firefox community to educate one another. If you’re at all interested in Firefox and its extensions, I strongly recommend checking out the Collections Add-on.

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