Enhance Firefox with SmarterFox

Work smarter, not harder. It's a good motto, and one that applies well to SmarterFox, an extension for Firefox that makes common tasks much easier to perform.

Want to browse a little smarter? If you’re a Firefox power user and want to make life just a little simpler, you need to check out SmarterFox. It’s an extension that streamlines common tasks and will shave a few seconds off of things you do often, like visiting your favorite sites and searching the Web.

Even though the SmarterFox motto is “Browse Faster,” it doesn’t actually speed up Firefox. Instead, it simplifies some common tasks and makes it easier to get from point A to point B — or from Web site A to Web site B — with a few key features. Does that make browsing faster? Well, it makes you faster, which might amount to the same thing.

Brought to You by the Letter “q”

The best feature with SmarterFox is the qLauncher. Not quite sure where the name comes from, but I like it all the same. The qLauncher is a panel with a set of bookmarks to sites you visit frequently. Well, it’s a set of bookmarks for sites you define — whether you visit them frequently or not is really up to you.

By default, the qLauncher panel is pre-populated with Amazon, Google Reader, ReadWriteWeb, and some others. It also grabs your home page, as when I installed it in a fresh Firefox profile it grabbed the openSUSE homepage from my preferences. But you’re not stuck with those defaults. Want to modify the defaults? Go to your bookmarks menu and add/delete bookmarks there.

What I really like about the qLauncher is that I don’t have to even leave the keyboard to go to a site. You can define shortcut keys by tagging a bookmark with qlancher:n where n is the shortcut key. So, for example, I added CoTweet to my qLauncher with qlauncher:c. Obviously, you can only have 26 sites with shortcuts, but I’m not sure what the qLauncher’s limit is (if any). For me, this feature alone is well worth adding SmarterFox to your toolbox of extensions.

Oddly, the qLauncher only works when there’s a Web page loaded in the current tab. If you have a blank tab loaded, nothing happens when hitting the qLauncher shortcut. Also, the shortcut doesn’t call up the qLauncher if your cursor is in the locatiion bar or search bar. It has a few kinks to work out, but overall works very well.

Faster Searching

SmarterFox makes searching the Web a bit easier in a few key ways. First, SmarterFox pops up a context bubble every time you highlight a string in Firefox. If you highlight some text, all you have to do is click one of the icons in the pop-up and SmarterFox will open a new tab with those results.

You can choose from Google, Bing, Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Twitter real-time search, and several others. So if you spend a lot of time searching the Web for more information on terms you’ve found on sites, this will speed things up a notch.

The qLauncher also includes a Google search box, so you can immediately search from there — though that’s not really any faster than using the Ctrl-K shortcut in Firefox to utilize the Google Search box built into the browser already.

It also adds Google search results to the “Awesomebar” (such a modest name…) so that you can either type in a string that matches a bookmark or URL in the history, or just type a search string and choose from the top Google results. If you want to see the whole set of Google results, you still need to use the Google search box or go directly to Google.

Getting Copy & Paste Right

This probably won’t mean much to Linux users, since we have Copy & Paste as God intended, but for folks on Windows and Mac OS X, it’s a really handy addition. SmarterFox allows you to automatically copy text when it’s highlighted (as it already is added to the buffer in Linux) and allows you to enable paste on middle button mouse click (as God intended and already is on Linux). You’ll need to enable these in the SmarterFox options, but it’s quite handy if you’re on a platform where Copy & Paste requires a specific shortcut.

SmarterFox is an interesting mixture of features, almost all of which I found useful. It doesn’t actually make browsing “faster,” but it does make things a bit easier. As they say — work smarter, not harder — and SmarterFox definitely fits in that category.

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