Monday, March 16, 2009

Week 10 - Browser Tools

This week we are going to explore some tools that you can add to your browser to make it more productive, fun and interesting.

About Browsers

There are a variety of browsers available (Firefox, IE, Flock, Opera, Chrome), but no one browser is likely to fulfill all your needs. This is where browser extensions (also called add-ons or plug-ins) come in. Third parties, usually talented programmers, create small programs that extend the browser's functionality. By installing some of these extensions, you can customize the browser to your liking. Of the big two browsers (Firefox and IE), Firefox has traditionally been the most extensible as it is based on open source software. Many more extensions are available for Firefox, although IE users now have several options available to them.

About Browser Extensions/Addons
What will these extensions let you do? Practically everything; however, you do need to exercise some judgement as to how many extensions to install. The more plugins, the slower your browser become, particularly on start up. Depending upon your interests, you may want to install extensions related to entertainment, social networking, increasing productivity (always a big hit in the Library), research, etc. If you added the Delicious toolbar in week 5, you will already have one extension in your browser. Here are a few examples of plug-ins that may interest you:

Cooliris is a plugin that lets you transform your browser into a lightning fast, cinematic way to browse online photos and videos. It works with a variety of sites: Flickr, Facebook, Google Images, YouTube, KodakGallery, Picasa Web Albums, etc.
Cooliris for Firefox
; Cooliris for IE

StumbleUpon lets you discover websites based on your interests. When you click on the StumbleUpon button in your browser toolbar, you are brought to sites of interest to you. For more information, check the StumbleUpon video (approx. 1 minute).
StumbleUpon for Firefox
; StumbleUpon for IE

Colorful Tabs is a fun extension that merely adds color to the tabs in your browser. Colorful Tabs for Firefox

Screengrab saves webpages as images. It will capture what you can see in the window, the entire page, just a selection, a particular frame... basically it saves webpages as images - either to a file, or to the clipboard. This is particularly useful if you want to capture screenshots for a presentation or even if you just want to record an error message.
Screengrab for Firefox

Google Toolbar
lets you search Google and access your various Google services directly from your browser toolbar. Google Toolbar for Firefox and IE

is a toolbar that libraries can customize and offer to their patrons. It allows users to search their library catalogue, eresources, Google Scholar, etc. directly from the browser toolbar. It also allows users to do searches in their library resources for text found in web pages by providing a right-click context-sensitive menu. More information and installation instructions for Firefox.

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself and provides functionality similar to RefWorks.
Zotero for Firefox

More extensions for Firefox and IE

Activities for this Week

There is one main activity for this week - choose one of the browser extensions above (if you use Firefox, you will find that you have more choices), install it in your browser and then blog about your extension experiences. If you have installed other extensions that might be of interest to other RULA2.0 participants, let us know about them in your blog.

When installing extensions in Firefox and IE, you will most likely get a message similar to the following:


This message will pop up just above the webpage and is easy to miss. It is just warning you that you are about to install a software programme. You will need to follow the instructions in this bar to be able to install your plug in.

Removing Extensions
If you have installed an extension that you no longer want, you can remove it. In Firefox, go into the Tools menu, select "Add-ons" and select the extension you want to uninstall. Click the "Uninstall" button. In IE, go into the Tools menu, select Manage Add-ons, then Enable or Disable Add-ons, select the add-on. Click the uninstall button then OK.

Advanced Activity (Optional)
By installing something called Greasemonkey in your Firefox Browser, you can customize the way a web page looks and behaves. The Library has created a script to run with Greasemonkey that will show you the status of books in the Ryerson Library when you are searching the Indigo, Amazon and Google Books sites.

To enable this for your Firefox browser you will need to:

Optional Readings and Resources
Seven Best Add-ons for IE7 (Wired)
Web Browser Extensions - Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki
Firefox Addons

1 comment:

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