Tree Style Tab Makes Tabbed Browsing Even Better

treestyletab_tabsFirefox only:  Do you remember the first time you discovered tabbed browsing, and how wonderful it was?  Well, for as much as tabbed browsing has revolutionized our browsing experience, tabs still seem to be clunky and inefficient at times (especially if you’re a power user).

The solution lies in Tree Style Tab, an add-on for Firefox that turns your space-limited horizontal tab bar into a vertical column with a tree-style hierarchy.  If you have a widescreen monitor, switching to Tree Style Tab is a no-brainer because it makes better use of your extra horizontal space (instead of cramming into your already limited vertical space).

treestyletab
Default Firefox Tabs

Not only does this add-on give you more room for tabs, it also neatly organizes them into a tree-style hierarchy.  This means that when you open a link from a website in a new tab, it will organize that new tab as a child of the original website.  This allows you to keep separate browsing sessions grouped together, and you can minimize groups to keep them out of the way.  All tabs are interchangeable, so if you want to move a child to a different parent it can be done by dragging and dropping it somewhere else.

treestyletab_enables
Firefox with Tree Style Tabs

To add Tree Style Tab to your browser, head over to the add-on download page and click ‘Add to Firefox’.  After a browser restart, new tabs will open up in a column on the left side of your browser (which can be adjusted to show up on any side).

There are two small configuration changes I recommend making to Tree Style Tab.  By default, Tree Style Tabs opens custom-sized script generated windows (like Gmail’s external composer) in a new tab instead of a separate window.  To restore the original functionality, navigate to the Tree Style Tab options under Tools –> Add-ons in Firefox.  Under the Tab Operations tab, open the ‘Open tabs instead of windows’ tab and check ‘Open as Window when it have [sic] special width, height, etc’.

treestyletab_javascript_tabsTree Style Tab also minimizes unfocused tab groups by default, but I like to keep them open to jump around quickly (and I have plenty of space to keep them open).  To change this, visit the Tree Style Tab options page again and click the Advanced tab.  In here, uncheck ‘Collapse distractive subtrees automatically, when a tab is opened or focused’.

treestyletab_focus_groupsTree Style Tab allows for an incredible amount of customization, so spend some time in the options menu and find your perfect configuration.

Tree Style Tab is a free add-on for Mozilla Firefox.  [Tree Style Tab | Add-ons for Firefox]

Fix: Firefox Won’t Save Cookies or Auto-Logins

firefoxquestion1Update 06-16-09: Mozilla has announced in Firefox 3.0.11 that “Several issues were reported with the internal database, SQLite, which have now been fixed by upgrading to a newer version.”  So if this guide works for you, be sure to upgrade to the newest version of Firefox.

It can strike when you least expect it – Firefox amnesia.  The symptom: Firefox no longer keeps you automatically logged in to sites where you have selected the “remember me” option.  I recently had this problem, and although Firefox would maintain my logins during my current session, they would immediately be forgotten when I closed the browser.  Typically, this problem is related to browser cookies, which are small data files stored on your computer by websites to help identify you and store information.

Before you start, it is important that you verify that Firefox’s forgetfulness is not caused by a simpler problem.  First, you should clear your current cookies, which can be done by going to Tools –> Clear Private Data and checking the Cookies box.  While you’re in there, you could clear your browser’s cache and authenticated sessions as well (just in to be safe).

firefoxamnesia1

Next, you should temporarily disable any add-ons you are currently using to ensure they are not causing conflicts with your browser’s operation.  You can systematically disable them one at a time via Tools –> Add-ons, or you can disable them all at once by running Firefox in Safe Mode and choosing to disable all add-ons.

To disable all add-ons at once, go to Start –> Mozilla Firefox –> Mozilla Firefox (Safe Mode)  and check the “Disable all add-ons” box.  You could also check the “Reset all user preferences to Firefox defaults” to make sure it isn’t a problem with your browser settings, but be warned: this will remove any custom settings you have made (such as your browser’s start page).

firefoxamnesia

If the methods above did not resolve Firefox’s forgetfulness, then the source of this problem is likely caused by a file called cookies.sqlite becoming corrupt.  This file manages Firefox’s cookies, and if it becomes corrupt it can stop Firefox from storing cookies altogether.

To fix the problem, completely exit Firefox and head to your Firefox Profile folder.  In Windows XP/Vista, this folder can be accessed by going to your Start Menu and clicking Run.  Copy and paste the following: %APPDATA%/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles into the dialog box and press enter, and open your unique profile folder which will appear like jibberish (mine being 1nbhqks4.default)

In this folder, locate the file named cookies.sqlite.  Copy this file to a safe location as a backup (or you can rename the file to something like cookies.BAK) and then delete the original.  When you reopen Firefox, it will create a new cookies.sqlite file and it should now store cookies properly.

firefoxamnesia2

Note:  If you are still having problems after following this guide, check your virus scanner to make sure it is not modifying or quarantining your cookie files.

Files Over Miles: Browser to Browser File Sharing

A newly launched service allows you to send files (large files included) directly from your web browser to another web browser.  Files Over Miles is a service that is built upon the P2P file transfer capabilities that are included in Version 10 of Adobe Flash Player.  With this P2P capability, the need for an intermediate server is eliminated, transferring the file directly from one web browser to another.

Features of Files Over Miles include:

  • High Speed
  • Ability to send large files
  • Encryption (128 bit AES)
  • Works with any browser with Adobe Flash Player 10.
  • UDP Hole Punching

Limitations of Files Over Miles:

  • Sent file can only be as large as the available amount RAM of the sender’s computer  (ex. 755 MB of RAM free means 755 MB is the largest size file transmittable).
  • Recipient may only receive files that are smaller than half of the available RAM on their computer (ex. 512 MB of RAM free means largest receivable file is 255 MB) [Limitation of Adobe Flash].
  • Will not work if either party is behind a firewall that blocks UDP packets.
  • Sender’s browser must remain open while recipient is download the file.

How To

  1. Visit http://www.FilesOverMiles.com
  2. Select the file to upload from your local computer and a unique URL will be generated.
  3. Share the URL with the person you want to receive the file.
  4. Once they have started the download, the file will be loaded into the sender’s memory  (The sender’s browser must remain open for the duration of the file transfer).
  5. The file is transferred and loaded into the recipient’s memory.
  6. When the file has been transferred, it can be saved onto a local drive on the recipient’s computer.
  7. Both browser windows may be closed when the file transfer is complete.

Future Development

Currently Files Over Miles is a beta product with more development planned.  The next stage of development includes a BitTorrent-like protocol that distributes the upstream load on the uploaded, allowing the file to be shared faster.  Solutions to tight firewall/network restrictions are also being worked on.  There is also a link on the right side of the page to allow you to give feedback and suggest new features for the service.

Let us know your thoughts of Files Over Miles below.

Firefox Desktop Turns Your Browser Into an Operating System (sort of)

ffdesktop7Firefox only:  With the advent of cloud computing and sites such as Gmail, Google Docs, and even the online version of Photoshop, it is clear that desktop computing as we know it is beginning to shift towards an internet environment.  Browsers are quickly becoming the focal point of all our daily computing tasks, which easily explains the recent popularity of netbooks and mini computers.

Desktop is an extension for Firefox that transforms your New Tab window into a virtual browser-based desktop.  Websites are displayed as icons using a screenshot of the page itself (or a custom image), and you can add search widgets as well as folders to sort your favorite pages.

To install Desktop, head over to the Desktop Add-on page.  Desktop is an experimental add-on for Firefox (meaning that it hasn’t been extensively tested by the public yet), but I have not experienced any crashes or problems with it.  In order to install it, you’ll have to check the “Let me install this experimental add-on” box and then the Add To Firefox button, as shown below.

ffdesktop

Once installed and after restarting your browser, creating a new tab (which can be done under File –> New Tab or by pressing CTRL + T) will open up a blank page which is your Firefox desktop.  I didn’t like the plain white background, so the first thing I did was change it by right clicking on the desktop and selecting Preferences, then adding one of the Firefox backgrounds I found here.

Adding websites to the desktop can be done easily by right clicking on the desktop and selecting
Add –>Thumbnail.

ffdesktop2

In the next menu, you can type in the URL of the site you want to add to your desktop (and it will automatically suggest sites out of your history).  You can even specify a custom image for the desktop icon, but if left empty it will load a thumbnail of the website’s main page.

ffdesktop3

Icons are drag-and-drop and can be resized or removed by clicking the X in the top right corner.  To better organize your websites, you can right click and select Add –> Folder which will create an icon for what is basically a secondary desktop.  Clicking the newly created icon will take you to a new desktop where you can add additional icons, and to return simply click the Back button in your browser.  To get an updated image of the contents of your folder, you can right click the refresh button in the top right corner as shown below.

ffdesktop4

Finally, you can add a search widget to your desktop by right clicking and selecting Add –> Search.  By default it will add your default Firefox search (mine being Google), but by clicking the small circular button in the top right of the widget you will have access to any search provider you have added to Firefox.

ffdesktop5

If you’d like to see your Firefox Desktop as the first page when the browser opens, you can go to Tools –> Options in Firefox and under the Main tab set your homepage to chrome://desktop/content/desktop.html

ffdesktop6

Desktop for Firefox provides a new and unique way to view your favorite websites.  If you’ve created an interesting or useful Firefox Desktop, share it with us in the comments (and you can check out the desktop I created in the image below).

ffdesktop7

How To: Automatically View YouTube Videos in HD and Resized to 720p

youtubehq

Firefox Only:  Now that YouTube has a high quality / high definition option available for almost all videos, you may have found yourself wishing it would be enabled by default.  Realistically, YouTube has the higher quality mode disabled by default to save bandwidth on users who don’t mind lower quality videos, but this guide will show you how to automatically view all YouTube videos in the highest quality available (and also automatically resize certain videos to a higher resolution).

To accomplish this, you will need Firefox with the Greasemonkey add-on installed [New to Greasemonkey? Check out our guide].  Once you’re running Firefox with Greasemonkey, simply install the YouTube HQ + 720p Ultimate Greasemonkey script by clicking the Install button on the script’s information page.  Now when you view a YouTube video which is available in high quality, the high quality option will automatically be enabled.

YouTube videos have varying degrees of quality, so certain high quality videos will be automatically resized to a larger resolution, with many videos displaying at a full 720p.  720p-resized videos are too large for users with a display resolution of less than 1440×900, so if that is the case you can disable the resizing feature by following the instructions provided in the Options section of the script’s information page.

A YouTube video resized for 720p playback.
A YouTube video resized for 720p playback.

This script also contains several additional features which can be enabled or disabled:

  • Autoplay – YouTube videos begin playing automatically by default, but with this option the video will be paused and will buffer until you click the play button.
  • Jump To Player – This option automatically jumps your browser’s view to the video’s location.
  • Adjust Player Colors – Users can customize the foreground and background colors of the YouTube player.
  • Hide Annotations – YouTube allows video authors to add annotations to videos which can many times be spam or just plain annoying.  This option disables them from showing up over your video.
  • Loop – Just as you’d guess, it loops the video.

One important thing to note about Greasemonkey scripts is that if YouTube changes their code, layout, or player, the script could potentially stop working.  If this happens, be sure to check the script’s information page to see if an update is available, and if no updates are available you can contact the script author via that page.

Have a Greasemonkey script for YouTube you’d like to share?  Tell us about it in the comments!

How To: Automatically Hide Labels in Gmail

Hide Gmail LabelsFirefox Only:  Although Gmail’s labels can be extremely useful for organizing and increasing your email productivity, they can become quite a nuisance if you have several labels applied to a message.  When this happens, the labels take over the space that usually displays the message preview, and makes your inbox start to look cluttered and disorganized.

You can automatically hide Gmail’s labels (until you move your mouse over the message) by adding installing the Hide Labels in Message Row script for Greasemonkey. [What’s Greasemonkey? Check out our guide.]

Have any Greasemonkey scripts for Gmail you enjoy?  Share them in the comments.

UPDATE 04/23/09: The Better Gmail 2 add-on for Firefox now has built-in support for the Hide Labels in Message Row script.

Spice Up Firefox’s Appearance with Personas

firefoxFirefox is a great browser, but despite all it’s usefulness it is pretty drab in the aesthetics department.  While the browser has always allowed you to install themes to modify its appearance, they have never been wildly popular nor particularily intuitive for the everyday user.

Personas for Firefox are lightweight, easy-to-install “skins” that can be changed quickly and easily.  New Personas are added every day to the Persona gallery, and users can easily create their own Personas.

Personas have a some great benefits:

  • They can be changed on-the-fly.  While browsing Personas, simply hover your mouse over a Persona to preview it in real time on your browser.  If you like it – simply click “wear this”!
  • Personas can be added, removed or updated by their designers at any time, without requiring a software update.
  • The software is open source!

Want to see what Personas can add to your browser?  Check out the Personas demo from Mozilla or go directly to the Personas page to install it and get started.  Once installed, you can check out the Personas gallery or be creative an make your own.

Personally, I’m really enjoying the Firefox B Persona.  Have a favorite Persona or have you created your own?  Share it in the comments!

Enhance Websites in Firefox with Greasemonkey

Greasemonkey is an extremely versatile add-on for Mozilla Firefox which allows users to install scripts that can make modifications to most HTML-based websites.  Greasemonkey can greatly enhance a website by changing the layout, adding new features, or increasing ease-of-use.

To install Greasemonkey, head on over to the Firefox Add-On Greasemonkey page and click “Add to Firefox”.  After restarting your browser, Greasemonkey will be active and ready to accept scripts (it should be noted that Greasemonkey will have no installed scripts by default). Continue reading “Enhance Websites in Firefox with Greasemonkey”