All posts tagged ‘add-ons’

File Under: Browsers, JavaScript

Latest Update Makes JetPack Add-ons More Powerful

Mozilla Labs has announced the release of JetPack 0.8, an update to its new, lightweight extensions framework for Firefox. Jetpack lets people use common web tools like HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build Firefox add-ons.

The latest release of JetPack brings two new APIs in the fold; the Toolbar API, which lets JetPack developers place custom buttons and controls in the Firefox UI much like traditional add-ons can do, and a new Places API, which allows JetPack add-ons to interact with Firefox’s history and bookmarking tools.

Together with the existing APIs, JetPack is starting to look like a much more capable platform for add-ons developers. While JetPack will never be able to duplicate all the functionality of the existing Firefox add-ons system, Mozilla’s plan is migrate as many developers and add-ons as possible to JetPack without eliminating the existing platform.

JetPack offers several advantages over traditional add-ons, both for developers and users. Developers get to use common web building tools like HTML, CSS and JavaScript, whereas traditional Firefox add-ons generally require knowledge of XUL markup. Users can install JetPack add-ons without restarting their browser, and the lightweight add-ons usually have less of an impact on browser performance.

Eventually, Mozilla plans to incorporate JetPack into Firefox release, most likely Firefox 4.0, due at the end of next year, though there is some chance JetPack could be part of the planned upgrades between now and then. For now though, interested developers can grab the JetPack add-on that allows JetPack to work within current version of Firefox.

While JetPack was innovative when Mozilla first announced it, Google has since added an extension system to its Chrome browser that works on the same principles as JetPack — using web-based tools like HTML and CSS. It would be nice if Chrome extensions would work with JetPack and vice versa, but differences between the underlying browsers make such compatibility unlikely.

Jetpack is still an experimental Labs project and may have some bugs, but if you’d like to take some JetPacks for a spin, head over to the Labs website, install the add-on and then browse the available JetPack extensions.

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File Under: Browsers, Software

New Firebug Lite Adds Web Dev Tools to Any Browser

The developers of Firebug, the popular Firefox add-on for web developers, have released a new beta of Firebug Lite, the lightweight version of Firebug that works in any browser.

This new version is a significant update to Firebug Lite. While the full power of Firebug still requires Firefox (see our coverage of the recently released Firebug 1.5), Firebug Lite 1.3 adds some great HTML and CSS debugging tools to any browser, including IE6+, Opera, Safari and Google Chrome.

The lastest beta release of Firebug Lite — which is bookmarklet script that you can add to your browser’s favorites bar — features significant speed boosts and many improvements to the HTML and CSS inspectors. The visual interface of Firebug Lite has also been revamped to match that of Firebug 1.3. For more details on everything that’s new in the Firebug Lite 1.3 beta be sure to check out the release notes.

Google’s Chrome browser gets some special attention in the latest release, with a new Firebug Lite beta extension that makes Firebug Lite feel like a part of Google Chrome. The Chrome extension still lacks the JavaScript debugger and the Net Panel found in Firebug proper, but otherwise is behaves much like Firefox version.

For other browsers Firebug Lite 1.3 remains a bookmarklet with the same functionality — if not the UI integration — of the Google Chrome version.

If Firefox isn’t your bag, or if you don’t need the JavaScript debugging tools of Firebug, the Lite version has you covered and will work in the browser of your choice. Keep in mind that this is a beta release, though we encountered no problems during our testing.

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Weave 1.0 Released, Firefox Officially Gets Syncing

It’s official, your Firefox syncing prayers have been answered — Weave 1.0 has arrived.

Weave is a free add-on for Firefox that syncs your data — bookmarks, browsing history, open tabs, Personas and stored passwords — across multiple PCs running Firefox and supported mobile devices. Weave is currently an add-on available through Mozilla Labs, but look for Weave to become a part of Firefox itself later this year.

Once installed, Weave works transparently in the background, syncing your data to Mozilla’s servers and then on to any other synced computers (you can use your own server for syncing, too). The result is a universal browsing experience that offers the ability to move from one computer to another without interrupting your customized workflow. Weave syncing in very fast — when you’re setting up a new computer, or a new instance of Firefox on your user account on a multi-user machine, you basically get your own version of the browser, tricked out and bookmarked to your specs, about a minute after you log in to Weave.

There is, however, one major element of Firefox missing from Weave’s syncing capabilities — Firefox add-ons. The good news is that add-on syncing, along with search box plug-in syncing, are scheduled to arrive with Weave 1.1, though so far there’s no hint of a release date.

Now that Weave is ready to graduate from Mozilla Labs to prime time add-on, Mozilla plans to incorporate the add-on into Firefox, making sync a standard feature of the browser.

Whether a built-in version of Weave for Firefox will arrive with the next major release or be part of Mozilla’s new “rolling release” schedule remains to be seen. In the mean time, if you don’t want to wait you can download a copy of Weave and get started today.

Keep in mind that, if you’ve been using early releases of Weave, it’s best to update all computers running Weave before attempting to sync.

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File Under: Browsers, Software, UI/UX

Ubiquity Alternatives Offer Power Users Command-Line Tools for the Web

Those of you itching for a simple command-line interface to control your favorite web apps now have several different choices.

Last week, we told you that Mozilla Labs had put Ubiquity on the back burner. Mozilla’s Ubiquity project for Firefox promises to eventually bring the power of the command line into your web browser, enabling you to perform specific tasks — like e-mail a link to a Gmail contact, post a tweet, check the weather or pinpoint something on a map — all with just a few keystrokes. Ubiquity showed promise, but Mozilla has decided it needs to focus on other projects, which unfortunately means Ubiquity currently doesn’t work with the newly released Firefox 3.6.

Luckily, Ubiquity is not an entirely new idea. There have been quite a few attempts to create powerful, command-line interfaces for interacting with the web. Here are some tools you can explore while Ubiquity is laying low.

One of the newest command-line-style tools is Quix, a JavaScript bookmarklet that offers keyboard-based access to text commands. You can use Quix to shorten URLs on the fly, post messages to Facebook, search Flickr photos and loads more, all without lifting your fingers from the keyboard.

Quix is like any other JavaScript bookmarklet you’ve used, you simply drag the provided button to your bookmarks toolbar and then click it. Keyboard junkies can assign a shortcut to the bookmarklet and bring up the Quix dialog without using the mouse (Quix has instructions on how to set that up in each supported browser).

Once the Quix window is activated you can type any number of commands — see the Quix site for a complete list of what’s available — or extend Quix by writing your own commands. The Quix command syntax is borrowed from Shaun Inman’s Shortwave, a similar command-based JavaScript bookmarklet.

While Shortwave doesn’t offer as many commands out of the box as Quix does, it is extendable, so you can always write your own. Even if you don’t extend it, Shortwave makes a good, lightweight option.

Yubnub is another command-line-style option for power users looking for an Ubiquity alternative. Yubnub is quite a bit older than Quix and consequently already has a loyal following of users — some 22,000 commands have already been written.

Like Quix, Yubnub works in just about any web browser and the thriving hacker community that’s grown up around it have managed to integrate Yubnub tools into Mac OS X, a Python library and even the Sony PSP.

While all three of these bookmarklet tools cover some aspects of Ubiquity, none of them can match Ubiquity’s integration with Firefox, nor do they cover all the tasks Ubiquity can handle. On the plus side, if you use multiple browsers, you might be better off with Quix, Shortwave or Yubnub since they will work anywhere.

And we’ll be sure to let you know when Ubiquity moves back into the spotlight at Mozilla Labs.

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File Under: Browsers, Software

Chrome Extensions Go Legit

Google has added two much-requested features to its Chrome web browser: extensions support and bookmark syncing between multiple computers.

The features are included in the latest version of Google Chrome, which was made available Monday as a free download. The update, which curiously does not carry a version number, is for Windows users only. Mac and Linux versions of Chrome are still catching up to the Windows release.

Both extensions and bookmark syncing have been available for some time to anyone using a beta release of Chrome, but people sticking with the official releases haven’t been able to get in on the fun. If you’re running an official release version of Chrome, you should see an update alert shortly. If you’d rather not wait, head over to the download page.

Once you’ve got the latest version installed you can browse through the over 1,500 extensions in the new Chrome Extension gallery. As we’ve said in the past, Chrome extensions don’t offer the range of functionality you’ll find in Firefox, but for popular extensions like e-mail notifiers, Twitter utilities or OpenID auto-fill for faster logins, Chrome has you covered.

Also new to the stable version of Chrome is bookmark syncing, which means you can automatically synchronize your Chrome bookmarks across computers. The built-in bookmark syncing features will work for most users, but if you’d like to sync bookmarks between Chrome, Safari and Firefox across multiple PCs, be sure to check out the XMarks extension.

There’s no word on when official support for extensions and bookmark syncing will make its way to OS X or Linux. If you’d like the same features on non-Windows versions of Chrome, you’ll need to download the appropriate beta or Dev channel release.

Web developers should also take note that Monday’s stable channel release contains enhanced support for several web APIs, including JavaScript, various web storage APIs, and WebSockets. There’s also support for adding desktop notifications to your web app the less-annoying way — in the user’s status bar instead of in noisy alert boxes. More details are posted on the Chromium blog.

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