Plus, if You Act Now…

A complete set of Steak Knives!!

No, this isn’t an infomercial for the latest cheesy gadget you didn’t know you couldn’t live without. This is all about web browser add-ons. One of the coolest things about any modern web browser, whether it’s Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Google Chrome, is various plug-ins that can make your computer time safer, more productive, and will give you whiter teeth and fresher breath. (Kidding about that last part.)

First, let’s talk about the add-ons that you don’t need. They are called Toolbars, and, for the most part, they are the bane of an internet user’s existence. Their chief purpose is to keep their creator’s name and brand in your face all the time. Everybody has one; Google, Yahoo, AOL, eBay, Microsoft, Norton, AVG, etc… I’ve seen people’s browser with half a dozen toolbars, so cluttering up the screen that they could hardly see the page they were on. They also often do a fine job of slowing things down, as well.

Too Many Toolbars!

Toolbar Hell

These miserable excuses for software usually hitchhike on other, useful software you might install. That’s why, when you install anything on your computer, you need to read the installation screens carefully, and uncheck all of those pre-checked boxes that say, “Also install XYZ Toolbar…” You never need a toolbar to use any program unless you intended to install a toolbar, which you probably didn’t.

The good news is that they are easy to disable or uninstall. Go to “Programs and Features” in your control panel to do this. They usually also have an “X” at one end that allows you to close (Disable)  them. If they don’t, go to your “View” menu and deselect all toolbars you don’t want to see.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: What kind of useful browser add-ons are there?

Security and Privacy add-ons

  • Web of Trust: Available for IE, Firefox, and Chrome, this add-on will give you a “Trustworthiness Rating” for most websites you visit. It will warn you if you try to visit a site that’s been rated as harmful, before you can connect to the site.
  • Adblock Plus: Like the name implies, blocks many of the most annoying and sometimes malicious ads. Available for IE, Firefox, and Chrome.
  • DoNotTrackMe: This add-on prevents many websites from tracking your browsing, plus gives you the option to anonymize your email, so you’ll get less unwanted email.
  • NoScript: This prevents “Scripts” (Small programs, actually) from running in your browser. Note: Some websites will not work correctly unless scripts are enabled, however, there are many malicious scripts out there, so NoScript allows you to only enable the ones you really need – Temporarily or permanently.

Other worthwhile Add-Ons:

These are my other favorite add-ons. They work in Firefox (My favorite browser), and there are probably versions for other browsers as well.

  • Forecastfox: Get the weather conditions and forecast, unobtrusively in the bottom bar of Firefox. Very customizable.
  • Tab Mix Plus: Extends and customizes your browser tabs. I don’t know how I lived without it.
  • All-in-One Sidebar: Puts all your information – Bookmarks, add-ons, downloads, and history in one place – in a retractable sidebar.
  • Download Helper: Does what it says, plus makes it possible to download videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and more.

There are many other add-ons available. Internet Explorer is the only browser I’ve mentioned that doesn’t have it’s own official add-on repository. Firefox’s can be found Here, and Chrome’s, Here. Chances are, you’ll find something you didn’t know you needed until you tried it!