Extending Mozilla

After nearly three months, I’m still using Mozilla‘s Firefox as my default browser. It’s just too good not to do so. Since I recently switched hosts, I decided to take a better look at my stats. It seems that somewhere around 5% of you agree with my decision – at least to the extent that you also use a Mozilla-based browser (though that is not necessarily Firefox).

It continues to surprise me that the number is so low. I don’t hold to any illusions – it’s quite likely that Firefox will never overtake Internet Explorer, and that’s okay. But for a much more stable platform and such a better experience, it’s really quite worthwhile, even if it doesn’t come pre-installed.

More importantly, I love the extendibility of Firefox. If it doesn’t do something the way you like, change it. True, many of those things do take some coding experience, but it’s really not that much. If you can create web pages using HTML and Javascript (and potentially some CSS), you can create a Mozilla extension. It really is that easy.

Inspired by David‘s FDSubscriber extension, and his comments about a similar funcitonality for Bloglines, I decided to see if I could do it. In a nutshell? It seems that I can. It took some doing, and there were a number of stumbling blocks along the way (which I’ll share in the future). But I finally managed to create the Bloglines Tooklit for Mozilla (download here).

This should probably be considered beta software. It shouldn’t break anything, but it might. If you’re nervous about that sort of thing, you might want to skip it. If you’re the adventurous type, you should be able to start the install process by simply clicking the link above. If it doesn’t start, try saving the file to disk, and then using the File->Open File option to open it, and it should do it then.

You’ll need to restart your browser for the Toolkit to be loaded. Once you do, you’ll see a small Bloglines logo in the lower-right hand corner. Right click it to view the preferences. You’ll be able to turn on the context menu, indicate how you’d like to open links and enable the Bloglines notifier. Even if you’re not sure how you’ll like them, try each option and experiment. You might find something you like, and you can always turn them off again later.

The context menu adds a number of options to the right-click menu when you’re viewing a web page. Try it out to see the features it will provide. The opening of links allows for you to open links in the current window, a new window or a new tab (in the background or the foreground). The notifier will check your account at an interval you specify for new items, so you can always keep up-to-date on your reading. Let me know how it works out for you.

Update #1: Lots of great feedback. A new version of the toolkit is in the works that will address some of the issues mentioned here. It should be available later today. The one area that I’m having difficulty is with Mac OS X, as I have nowhere to test it, not having access to an OS X machine. I’ll keep looking to see what I can figure out, but any suggestions are welcome.

Update #2: Version 0.9 of the extension is now available, and it addresses many of the issues brought up here in the comments.




19 responses to “Extending Mozilla”

  1. Floyd Etienne Avatar
    Floyd Etienne

    Hi again,

    Duh! I should have read these comments before I posted my request. I’ve successfully installed 1.6.8.

    Thanks so much for maintaining the extension.


  2. Floyd Etienne Avatar
    Floyd Etienne

    Hi Chad,

    I’ve been using your Mozilla notifier and I love it. Unfortunately, I’ve upgraded to Firefox 2 and the notifier isn’t compatible. Would you please consider tweaking it.

    Thanks much,

  3. Chad Everett Avatar

    Version 1.6.8 was released in December of 2006, and is completely compatible with Firefox 2. Is there something that it doesn’t do for you?

  4. gar Avatar

    Ever since I upgraded to Firefox 2.0, I’ve stopped using Bloglines. Your notifier was *the* key to making it a useful tool for me. Any plans for a new version?

  5. Amit C Avatar
    Amit C

    Bug report for Bloglines toolkit 1.6

    With Bloglines toolkit 1.6 and firefox 1.5, subscribe to this link menu item is no longer working. I do have many other extensions including Tabbrowser preferences.
    Toolkit is set to open links in new tab.


  6. Chad Everett Avatar

    Shrike (wossName, midnight and others) – Please check out the new release, as it addresses the unread notification.

    Adam (Liam, Scott and others) – Please check out the new release as well, as it includes improvements designed to make the extension work better under OS X. You should be able to ctrl-click, and the position of the icon should now not be obscured.

    Kevin – This is the only complaint I’ve heard about that particular issue. I tried emailing you but haven’t heard back. Please let me know if you’re still seeing the problem and I’ll see if I can fix it.

    wossName – As to the links, it’s mostly a matter of time and (admittedly, my) convenience. I’m not saying I’ll never add those options, but for right now, it would take time that I don’t have to write the code to handle the clicks differently than by using the prefs (which should now be easily accessible to anyone). Some of the work I did for the OS X stuff may make this easier in the long run, however.

    Jason – I’m still looking into the bubble option (or other options similar to it).

    cornflux – While I can see certain things being useful in Thunderbird, I’m not completely sure how it would work. I also haven’t ever done anything for Thunderbird. But I think it ought to be pretty similar. I’ll look into it and see if I can figure anything out. It just probably won’t be today. 🙂

    Thanks to everyone for stopping by and leaving your feedback! Please try out the new release when you can and let me know what you think.

    I’m closing the comments on this entry. Please leave any future feedback on the new one, as it will make it easier for me to keep up.

  7. Midnight Avatar

    I love it too! I agree with other comments that it would be nice if the icon changed so you know if you have new items and that the default interval is too short.

    Much nicer than the system tray… Great work!

  8. cornflux Avatar

    Seems to me this tool would be a nice addition to Thunderbird, as well.

  9. wossName Avatar

    Excellent, a cross-platform notifier !

    Concerning the read/unread icon, the Windows notifier does this exactly right, IMHO. When clicked, it just pops open the browser (which in my case is Firefox anyway) and clears the status icon. If I don’t actually read the news within the update period, the light will just come back on, as it should.

    In addition to (or in place of) the “Link Options”, why not make the icon behave like a regular link when clicked ? From the top of my head, this would mean:

    Click = Open in same window
    Shift-Click = Open in new window
    Ctrl-Click/Middle Button = Open in background tab
    Shift-Ctrl-Click/Shift-Middle Button = Open in foreground tab