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. Scott Avatar

    I’m a new OS X user (I’ve had my PowerBook 5 days now)… I could open the preferences only through the Firefox Preferences menu (Command-comma, Extensions, select ‘Bloglines ToolKit’, click ‘Options…’).

    Thanks for a kick-ass tool!

  2. Lasse Avatar

    Thanks for writing that Mozilla extension!

  3. Liam Avatar

    A great idea, but doesn’t seem to work under Mac OS X yet — as commenter mentioned above when using in Firefox, right-clicking in Mozilla 1.6 on Mac doesn’t do anything (no preferences). Looking forward to the next version…

  4. Vuarnet Avatar

    I m goning to install it.
    Nice… its a great tool.


  5. Kevin B. O'Reilly Avatar

    Chad, thanks for the effort. I just installed the extension, and wanted to note that I’ve tried all the different link-open options and all it does is open a new window regardless. I wonder if others are experiencing. I look forward to your response. Thanks again!

  6. Adam Avatar

    I’ve installed the toolkit on Firefox .8 under Mac OS X, however, the notifier is partially obscured by the window resize widget in the corner of the window. Also, right clicking on the icon does nothing. This will be a cool extension, for sure.

  7. Jason Alexander Avatar

    Nice work on the toolkit! I love it! Now, if the next version has a nice little bubble notifier or some toast to tell you when there are new blogs to read, that would be the icing on the cake!

    Thanks again for your work!

  8. Shrike Avatar

    Good points right there.
    Maybe you could skip updating the read status for maybe 15 minutes after clicking it? Provided the unread status goes away after a click ๐Ÿ™‚
    You could also make it so that individual users can set that timer themselves (which might be useful)?

    May be the way I read my blogroll or that I have so many really active feeds (news and such), for which that kind of functionality would be really useful.

  9. Chad Everett Avatar

    I’ve toyed with the idea of getting rid of the unread counter, but I’m not quite sure how to do it. I could make it go away as soon as you click it, though if it takes you longer than your default refresh time to read through those items, it’ll just come back again while you’re reading, as unread items will still show up.

    I’m open for ideas. Perhaps remove the message and skip the next two checks? I don’t know. If anyone has a good thought on how it should work, I’m all ears.

    As to the refresh rate – I agree that 60 seconds may be quick, but at the same time, the amount of traffic is negligible. When the request goes through, it doesn’t take much. I just ran a request and the URL was significantly longer than the response. 70 characters to 5. Even with extra overhead of headers and such, you’re only talking maybe 200 characters at a time. That’s not a lot.

  10. Shrike Avatar

    I like it, the old ‘sitting on the tray’ one was getting rather annoying for some reason, but this is exactly what I was looking for.

    Some requests & feedback: When you click the icon, it should drop the red “NN unread items” bit. Now it doesn’t and you can’t really be sure if you have new items or if they’re just the old ones.

    You see, I think setting the check interval to less than 5 minutes is a bit extensive, and creates a lot of needless traffic. The default 60 seconds is ridiculous, if you ask me ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’ve got the interval set to 3600 seconds myself, before this extension it was 6 hours, which is quite enough even tho I have around 50 subscriptions ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyway, cheers for the cool extension.