I’m trying to work my way down this software list in value of importance.  I don’t have a list in my head, but I’m creating it as I go.  Ultimately, the list will be a repository of really cool stuff.  But I have no criteria beyond that for the ordering of the things on here.  Some of these are important (last week’s antivirus, and the initial category of backup).  The creme filling in that unnamed sandwich cookie was Irfanview, which is really cool but not critical.  Today’s entry is a bump smoother.

Firefox is the tool of the week.  This is an alternate browser to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (not-so-affectionately called “Internet Exploder”).  Firefox works the same way as IE – you put in a web address and you go to a site.  Aaaaah, but it’s about the trip as well as the destination.  Firefox lets you personalize your browser, in many different ways, and they give you hundreds of ways to customize it.

These little things are called add-ons, and they are added on top of the base Firefox program.  There’s a list of them here, but I’ll give you my favorites and tell you why.  Think of it as “cool tools for Firefox”.

The top one has to be AdBlock Plus.  This will stop most advertisements from coming to your screen.  You will be surprised at how smooth your browsing is without all the junky advertisements around.  This also lets you block pictures, either individually or by originating site.  This is especially helpful if one of your favorite sites occasionally has offensive pix (I’m talking about you, Matt Drudge).

A close second is FlashBlock.  This stops all those animations from happening.  The window that the animation would play in is replaced with a “go” button.  Press it to see the animation.  Very handy, even after the ads are blocked.

Xmarks keeps track of all your bookmarks, out there on the web (they call it “the cloud”, but it just means somebody’s computer).  Very handy if you’re helping on somebody else’s PC and you know you have a bookmark for it.  Or if you’re getting a new computer for Christmas . . .  use this now, and then install it on the new computer.  Voila – instant bookmark sync!  And of course Firefox can slurp all your IE bookmarks when you install it.

Gmail Manager checks for mail on a schedule you set, and tells you when you have something new.  And if you hover your mouse over the icon, it will show you a snippet of the unread emails.  You can choose to jump over and reply to your honey, or you can ignore the latest ad email (and wonder why it was again that you signed up for notifications from eBay on pink flamingos).

Go to Google does exactly what it says.  It opens up a new tab, opens the Google site, and switches you to that tab.  It doesn’t do anything more.  It just does it simply and perfectly.  I’m not a fan of the built-in searching that sits up top of browsers.  I want to search from the Google page.

There are lots of other good add-ons.  I use FoxClocks, which shows you the time around the world in as many places as you’d like to see.  Other people have used (and like) GreaseMonkey for customizing scripts.  They also use NoScript to stop JavaScript from running.  That is supposed to stop a lot of badness from being able to run on your PC, but I have not tried either of the last two.  Although with download counts of 26 million and 58 million, they’re doing something right.

Happy browsing!