Even though Firefox usage has declined over the past few years, it still sits second behind Google Chrome in terms of usage. The main reason for this is add-ons. Firefox can be customized in a million different ways, which no other browser can match up to this level.
In Firefox terminology, add-ons can consist of several things: extensions, themes, plug-ins, services, search providers, language packs, and so on. Add-ons allow you to change the way Firefox works, extend its functionality, or customize the look of your browser.
The latest version of Firefox updates add-ons automatically, although this can be changed in the settings. In addition, any add-ons you install from the add-on page in Firefox have been approved by Mozilla and should be safe to use. You can also download add-ons from third-party sites and install them manually, but these add-ons are not verified by Mozilla.
Search for add-ons
Let’s start by finding add-ons to install in Firefox. There are two ways to do this, either through the web browser itself or through the Firefox Add-on Gallery website. For the first method, click the settings icon in the far right corner (three horizontal lines), and then click Add-Ins.
Another tab will open where you can find add-ons, extensions, themes, plugins, etc. and manage them. If you already know what you are looking for, you can simply find the add-on in the box at the top.
To install the add-on, simply click the Install button. Some add-ons will require a browser restart, and some will not. For some reason, only the website gallery shows which add-ons don’t need to be restarted.
The second way to find add-ons is to visit the Mozilla Add-ons website. I like this interface better because you can search by categories: most popular, most popular, most users, newest, etc.
It is also much easier to find themes and collections in the website version. Collections is a really cool section created by users who group together multiple Firefox add-ons related to a particular idea or concept.
For example, you can install the Reference Desk collection, which will install ScrapBook, Merriam-Webster, and Memonic Web Clipper together. If you’re a web developer, Toolbox for Web Developer has 12 add-ons that are ideal for troubleshooting, editing, and debugging web projects.
Now that you’ve installed a few add-ons and themes, let’s talk about how we can manage them.
The first thing you’ll notice after installing the add-on is the new icon in the Firefox toolbar. Here I have an AdBlock Plus badge and a NoScript badge added automatically.
Having buttons on the toolbar allows me to control the settings for every web page I visit, so it makes sense to put them there. Other add-ons will not necessarily add a button to your toolbar. You can customize what appears in the toolbar by clicking the settings icon and then clicking Customize at the very bottom.
This will open a new tab that will allow you to customize Firefox. On the left is the Advanced Tools and Features section, which represents virtually all of the options that are currently available to be added to the toolbar or settings menu on the right.
Just drag and drop the items as desired. If other buttons are available for the add-ons you installed, those additional buttons will appear on the left side.
Now let’s go back to the add-on page we started with at the beginning of the article. Now you will see that by default the page opens in the Extensions tab and not in Get Add-ons.
On the right, you will see all installed plugins. At the very top, you will see a gear icon that will allow you to manually check for add-on updates, install the add-on from a file, or disable automatic add-on updates. If you want to manually update your add-ons, just uncheck the corresponding checkbox.
As for the add-ons themselves, you have several options. You can uninstall the plugin which will completely remove it. You can also disable the plugin, which will disable the functionality but leave it installed in Firefox.
Finally, the Options button is specific to each add-in and allows you to customize the options enabled by the developer. For example, the options for image searches in the Google add-on let you choose whether to display the camera icon when you hover over an image.
That’s all you can do with add-ons. If you click Appearance, you can change the Firefox theme to any other theme you have installed.
Click the Enable button to activate the new theme for Firefox, and the theme should be applied without restarting your browser. Finally, click on Plugins to manage any installed plugins. By default, Firefox has OpenH264 Video Codec and Primetime Content Decryption plugins installed, so you can watch YouTube, Netflix and other online videos without any problems!
All in all, Firefox add-ons are very easy to use and can add a little bit of functionality and customization to the browser. If you’re already using Firefox, be sure to check out my post on how to make Firefox fast again and tweak the options in about: config. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!