Trails, a Firefox Add-On to Help With Research

As part of my efforts to improve my productivity, I’ve been looking for tools that can help me during research. One such tool is Trails, a Firefox add-on that can collect text snippets and images from the web, and structure them into a clean booklet layout

How-To: Turbocharge Your Browsing With Greasemonkey

Greasemonkey Icon

While the debate over Mac versus PC will last for eternity, one of the elements that many “diehard” PC users have thrown at Apple fanboys is the ability to really tweak their experience, through application add-ons and plugins.

Mac users who use Firefox have had a little taste of this with Greasemonkey, a Firefox add-on that allows support for on the fly changes to websites. If you haven’t heard of Greasemonkey, this is a must read for you and if your browser of choice isn’t Firefox, we’ll show you how to install its equivalent, GreaseKit with Safari.

What Is Greasemonkey?

Greasemonkey is an add-on for browsers that allow users to install “scripts” that are fine tuned to affect how different websites function. For example, if you’re a person who uses MySpace and really hates how the login page is full of ads, you can install a script that adjusts the display of the page when it loads and gives you a cleaner experience.

Cleaning up MySpace is just the beginning; there are scripts for just about everything. If you’re not a fan of the default Gmail web interface, you can use a script that declutters it.

But it’s not just about changing the look and feel of a website; there are scripts that remove content like ads and scripts that add functionality, like a script that lets you add notes to entries in your Netflix queue.

Installing GreaseKit in Safari

While Greasemonkey is an easy add-on if you use Firefox, you can also use similar add-ons in Safari. For Safari users, begin by downloading SIMBL and install it. Then download GreaseKit and install the bundle file inside to ~/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins. If this folder doesn’t exist, just add it before dropping the file inside.

Next, relaunch Safari and, provided things worked well, you’ll see a new menu entry for GreaseKit. Now go find some scripts (see below) and click “Install This Script” to copy it into GreaseKit. You’ll see the JavaScript flash on screen and eventually it should be added to your GreaseKit menu.

GreaseKit

Getting Scripts

There are a variety of places to find the scripts that integrate with Greasemonkey or GreaseKit. Userscripts.org is perhaps the largest of these and an excellent place to start. I urge caution though as these scripts can become dated when the websites they affect are updated. Also, because you’re not running the scripts in Greasemonkey on Firefox for Windows (where they are usually tested), the add-ons may not function exactly as described. This is likely to happen in Safari if the script is overly complex, requiring additional interfaces to manage it.

Here are the scripts I’ve discussed in this article:

You also might enjoy the Unfriend Finder for Facebook that lets you know when (and who) has unfriended you. This particular script doesn’t work well in Safari, so I recommend using it in Firefox.

Have you found any good scripts? Feel free to use the comments below and let us know what you think.

8 Firefox Add-ons I Can’t Do Without

When I upgraded from Firefox 3.5.7 to 3.6 the other day, I discovered that a few of the add-ons that weren’t yet compatible were important to me. In fact, they had become such an integral part of my daily workflow that I was significantly slowed down without them. In this post I’m going to share the add-ons that I find it hard to be without.

iPhone Becomes a Universal Remote This February

A new third-party accessory and software combo announced at CES will turn an iPhone or iPod touch into a universal remote capable of controlling home theater equipment. The L5 Remote will cost around $49.95, and avoids some shortcomings found in previous similar offerings.

Tip Jar: Getting More Out of Google Voice

Google Voice Icon

With invites going out every day and Google (s goog) and Apple (s aapl) being in the news many times over because of the rejection of its native Google Voice app for the iPhone, many are giving this service a close look. If you’re a Mac or iPhone user, here are some tips that’ll help you get the most out of this service.

Unlocked Phone? Free calls!

Though officially iPhone users in the U.S. should be on the AT&T (s att) network, if you’re using another carrier, you may be able to use your Google Voice number to get around your monthly allotment of minutes. Some carriers, like T-Mobile, offer the ability to provide a list of “frequently” used numbers that do not impact the minutes allowed on a monthly plan. Since Google is footing the bill for connecting calls between a Google Voice number and any other number inside the U.S., simply adding your Google number to your “favorite list” results in free calls. It’s too bad AT&T doesn’t support this feature. Read More about Tip Jar: Getting More Out of Google Voice

Identify Enables Easy Social Snooping

As the number of sites we all use grows, our personal profile information is increasingly scattered across the web. If you make a connection with people on one site, it’s often hard to quickly find out if they use any of the other sites you use, too. Fortunately, a nifty Firefox add-on called Identify makes it easy to access all of a person’s available profiles just by hitting Alt-I on any of his or her publicly accessible profile pages (a Twitter profile page, blog, Flickr stream, Friendfeed page, Digg bio, etc).

This add-on tackles the same problem addressed by web app GizaPage (covered by Scott last week), but goes about it in a different way. GizaPage only works when the person you’re looking for has set up a GizaPages account, while Identify should, in theory, work for anyone.

As an example, here’s Identify on my Twitter homepage: Read More about Identify Enables Easy Social Snooping

Lazarus: Bring Lost Forms Back to Life

I may be prone to worrying, but I don’t think I’m the only one who feels more than a tinge of concern when I need to fill out an online form, especially when its for something important, like a job application.
It just seems like there’s so much that can go wrong and information will be lost before I get to the submit button. Even posting in forums or comments sections can be a little unnerving, because you’re trusting that submit button to faithfully deliver the paragraph you just spent a good 10 minutes getting just the way you want it.
Lazarus, an add-on for Firefox, now makes the internet slightly less ephemeral, and provides an insurance policy in case that submit button isn’t cooperating.
Read More about Lazarus: Bring Lost Forms Back to Life

Make your startup sustainable at (almost) no cost

When your company‘s a start-up, you care a lot about economy and simplicity. And when rapid growth kicks in, for many businesses, the amount of attention paid to energy efficiency and maintaining a small carbon footprint drops in priority.
I’ve held positions at startups and large corporations, including a non-profit arts organization where I was employee # 1 (of 2!) and an energy utility where I was one of 20,000 people. From this wide range of experience I’ve found that there are many ways to make your business sustainable. The good news, for bootstrappers and Fortune 500 corporations alike, is that sustainable practices can cost your company very little, or nothing at all. Read More about Make your startup sustainable at (almost) no cost