After a short period of world wide domination, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has failed to capture the hearts and minds of the World Wide Web, losing at least 15% of its market share to Firefox over the last three years. Firefox is not only offering greater stability and security, but also a wide range of additional components that once installed, will make your web browsing a truly unique experience.

Plug-ins, themes, and add-ons can be confusing for the new Firefox convert, so here is an explanation of each of them together with a short list of some of the more useful of these web-browser extensions.

1. Plug-ins

Plug-ins enable your browser to view specific graphic formats and play multimedia files. The most important to install are the following which can all be downloaded from the Firefox homepage: Quick time (for video), Acrobat reader (for PDF), Java (for web page display) and Real Player for audio files.

2. Themes

Theme extensions allow customisation of the Firefox skin to fit your own sense of style and preference. It’s possible to change the way it looks to emulate another browser such as Safari or another operating system such as Vista. Or you can just choose a completely alternative skin such a Pimpzilla for a truly personal feel.

3. Add-ons

Add-ons are supplementary bits of software that add functionality to the browser. There are so many available it can be tempting to add too many and turn your browser into a top-heavy program. With that in mind, here is a list of five of the more useful add-ons available.

  • Stumble Upon: One of the more intriguing add-ons, Stumble Upon not only finds new web sites that interest you, but can also introduce you to a whole community of like-minded people that not only share your passions, but also your personality type. Take the test on the home page to find other Stumblers like yourself.
  • Add Block: Although Firefox comes with an effective pop-up blocker, there always seem to be other adverts or banners that delay the loading time of a web page. With this add-on you can select an ad and tell Add Block not to show it.
  • Bookmarks: Bookmarking techniques vary from user to user and from browser to browser. If you like information stored in a hierarchical manner in allocated folders then the traditional bookmarking method will be fine for you. If however you don’t work in such a linear way, and lean towards the tagged approach, then Firefox offers integrated Del.ic.ious bookmarking that allows sites to be saved and retrieved by tagged words. This allows for fast searching and retrieval as well as on-line storage for access from any other computer connected to the Internet.
  • Ageing Tabs: Tabbing has become the accepted norm these days but still lacks some functionality. It remains too easy to accidentally close the active tab, and this is where Ageing Tabs becomes so important. It greys the inactive tabs and highlights the active tab so that mistakes are near impossible to make.
  • 45 add-on dictionaries: If you need an on-line spell checker in a language other than the language of your browser, then Firefox offers up to forty-five dictionaries to install and access with a simple right click of the mouse.

Everyone’s needs and requirements when searching for information are different. Firefox offers each individual the opportunity to reflect these preferences in there web browser – something that perhaps other browsers could do well to learn.