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Must-have Firefox 4 add-ons for Chrome and Internet Explorer converts

So you've finally realized that while Chrome might be fast, it sacrifices creature comforts to be so. It's a little bit like living in a whitewashed room with nothing more than a beige-box PC and keyboard -- it works, but it's not a particularly fun experience. If you like car analogies, Chrome is like a race-tuned Ferrari with hard-plastic bucket seats and tubular titanium roll cage.

Likewise, Internet Explorer 8 and 9 will get you safely around the Web -- and quickly, in the case of IE9 -- but if you want to change the UI, or strap on extra functionality, you're bang out of luck because it has less add-ons than Opera has users. Internet Explorer is, in short, the Volvo of Browser Land.

If you want speed, security, functionality and full-featured add-ons, Firefox 4 is the only browser worth talking about. Let's dive in and check out the best add-ons for first-time users and browser converts.


No-brainers

There are a few add-ons that you should simply install first, and ask questions later. These add-ons are great for overall performance and security, and provide features that no Web surfer should ever do without.
  • Flashblock -- the single best add-on, especially if you're surfing on a laptop or notebook, is Flashblock. It replaces every Flash element with a 'click to play' button; but you can disable it on sites that require Flash to operate. Needless to say, with Adobe's sometimes-lackadaisical approach to patching vulnerabilities, Flashblock can improve your security too.
  • Adblock Plus -- if you don't like ads (or tracking cookies!) Adblock Plus (ADP) is as good as it gets. Bear in mind that some sites (like Download Squad) rely on advertising revenue to stay afloat - and you can disable ADP for specific domains, if you feel that way inclined.
  • LastPass Password Manager -- if you use the same name and password on multiple websites, you're stupid. LastPass manages your password security so that you don't have to -- and it's cloud-based, so you can use it from any Web-connected computer (and from almost any browser!)

Privacy & Security

The Web is the Wild West of the 21st century, and no matter how good our browsers are at detecting threats, none of them are perfect. If you're worried about tracking protection and targeted ads, or cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, install these three add-ons (and make sure you have Adblock Plus installed, too!)
  • NoScript -- often cited as the single best add-on for improving your security, NoScript works by giving you granular control over which websites (and domains) are allowed to execute JavaScript. The number of warnings and prompts generated by NoScript can be a little daunting at first, but that shouldn't be a concern if you're serious about security.
  • BetterPrivacy -- you've probably heard of cookies, but have you heard of Local Storage Objects (LSO), aka Flash cookies? They're used to track your movements across the Web, and they're notoriously hard to get rid of... unless you have BetterPrivacy! Bear in mind there are some legitimate uses for LSOs, though, like saving your progress in Flash time-wasters.
  • Web of Trust -- while the Web of Trust add-on might be a little too much for advanced users, it could be a life saver for friends and family who aren't Internet veterans. WoT intervenes whenever you visit a site that's been rated (by a community of millions) as unsafe or untrustworthy. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, WoT is one of the best ways to cut down on the number of times you have to clean malware from your parents' computer.

Oooh cool!

While Chrome has plenty of add-ons, there are some features which are still exclusive to Firefox. Then, of course, there are the add-ons that make Firefox behave like Chrome! In general, if you want to do strange and unconventional things with websites, or with the browser itself, Firefox is the tool to use.
  • Video DownloadHelper -- there are a lot of 'download helpers' for Firefox, but none come close to Video DownloadHelper in terms of multimedia downloading. All you have to do is navigate to a page with a video on it, and VDH lets you download it straight to your hard disk. It's quite a big add-on though, with lots of options and settings, so make sure you read the manual.
  • DownThemAll! -- if you're less interested in video and more interested in images, DownThemAll is a better solution than VDH. DownThemAll also acts as a download manager and accelerator, which is handy if you're on a backwater Internet connection.
  • Firebug -- if you're a Web developer, you absolutely must install Firebug. It lets you debug, edit and monitor the HTML, CSS and JavaScript of any website.
  • New Tab King -- for some reason Firefox 4 still doesn't have a 'speed dial' new tab page. Opera, Chrome and Internet Explorer all have one, but Firefox has to make do with a blank white page! New Tab King, despite having a bit of a pretentious name, gives you a Chrome-like new tab page -- and it even comes with a few themes, if you like themes...
  • Mozilla Labs: Lab Kit -- finally, if you want to stay up to date with the latest creations from Mozilla Labs, you should grab the Lab Kit. At the moment Mozilla Labs is working on some Chrome-like changes to the address bar and the F1 social sharing add-on -- both of which will probably find a home in Firefox 5.
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If we've missed your favorite add-on, let us know in the comments and we'll check it out. If you want to find out about Firefox 4's other features, read our comprehensive guide.

Tags: adblock, add-on, add-ons, addon, addons, apps, betterprivacy, browser, browsers, downthemall, extension, extensions, features, ff4, firebug, firefox, firefox 4, Firefox4, flashblock, fx 4, Fx4, lastpass, mozilla, noscript, video downloadhelper, VideoDownloadhelper

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