I started using Firefox when I purchased my Mac PowerBook because it is quick and easy for those of us who are still in the dark about the newest technological trends. Up until a few days ago, I didn’t even know that extensions – let alone hundreds – were available for Firefox users. Add-ons or extensions are defined by Mozilla as “small pieces of software that can add new features or tiny tweaks to your Firefox.”
After downloading Firefox Campus Edition, I was surprised to see all the add-ons appear in an additional tool bar at the top of my screen. I tried to not panic and started inputing my personal preferences into StumbleUpon.
StumbleUpon was the most appealing of the three extensions because it randomly selects sites based on my interests. As a college student, wasting time online often takes precedent over eating, so I was excited to see what would come up after I added my interests. According to the StumbleUpon Web site, it’s users listed “animation, arts, bizarre, computers, sci-tech, humor, video games and music” as their top preferences.
After I completed my interests and checked the Internet to see if any of my friends were “stumbling,” I started surfing the Web. The site fulfilled my educational needs with “stumbles” to The Modern Library, Philosophy since the Enlightenment and an assortment of quotes from Albert Einstein. Scattered in between these Web sites were other pages that showed me how to detect lies and how to draw my family and friends’ faces using the Ultimate Flash Face.
In addition to Web sites, the Stumble feature also let me stumble through photos, movies and news stories online. The best and worst part of this feature is the hours spent sifting through Web sites that would not normally come up in the top 10 of search engines. While fun, it definitely is a distraction from homework.
Zotero claims it is “the next-generation resource tool.” It is incredibly helpful for students and professionals who have to sort through multiple sources on the Internet. Information from libraries, online databases and news organizations can be archived with Zotero.
With one click of a button, an article, Web site or study can be saved to the Zotero database. I can use multiple labels to organize the sites and can create bibliographies in several different styles with the press of a button. I can also add notes or attach other documents saved on my computer. This allows for one comprehensive database of all the documents important to a large project or research paper.
FoxyTunes is the final extension available with the Campus Edition. This is a fancy add-on to existing media players. While surfing the Internet, I saved the extra clicks it would take to change a song in my iTunes. Instead, FoxyTunes has the play, stop and skip buttons along the bottom of my browser.
The extension also lets me insert what I’m listening to into e-mails or blog postings.
The coolest feature by far is the FoxyTunes Planet. While listening to “I’m the Man Who Loves You”, I can press a button and basically find out everything about the song and artist. It includes the lyrics, videos from YouTube.com, photos from Flickr.com, a Google search of the band, the albums available on Amazon.com and songs available for download on Rhapsody.com. Instead of music fanatics searching all of these sites individually, FoxyTunes Planet compiles all the resources into an easy to use database.
Because this is a new extension package, reviews are slowly creeping up on the Web. Download.com users gave Firefox Campus Edition four stars, and it has three reviews. The Wired Blog Network reviewed the site and suggests another four applications that they believe would be more helpful to college students, including an extended dictionary and a online sticky note application.
For additional extensions to Firefox, check out Quick Online Tips. It lists 50 extensions that supposedly “make your browsing, downloading and navigation in Firefox as easy as possible, while harnessing the full power and features of Firefox.” Also, if you want to browse through the hundreds extensions, go to the Mozilla Firefox Add-ons Web site.
This foray into extensions has reminded me – and will hopefully remind other students – that everyday computer programs are continuously being specialized to different fields and updated with the newest technology. In the future, students will be expected to know how to use databases that compile large amounts of information – similar to Zotero – or be able to find creative and fresh ideas using methods such as StumbleUpon. If that is not reason enough for students to add the Campus Edition, then the wasted time spent surfing the Web should be.