Firefox Toolbar: A set of search toolbars for Mozilla users
Yet another search toolbar! But fortunately unlike most Internet Explorer only toolbars it is for the users of the alternate open source browser Firefox and Mozilla. Firefox Toolbar is a set of free toolbars made by a company called Vpop Technologies who first ventured into the search business just after Google came out with their Google Toolbar. Their first product was UltraBar for Internet Explorer. Had the features of Google Toolbar but with added usability for the users as it let them add their own custom search engines which Google Toolbar of course did not allow.
Now they are back with the combined powers of their own UltraBar and the flexibility to use custom Blog tools and services on an open source platform based browser Firefox. Firefox does have its own search box which let the users to search Google. And they can indeed add more search engines by going to a particular site and chose from a list. Quiet cumbersome procedures for people who want the power in their hands. So, Firefox Toolbar is designed to make that easy for Firefox users to have a Google Toolbar like Toolbar for their browser with the flexibility.
So, how does Firefox Toolbar look like?
Very much like Google Toolbar in fact. It appears as a brand new toolbar below the Firefox address bar and has the usual toolbar button, search box, go button. In addition it has the very useful feature borrowed from the Google Toolbar in the form of a highlight button. And as you add some keywords in the search box to search, they start to appear as independent buttons on the toolbar as well… very much like the Google Toolbar itself. Highlight button highlights all the instances of the keyword in the search box on the opened page and the keyword buttons of course takes the user to the instances of the keywords in the text one by one. Everything that Google Toolbar let us do.
What makes it apart from the Google Toolbar then?
First it runs on Firefox and Mozilla. Google Toolbar is Internet Explorer only. And they also have an Internet Explorer cousin in the form of UltraBar. Of course it does not have the other Google specific options like the PageRank toolbar (it’s Google’s proprietary technology), popup blocker (Firefox has that inbuilt), Form Autofill and folder navigation buttons. But it does offer many preconfigured search engines like MSN, Yahoo!, AltaVista, Technorati, Bloglines and many more. And it does as already mentioned allow us to add more unlimited number of search engines manually without visiting any website (like Mozilla Search Box) from a very intuitive interface.
What else does it offer?
Here comes the interesting part. What the company offer is a set of customized toolbars for the users of Blogger.com, Bloglines, LiveJournal, TypePad and Technorati users. It means if you are a heavy user of any of these services, you can skip the default toolbar and chose one of the versions customized for these tools. What you get along with the routine features are services related custom options making them accessible from the search toolbar itself. For instance, if you are a Blogger user you can install the Blogger version. The toolbar now has a Blog This button (similar to Google Toolbar) which let you Blog with a single click. Other custom options give you fast access to the Blogger homepage, dashboard and user profiles. Similar options are present for the other toolbars customized to that particular service. To one his own set of tools! Can make browsing a lot of fun if you are indeed a heavy user of one of these services.
So, does it work well?
Yeah, it kind of does very well. I always found having a separate toolbar more usable than a search button. And with highlight button and the power to find instances of certain keywords like I could have done with Google Toolbar in Internet Explorer makes Firefox more fun to use. Though I could not find anything similar to ‘Search Site’ feature which let me search the current site for a particular keyword from Google Toolbar. Maybe this can be an addition in the next version.
Also, I would have liked to have the option to choose the Blogging tool I wanted to use from the Toolbar itself. Currently, it requires me to replace an old toolbar with a new one which is not good for someone who uses multiple services. I am one of those as I use both Bloglines and LiveJournal. So, maybe they can find a way to merge all the separate toolbars in a single interface.
There was this minor nuisance I found when I tried multiple keyword search. I had 2 keywords selected for searching. And I then enabled the highlight button to get some screenshots. And one of the highlight color chosen by the toolbar was yellow which when used on white colored text made it invisible! And then there were times when toolbar stopped responding completely…
It is pretty much usable. Adding new search engines is easy. Gives the power of BlogThis! to the Firefox users. Very handy. I would certainly recommend it… The toolbar also thankfully provide uninstalling option from the toolbar itself. Certifying the credibility of the company. If they can remove the shortcomings discussed above, it certainly finds a place on my Firefox browser.
Get it yourself: Firefox Toolbar
Sushubh Mittal is the Tech Columnist on Search Engine Journal and publishes Software Journal.