AutoAuth, Comment Snob, Feed Sidebar, Links Like This, Mozilla, Mozilla Add-ons, Mozilla Firefox, OPML Support, RSS Ticker, YouTube Comment Snob

My Future of Developing Firefox Add-ons

Mozilla announced today that add-ons that depend on XUL, XPCOM, or XBL will be deprecated and subsequently incompatible with future versions of Firefox:

Consequently, we have decided to deprecate add-ons that depend on XUL, XPCOM, and XBL. We don’t have a specific timeline for deprecation, but most likely it will take place within 12 to 18 months from now. We are announcing the change now so that developers can prepare and offer feedback.

In response to this announcement, I’ve taken the step of discontinuing all of my Firefox add-ons. They all depend on XUL or XPCOM, so there’s no sense in developing them for the next year only to see them become non-functional. AutoAuth, Comment Snob, Feed Sidebar, Links Like This, OPML Support, RSS Ticker, and Tab History Redux should be considered unsupported as of now. (If for any reason, you’d like to take over development of any of them, e-mail me.)

While I don’t like Mozilla’s decision (and I don’t think it’s the best thing for the future of Firefox), I understand it; there’s a lot of innovation that could happen in Web browser technology that is stifled because of a decade-old add-on model. I only hope that the strides a lighter-weight Firefox can make will outweigh the loss of the thousands of add-ons that made it as popular as it is today.

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AutoAuth, Browser Add-ons, Feed Sidebar, Interpr.it, Links Like This, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, OPML, Programming, RSS Ticker

Interpr.it now speaks Mozillian

My browser extension translation platform, Interpr.it, is now able to parse locale files from extensions for Firefox, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, or any other Mozilla-powered program, and it can likewise generate Mozilla-compatible locale files. The interface for translation is the same as the one for translating Chrome extensions, but when the locales are downloaded via the API, the files are returned in the format in which they were originally uploaded (either DTD files or Java-style .properties files).

This is most obviously introducing a competitor to Babelzilla, the only major site offering a translation platform for Mozilla extensions. Babelzilla is a functionally sufficient solution for translation (I’ve used it without much issue for almost six years), but I’m moving away from it for two reasons:

  1. Translation/localization is a problem that I’d like to understand better, and I find the best way to understand a problem is to try and solve it yourself.
  2. I think that the experience of localizing an extension (or developing a localizable extension) can be better, and I have the hubris to think that I can be the one to make it better.

In the spirit of putting my money1 where my mouth2 is, I’ve moved five of my Firefox extensions (AutoAuth, Feed Sidebar, OPML Support, RSS Ticker, and Links Like This) from Babelzilla to Interpr.it.

If you are interested in trying Interpr.it, upload your extension (either using the Web form or API), and let me know how it works for you.

  1. For extremely small values of “money.”
  2. For extremely large values of “mouth.”
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Browser Add-ons, Links Like This, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox

Links Like This gets a facelift

Links Like This is a Firefox extension I wrote last year that allows you to automatically open multiple links from a webpage. I released the first version in May of 2007 but never really went back to update or improve it; that’s about to change.

During a recent conversation about Links Like This, I realized how poorly I designed the interface. For example, after right-clicking on a link and selecting “Open Links Like This…”, you used to see this confirmation dialog:

It’s a modal dialog, meaning that you can’t interact with the page until you’ve closed the dialog. The problem with this is that, oftentimes, you can’t see all of the links that have been chosen as “links like this” until the dialog is closed. This problem becomes even more severe when the dialog reads “Open these 143 links?” and you can only see two or three of the highlighted links.

With the latest update, selecting “Open Links Like This…” from the context menu yields this dialog:

It’s not modal, meaning that you can still scroll up and down the webpage when the dialog is visible, but it will stay on top of the webpage until you deal with it. Additionally, selected links are no longer marked with an ugly red border:

Now, they have a pleasant yellow background.

Much better, no? This small upgrade is the first of several I have planned for the next few weeks.

You can install this update at Mozilla Add-ons; if you find Links Like This useful, please consider writing a quick review on the right side of this page. Once a couple of users have given it positive reviews, I can ask Mozilla to make it a public add-on, which would make it available to all users, not just those logged in to Mozilla Add-ons.

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Browser Add-ons, GoogleTabs, Links Like This

Links Like This gets some polish

I’ve updated the Links Like This Firefox extension with the following features:

Links Like This is an extension for the Firefox Web browser that allows you to open many links in a page simply by right-clicking on one link and selecting the “Open Links Like This…” option. It will use the link you clicked on as an example of the type of link you want to open.

  • It now pays attention to whether the link you clicked on is already in your history and chooses similar links accordingly.
  • It will no longer open duplicate links.
  • It now removes the red dotted border from the suggested links if you choose not to open them.
  • The confirmation dialog now contains the number of links that are going to be opened. “Open these links?” and “Open these 472 links?” are fundamentally different questions. :-)

You can install the latest version from the Links Like This homepage.

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Browser Add-ons, GoogleTabs, Links Like This, Mozilla Firefox, Programming

Building a better multi-link opener

After giving up on GoogleTabs, I was thinking about how there is no acceptable (by my standards, anyway) Firefox extension for opening multiple links. Linky is too general, just opening large swaths of links, and Snap Links requires you to physically indicate every link that you want opened. An ideal extension should know the links that you want to open based on just one link out of the set.

I believe that I’ve written this suitable extension, and it’s called Links Like This. The extension works like so: any time you right-click on a link, an option entitled “Open Links Like This…” is added to the context menu:

Opening links with Links Like This

If you select that option, the extension will find all of the links in the page that are similar to the link you right-clicked on, highlight them, and then ask you to confirm that they are indeed the links that you want to open.

Links Like This marks the links it will open

Unlike GoogleTabs, this extension is generalized to all websites. Due to its dynamic matching algorithm, it actually appears to work better than GoogleTabs on Google search pages, and in my experience so far, it works equally well with the other search engines and link-heavy sites like Digg/Netscape/Reddit or CraigsList.

You can install Links Like This from the Links Like This homepage. Feel free to describe any positive or negative experiences with it in the comment section below.

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