One tab to rule them all

I envision a day when all browsers will render code the same way.  The day before that day, Google will publish it’s Page Rank algorithm to the world.

In the meantime, I’ve learned of this nifty little Firefox browser plug-in that lets you view a website as if you’re using Internet Explorer (without actually having to use Internet Explorer!).  This nifty little plug-in is called IE Tab.

Here’s how to get it:

  1. Open Firefox
  2. Choose Add-ons from the Tools menu
  3. Click the Get add-ons icon –> this is the icon you click to search for Firefox plug-ins
  4. Search for ‘ie tab’
  5. Click See all results (10) at the bottom of the result list
  6. Find the add-on specifically called IE Tab by PCMan
  7. Click the Add to Firefox button and let Firefox do the rest

That was easy! Now how and why should you use this?  Two reasons…

Reason #1

As all web designers know, checking your site in multiple browsers to make sure it displays correctly is important.  IE Tab allows you to toggle between a Firefox view and an IE view of your web page with one click of the mouse.  In the bottom right corner, you will see the Firefox logo; click on it, and your page will reload as it would look in IE.

click the firefox logo in the lower right corner of the web browser to toggle between IE and Firefox views

Click the Firefox icon in the lower right corner of your web browser to switch to an IE view.

ie logo in the bottom right corner of the web browser

Click the IE logo to switch back to the Firefox view.

Now there’s no excuse for not checking your web page design in at least two browsers.

Let’s see, oh yeah…

Reason #2

Some sites just don’t work well in Firefox.  Coincidentally, most of them happen to be Microsoft sites.  Take Outlook Web Access (OWA), for example.  You can use OWA in Firefox, but you’re really missing out on a lot of the functionality it provides when used in IE.  You could manually toggle between the Firefox and IE view each time you open OWA, but IE Tab doesn’t want you to work that hard (and why should you, really?).

Instead, you can configure IE Tab to automatically open certain sites in IE view.  Here’s how:

  1. Find that same Firefox icon you clicked before (bottom right corner of the browser window)
  2. This time, Right-click on the icon
  3. A dialog box will pop-up, showing sites that are already set to open in IE view

    the dialog box for adding a new URL to the IE Tab filter

    Enter your URL in this dialog box to automatically open a website as an IE page

  4. The site you are currently visiting will be listed in the URL field
  5. If this is the URL you want to automatically open in IE view, click Add; otherwise, change the URL as desired
  6. Click OK

That’s it! If you reload the page, it will automatically open in IE view (you should see an IE logo in the lower right corner of your browser window after doing this).

If your library (like Towson) is using SharePoint, this is a must.  It’s impossible to use SharePoint effectively in Firefox (without the IE Tab plug-in, of course!). You can’t collaborate on documents, and you’ll be missing the WYSIWYG editor when you try to edit a wiki page or reply to a discussion thread.  IE Tab makes everything ok.  Our SharePoint implementation is located at http://carbon.towson.edu, so I simply navigate to that URL, right click on the Firefox logo, click Add, and then click OK.  Any web page I open within the carbon.towson.edu domain will automatically open as an IE page.

No more excuses

With IE Tab, there’s no excuse not to be using Firefox as your main browser.  Firefox has an open development community, meaning there are lots of great browser plug-ins to take advantage of (IE has a few as well).  Take a look through the list and leave recommendations for other plug-ins you like in the comments section.  There are a few other plug-ins similar to IE Tab, so you may want to test the market before you choose one.

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List.it and don’t you forget it

Many people keep (with varying degrees of success) a to do list in one form or another. I for one am always making lists on little pieces of paper (often old card catalog cards) and then losing them in the bottom of my tote. Even worse…I have a friend who procrastinates by recopying lists instead of tackling the tasks they outline.

The folks at MIT have kindly developed a tool to help us manage our lists. List.it is a Firefox (version 3 or above) plugin for electronically creating, managing, and backing-up your list.

List.it's sidebar window

List.it's sidebar window

After downloading the plugin, a small yellow icon will appear in the bottom-right corner of your browser window. Right clicking the icon allows you to quickly type in a new list item. Left clicking the icon opens your list as a narrow window as a sidebar to your browser window.

With the sidebar open you can added list items, edit items, move items up/down in your list, search your list, and best of all – delete items as you finish them. In addition to the regular search box, List.it allows you to create custom quick search buttons. For example, you could start all task related items with the words “to do” and then create a “to do” search button to quickly retrieve entries that include these words.

Example of a "to do" quick search button

Example of a "to do" quick search button

Other advanced features are customizable hot keys and synchronized back-up capabilities.  Under the Options tab you can set hot keys for opening/closing the sidebar, bringing up a search box, and quickly opening an input box. To have your list backed-up on List.it’s secure server, you will need to register your email address with them and create a password.

After playing with this tool for just a few hours, I would say it is intuitive, convenient, and helpful. I’m going to use it to keep track of all the books I would like to order, but can’t afford. Each new item could include a link to an online book review and a department code, such as bookWMST. Then once my budget is something above zero, I can search for bookWMST and retrieve my list of ideas. Ah…that will be a great day.