Firefox Add-ons

March 16, 2011

by Michele Desilva, Library

One of my favorite features of Firefox is the availability of add-ons that increase Firefox’s functionality. In this era of apps, you might think of them as apps for your web browser. There are thousands of these add-ons, but here are a few of my favorites, geared towards research and keeping up with information:


Zotero, developed at George Mason’s Center for History and New Media, is an add-on that helps you “collect, manage, and cite your research sources.” Zotero is well documented, making it easy to learn to use; just see the quick start guide on the Zotero website to get started.

After downloading the add-on (make sure you do the download using Firefox!), you can create a “library” (a folder) and add all of your resources relating to a particular research project. You can add web pages, PDFs, book citations and more. As you add resources, Zotero will automatically populate basic information, such as the document’s title and URL. You can add other information, like an author’s name (you’ll want to do this to be able to use the automatic citation building feature). You can also take notes about the resource and save them in Zotero.

Here, for example, is a screen shot showing a book that I added to my Zotero library (for books, you can enter information manually or look the book up on

Probably the most well-known feature of Zotero is its automatic citation-building capability, mentioned above. There are two ways to generate a works cited/reference page. You can use the “drag-and-drop Quick Copy” feature. Or, you can download the word processor plugin, select your citation style (MLA, APA, etc.), and select resources from your library to include on your works cited/reference page.

For example, using the book that I saved to my library in the screenshot above, I created the following citation in about 5 seconds using the drag-and-drop tool:

Powers, William. Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. 1st ed. Harper, 2010. Print.  

A final handy detail to note: You can download Zotero to any computer you work on and sign in to your account anywhere to access your library of resources.

Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee  is an add-on that opens websites that you read routinely on a scheduled basis. In the morning (or whenever you start work), you can click on the coffee cup icon (see picture below) and it will open whatever sites you’ve scheduled to open that particular day.

You can open sites on a daily basis, weekdays or weekends, one day only, or every other day. For example, I have The New York Times website set to open every day but the NPR All Tech Considered blog, which is updated once a week, only to open on Mondays. It’s an efficient way of regularly keeping up with those sites that you want or need to without browsing to each one individually or risking forgetting about them all together.

Read it Later

Here’s a common scenario: a co-worker or friend sends me a link to a great article. When I get the link, I don’t have time to read it, but if I don’t attend to it immediately, it’ll get buried in my email and I’ll never read it. Read it Later provides a solution. Download it and create an account and an icon will appear in your browser’s address bar (see image below). When you get that reading recommendation email, you can quickly visit the link and click on the icon to store the article for later reading.

Like Zotero, you can log into your Read it Later account from any computer to access your reading list. You can also download items from your reading list and read them offline if you’re going to be with your computer but without an Internet connection for a while (on a plane, for example). There’s also a Read it Later app compatible with devices running iOS, Android, or Blackberry, which is probably handy if you have a mobile device.