Jul 18, 2009

5 Awesome Mozilla Labs Projects for Firefox 3.5

Throughout the five years, Mozilla has dramatically improved the Internet browsing experience by producing stable, open-source applications that bring simplicity to our virtual lives. The latest version of Firefox is a prime example of how Mozilla integrates practical features into its products, like the inclusion of private browsing, tear away tabs and location awareness, while still maintaining a strong user base and delivering a stable browser.

However, the buck doesn’t stop there: Mozilla Labs has conjured up several new open source Firefox add-ons that aim to further enhance your web experience and promote better, more efficient browsing. Long time Firefox users are already familiar with the browser’s ability to become fully customizable with the inclusion of add-ons, so the concoctions coming out of Mozilla Labs should be no surprise. Read on to discover some of the latest releases from our favorite open sorcerers, but be aware that most Mozilla Labs projects are still in a prototype stage, so install at your own risk.


Code editors, if you’ve ever needed a more organized way to increase productivity, while simultaneously supporting the open source community, Bespin is an integral add-on. Bespin’s HTML 5-based experimental code editor contains all the basic features you need to write code by giving you an almost-infinite amount of code lines and allowing syntax highlighting in Javascript, HTML and CSS—it also includes a nifty code bank.

This application will also make your entire web code available to other Bespin users, so you can receive feedback on your work, as well as have others contribute to it. Sometimes, you want to learn from other people; this web based editor easily pulls plug-ins from other people’s source codes, allowing you to mash up the two or receive inspiration from someone else.

The user interface of the editor is simple and easy to use; it even includes both vertical and horizontal scroll bars, both of which help innovation with the code editor and prevent UI restrictions. Additionally, it doesn’t matter how fast you type, Bespin’s intuitive design works so that it’s never a letter behind you.


Let’s face it: Computer user interfaces can be severely dull. There’s never a wrong time to spruce up your web browser and Mozilla’s Personas does just that. It runs on the philosophy that themes today can be too difficult to find and install and that graphic designers should be allowed a way to express themselves and showcase their art work without having to construct any code.

Personas is simple: Install the add-on, fire it up and browse the already expansive library showcased on the web. You can choose from the default skins, including beautiful nature scenes and Firefox’s own adorable mascot, Foxkeh, browse and search some of the custom made skins from other Personas users, or create your own.


It’s definitely a conundrum as to why services like Google calendar don’t have their own application. Thankfully, Mozilla’s Prism allows you to extract the link, place a shortcut on your desktop and run it as a separate process, even if you haven’t fired up your browser.

The Prism applications can be accessed just like any other program cluttering your desktop. In Windows, you can launch it straight from the Start menu and access it via the taskbar. And, when you’ve got applications you want running all the time—like Flickr, Gmail and Facebook—Prism can enable these web apps to start up when you boot your computer, or idle in the system tray.

One of the greatest uses for this application is to integrate any web links that you use like applications. For example, if you’ve got a mailto: link that opens your mail client, but you’d rather use your web-based email address that does not offer POP3, you can save the webmail link as its own process and execute it straight from the desktop every time you need it, as opposed to bookmarking the site, copying the web address you want to send an email to, and logging in.

Additionally, sometimes our browsers crash and we lose all of our work in one fell swoop. Prism makes sure that the web apps run separately from Firefox’s processes so that you’ll continue getting your Gmail regardless of your browser’s hiccup.


Mozilla believes that, as the web evolves, Firefox should do more to increase user control over data and personal information, while still maintaining a rich browsing experience.

The first component that is ready for testing this philosophy is Weave Sync, which encrypts and securely synchronizes passwords, bookmarks, history, tabs and preferences to the Mozilla cloud, somewhere in the infosphere.

In addition to your username and password, Weave also encrypts your data with a passphrase that only you know. This is especially useful for heavy Internet users who run on more than one machine—Weave will help maintain the same Firefox experience for every computer that you use.


If you don’t mind a bit of extra clutter in your navigation bar at the top at your browser window, Mozilla Labs’ Operator brings a whole new level of usability to websites with microformats—little bits of semantic markup that live symbiotically within the web. For example, if you visit Maximumpc.com and can’t seem to locate the Digg button on our page, simply hover over the Resources tab on the toolbar and Operator will provide an instant link.

Operator will also provide you links to search for a specific tag within a blog entry (provided it is tagged), of if you’re on a site like Upcoming.org, you’ll can export the event, map it on Google maps under Locations, or contact the venue where the event is taking place.

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