If you’re not running firefox yet, go ahead and get it! Add-ons (or Plugins – also called Extensions) are one of the coolest features of Firefox. I’ve discussed the virtues of add-ons in this blog post, so I will not belabor the point. Let’s dive right in!

The following are three great plugins for Firefox that you can’t live without. The first will help you search in a whole new way, the second will help you shop with frugality in mind, and the third will help you explore the internet in new and exciting ways!

1. Instantfox

This add-on creates a magnifying glass icon just to the right of your address bar (the address bar is the area where you type in the internet address of a website). When you click on the magnifying glass, you are shown a variety of search shortcuts you can now use directly in the address bar! What does this mean?

Well, it means you can type “m Georgia Aquarium” in your address bar and it will show you the Google Maps results for the Georgia Aquarium. If you want to find a car on ebay, you could type in “e 1997 Honda Civic” and it would take you to the eBay results page for 1997 Honda Civics.

Or say you want to find a Harry Potter book on Amazon. Just type in “a Harry Potter” and you are presented with Amazons search results for Harry Potter books.

It may seem trivial to some, but it saves a lot of time, especially if you do a lot of online searches. But how can you find the best price for a Harry Potter book in the US without searching all over the web? This is where the next plugin comes into play.

2. InvisibleHand

This cleverly named plugin (ode to Adam Smith anyone?) works silently in the background to find you the best deal out there.

Say you are looking for a DVD of the movie “Titanic”. You could enter “a Titanic movie” in your address bar (assuming you’ve installed the Instantfox add-on) and you are shown a search results page from Amazon showing you the results for Titanic. You find one you like and click on it.

At this point, the InvisibleHand will drop down a bar on top of the web page showing you the lowest price found on the internet. It’s pretty remarkable! Look at what is offers:

  • It stays out of your way

    InvisibleHand remains invisible until it finds a deal on a product you’re shopping for.

    Real-time prices

    Unlike price comparison sites, InvisibleHand refreshes its product prices every time you use it

    Get cheaper flights

    InvisibleHand automatically looks for cheaper flights when you search for them

    It works with Google

    When you google a product, InvisibleHand will automatically show the lowest real-time prices.

    Reveal hidden prices

    InvisibleHand knows the price even when the retailer tries to hide it (US only).

    It learns as you use it

    InvisibleHand will search for deals, even when you browse a product it hasn’t seen before.

You can also watch a video here to help you get started using InvisibleHand.

3. StumbleUpon

If you’ve never “stumbled”, as they call it, then you are in for a treat. The first step is to sign up for an account on StumbleUpon.com and then check off your interests. The next step is to download the Firefox toolbar for StumbleUpon (available here – Hint: You can also search for all kinds of Firefox plugins from this site).

Once you install it, and restart firefox, you will have a new StumbleUpon toolbar. Simply click on the first button (Stumble!) and it will take you to a random website that matches your interests. If you don’t like the site, then hit Stumble! again.

It’s an amazing way to find cool sites that you would have never otherwise found. Trust me, try it and you will be hooked!

A very cool feature is that it is “intelligent”. If you don’t like a site it suggests, then hit the “Thumbs Down” button and it will omit that site from future stumbles and also recommend other sites that are not similar to the site you are currently viewing.

The opposite is also true. If you “Thumbs Up” a site, it will suggest more sites that it deems similar to the one you are giving the thumbs up to. If you are familiar with the popular music-streaming service Pandora, then it is like Pandora for random website stumbling.

Hopefully you’ve found these plugins useful and explained in a way that makes them useful. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, then please feel free to leave a comment.

Until then, type in “e beach volleyball”, pick out a nice ball and let the InvisibleHand let you know if it’s the best deal around (not to mention plane tickets to the beach), and then sit back and stumble some beach picture sites while you wait for your big day in the sun. 🙂