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Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

By Gary Richmond on March 31, 2008 (9:00:00 AM)

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Nowadays, Web browsers can act as front ends to many other kinds of applications. For instance, if you want to browse and open the files on your hard drive from within Firefox, turn to the Firefly extension.

Extension logo

After you install Firefly, you must configure it before you can use it. Select Tools -> Addons, scroll down to the extension, and click on Options. Firefly has six screens' worth of options. Under General you can set such things as deciding whether to show hidden files, open a sidebar from which to browse and select directories and files by default, and play music automatically. As Firefly is slow when displaying large directories, you might want to experiment with the directory scan interval and disable the calculation of directory sizes and display of icons too. However, the most important thing to do is to click on the Tree tab and set up the directories you want Firefly to display. Click on Add to save your choices.

To start Firefly, either select it from the Tools drop-down menu. You can also give yourself a Firefly icon by choosing View -> Customize and dragging the icon to the toolbar. You can then click on the icon to open Firefly.

Firefly can open files in the current window with a left click of the mouse, and will display both HTML and PDF files in the current window (provided the latter has a browser plugin installed). Clicking on the mouse scroll wheel will open any file you select in a new tab; if your mouse does not have one, right-click and select the Open option from the context menu.

The main Firefly toolbar lets you specify file path and filter. It includes file navigation buttons, vertical and horizontal split-screen buttons, and copy and paste functions. You can choose between a classic HTML browser view and a conventional file manager view by selecting either option from a drop-down menu. In HTML mode, right-clicking on a file will do nothing except bring up the usual Firefox, not file, options.

Selecting file view, when you have very large directories, can cause the browser to freeze or crash. By the same token, the sidebar can be a little buggy too. If I attempted to open a file from the Firefly sidebar I got an error message, but if I subsequently re-selected the Firefox icon from the file drop-down box, the requested files appeared! And regardless of whether you have it set to open by default, the sidebar can sometimes be empty. The solution is to close either the sidebar or the browser and start it again. If you are having difficulties accessing a classic file view, the sidebar will allow you to view and open directories and files in a separate tab in the main browser screen. Once you have opened the classic file view from the Sidebar, selecting the Thumbnail view when searching graphics files will display thumbnails along the top in scrollable mode, and you can also browse them from the sidebar.

These aren't the only glitches in Firefly. The file navigation buttons sometimes produce error messages, forcing you to use the main navigation buttons of Firefox to move around the file system. However, with practice you can set Firefly to display the sidebar and three split screens, all showing files in different modes, resizable and separately navigable.

The File Types screen under Firefly's options lists default file types for music, movies, images, documents and PDF files, with the options to add and or remove types. Firefly can handle external, removable media if you add the mount point to its General Preferences options. However, you can't use file drag and drop, even across Firefly's resizable split screen; you have to copy and paste instead. And closing split screens is not exactly obvious; you have to toggle the small expand/decrease button on the far right side of the Firefly toolbar.

Firefly is a gallant attempt to add file-browsing features to Firefox. However, it needs to be less buggy, to add drag and drop file management, and, above all, to include a how-to tutorial.

Every Monday we highlight a different extension, plugin, or add-on. Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us about one that you use and how it makes your work easier, along with tips for getting the most out of it. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your chosen topic recently or have one in hand.)

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on Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

What is this good for?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.117.111.61] on March 31, 2008 09:48 AM
How is this preferable to Konqueror? Is there any operating system that comes with Firefox yet does not come with a file manager? What can Firefly do that Konqueror/Nautilus/W.Explorer cannot?

Seriously, what problem does this extension solve?

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Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.4.166.138] on March 31, 2008 10:20 AM
oh... system-in-a-browser..;)

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Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.186.68.7] on March 31, 2008 01:06 PM
It's funny that a firefox seems to do a better job at browsing files (for which it was absolutely not intended to), than nautilus, konqueror and thunar combined. Windows explorer >>> linux alternatives unfortunately.

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Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.11.164.22] on March 31, 2008 02:29 PM
The firefox "howto's" are getting a bit old... I hope whoever is inspired to write for linux.com decides to write about something besides firefox !

mcabber, aria2c, shell-fm, gpicviewer, mtpaint, zmixer, leafpad, epdfviewer, htop ... a few suggestions..

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Re: Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Posted by: Joe Barr on March 31, 2008 03:01 PM
Thanks for your suggestions. Have you ever considered writing an article for us? A pitch of one of your story ideas to editors at linux dot com is all you need to get started.

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Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 155.69.173.146] on March 31, 2008 03:20 PM
I think Firefox is the new emacs, you can turn Firefox into anyting you want :D

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Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.52.195.90] on March 31, 2008 03:25 PM
Starship Enterprise, please! :]

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Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Posted by: Dummy00001 on March 31, 2008 09:29 PM
I'd say, this extension would be a godsend to e-mail client. Time after time I have to work with large number of attachments and service provided by most of MUAs suck terribly.

Does it run with Thunderbird? Can one integrate with attachments, e.g. drag-n-drop to save/add attachments. What about replacing standard attachment panel in Tb - presenting it as virtual folder?

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Firefly extension turns Firefox into a file browser

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.235.31.1] on April 01, 2008 04:47 PM
Firefox is a buggy, overladen piece of crap on any system. Why would anyone want to trust file management to it? It's certainly no surprise that you found it fulls of bugs and prone to sudden freeze-ups.

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