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Firefox download extensions

By Bruce Byfield on September 08, 2008 (9:00:00 AM)

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Download management is one of the larger categories on the Firefox Add-ons site, but while hundreds of extensions fall under this category, they are a mixed lot at best. Many have yet to release versions compatible with Firefox 3.0, and others are designed to work with Windows programs. However, with patience, you can find some programs worth exploring -- and even a few small treasures -- in this category.

Extension series

Several add-ons offer small improvements to Firefox's default download manager (the window in which you choose to open a download or save it to disk, and the other dialog in which you can view and control each download). Using Custom Download Manager, you can add buttons and toolbars to the download window, and change the position of existing ones -- a reasonable idea, given that by default the buttons are at the bottom and the progress bars are at the top, and you can easily overlook the options in the right-click menu.

Custom Download Manager also gives you options for handling Windows files with executable extensions -- if you care -- and allows you to display the download manager in a window like the default or to display it instead in a sidebar or tab.

Another minor but useful enhancement is FavLoc, which allows you to designate multiple folders as download locations. These folders are designated by name and path for easy identification, and you can set where in the browser the list of them appears. The concept is simple, but, if, like many chronic downloaders, you tend to dump all your downloads in a default location and never get around to organizing them, you could find this extension indispensable for its help in getting you organized. After all, what better time to organize your downloads than as you start them?

Other small enhancers include SourceForge Direct Download, which automatically downloads from SourceForge.net using your favorite mirror, and Auto Close Download Dialog, which closes the window dialog when it is empty.

A couple of other extensions are supposed to improve the speed of downloads. Tweak Networks, which has a setting for the maximum connections to a site, probably does work as advertised, given a large enough network and a system administrator willing to adjust it occasionally. However, I am less convinced by DownThemAll! -- and not just because of the desperate effort to create a sense of excitement by adding an exclamation mark to the extension's name. The extension is supposed to be a "download accelerator," but, after various tests and tweaking of the settings, the most I could get it to do is possibly to maintain the highest speeds on my connection more consistently than the unmodified Firefox. But even that advantage seems minimal at best, and I am still not convinced it exists at all. Still, you might consider DownThemAll! for its dialog window for routine downloads, which is much better designed than the default.

If you are a downloader who likes to rip specific context from a page, you might also find DownThemAll! an all-in-one extension that is more convenient that the host of extensions for individual categories of content, such as Magic's Video Downloader, the self-explanatory Image Download, and PDF Download. However, each of these has its own advantages that make it worth checking out, such as Magic's Video Downloader's ability to monitor multiple sites, and PDF Download's integration with online editing tools.

Of all the download managers, by far the most useful I've found is ScrapBook, which, as you might figure from the name, helps you organize downloaded material -- text, URLs, images, videos -- into containers. What is more, in ScrapBook, you can edit the material, adding annotations or erasing all but the relevant passages, while still maintaining the link.

There are other extensions with similar functionality, such as Jet-Eye, which we recently reviewed, but none have the same maturity or power as ScrapBook. If you are constantly researching on the Web, an hour of using ScrapBook will soon make it an important part of your workflow.

The only extension I'd like but cannot find in the download management category is one that lets you return to an interrupted download later, after all the dialogs are closed, and resume where you left off. Considering the number of people who download DVDs, such a tool would seem a given. But no doubt all the GNU/Linux users who might have needed such a tool in the past are using Torrent Bar instead. At any rate, it's a small omission among so many useful pieces of additional functionality.

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.)

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on Firefox download extensions

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Firefox download extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 193.228.104.102] on September 08, 2008 12:16 PM
Thanks for the extensive coverage of that Firefox angle.

Although I consider myself an avid downloader and heavy user, I hadn't spent much time on that particular facet of Firefox as I once developed a rather disappointing impression from those wannabe speed accelerators (just like the one you had), and subsequently wasted no further thoughts on that whole range of enhancements.

Robert
--
http://wetzlmayr.at

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DownThemAll! is resume-able...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.109.134.41] on September 08, 2008 12:44 PM
"The only extension I'd like but cannot find in the download management category is one that lets you return to an interrupted download later, after all the dialogs are closed, and resume where you left off."

DownThemAll! is resume-able. Initially began using it for downloading Linux-Distro .ISO's on a dialup connection, which took roughly 40 hours (all that was available at that remote location), spanning many sessions an reboots . It has worked flawlessly at that function using html, less so, however, using ftp (i think). Prior to that DAP Download Accelerator Plus (adware) provided this functionality on my Windows boxes.

Quite frankly, I'm shocked that the other download managers you cite don't have that function. Also, that any browsers native DM ever lacked the resume-able function is counter intuitive, especially when they were first in use when the whole planet was on dial-up. Back then, even losing a 20 meg file was a heartbreaker. Firefox 3 is supposed to be resume-able by default but unlike DownthemAll! it is still not multisession resume-able (might be because I clear my cache on close, don't know), which means it sucks because it misses its mark at its most basic level.

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Firefox download extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 138.162.128.53] on September 08, 2008 02:11 PM
"The only extension I'd like but cannot find in the download management category is one that lets you return to an interrupted download later, after all the dialogs are closed, and resume where you left off." This statement is incorrect because you have already downloaded and tested an extension which does this... DownThemAll! Not only will it resume a paused download it will recover and pick up the download where it last left off, if a crash or closure occurs. I have seen a lot of improvement in my download speeds with this extension when downloading a file which is located on multiple mirrors (i.e. an http download of an Ubuntu or Fedora iso), frequently seeing double my average download speeds during high traffic times of the day. DownThemAll is worth everyone's time to at least try the extension. I've never met anyone who tried it and did not like it (in fact, some people can't tell it's not part of Firefox due to it's excellent integration with the browser). Whether you keep it or not (for whatever reason) is up to you, however, I doubt anyone will go back to the default download dialog after seeing DTA.

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Firefox download extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 59.96.11.12] on September 08, 2008 05:24 PM
"The only extension I'd like but cannot find in the download management category is one that lets you return to an interrupted download later, after all the dialogs are closed, and resume where you left off."

Doesn't Firefox 3 already do that?

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Firefox download extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.145.180.221] on September 08, 2008 05:54 PM
the Download Status bar (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/26) is not half bad, either. It crams a lot of info into a little status bar, rather than popping up FF's ridiculous download window.

I still think Opera's downloader kicks FF's in the can pretty hard. It's dang shame it's not open source.

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Firefox download extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.0.1.38] on September 08, 2008 10:07 PM
I use DownThemAll myself. I don't know about accelerator features, but simply as a download manager, it's very good. Like one of the other responses indicated, it *does* allow you to suspend downloads, close the browser, and then come back later. Integrates well with the context menu, so that using it is as simple as right-click a link and click download. Provides a few ways of notifying you when download is complete, including sounds and unobtrusive notification panels..

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Firefox download extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.220.103.209] on September 09, 2008 12:09 AM
I have used DownThemAll in the past for my downloading because of the pause and resume functionality but I have found that it sometimes corrupts downloads and sometimes a link will not work at all with DownThemAll but works fine with the built in download manager.

Since the release of Firefox 3 I have found DownThemAll to be Unnecessary as the built in download manager is now resumable across sessions and reboots. If you like the ability to extract multiple files from a page you can install Flashgot and use this with the Firefox download manager.

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Firefox download extensions

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.27.181.106] on September 09, 2008 07:12 AM
I'm another satisfied Down them All user who uses it for it's intended purpose, which is a download manager. I have several websites that I visit with a large collection of documentation and the one feature I absolutely depend upon is the skip duplicate files. This allows me to grab the latest copies of the various docs (text/doc/pdf) without wasting bandwidth time grabbing duplicates of everything I've already gotten.

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