Customise your surfing experience with GreaseMonkey

GreasemonkeyGreasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows you to customize the way webpages look and function.

Hundreds of scripts are already available for free. And if you’re the tinkerer sort, you can also write your own.

From the website “Dive Into Greasemonkey” (a free e-book about writing Greasemonkey scripts):

Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows you to write scripts that alter the web pages you visit. You can use it to make a web site more readable or more usable. You can fix rendering bugs that the site owner can’t be bothered to fix themselves. You can alter pages so they work better with assistive technologies that speak a web page out loud or convert it to Braille. You can even automatically retrieve data from other sites to make two sites more interconnected [such as embedding price comparisons in Amazon.com pages].

Greasemonkey by itself does none of these things. In fact, after you install it, you won’t notice any change at all… until you start installing what are called “user scripts”. A user script is just a chunk of Javascript code, with some additional information that tells Greasemonkey where and when it should be run. Each user script can target a specific page, a specific site, or a group of sites. A user script can do anything you can do in Javascript. In fact, it can do even more than that, because Greasemonkey provides special functions that are only available to user scripts.

There is a Greasemonkey script repository that contains hundreds of user scripts that people have written to scratch their own personal itches. Once you write your own user script, you can add it to the repository if you think others might find it useful. Or you can keep it to yourself, content in the knowledge that you’ve made your own browsing experience is a little better.

There is also a Greasemonkey mailing list, where you can ask questions, announce user scripts, and discuss ideas for new features. The Greasemonkey developers frequent the list; they may even answer your question!

Now of course, most of us aren’t programmers, which is where the script repository comes in handy. I’ll post alerts to useful Greasemonkey scripts when I come across them. To get you started though, here are some useful scripts:

Textarea Backup: Creates backups of text areas so you don’t have to retype lost emails, forum posts, bug submissions, etc if the page is reloaded for whatever reason, be it browser crash or unintended exit.

YouTube video buffer: Disables autoplaying and buffers the video so there are no annoying snags and hiccups while playing. Also useful when bandwidth is tight, or expensive.

Gmail Macros: Gmail Macros adds keyboard shortcuts to your inbox in an interface that looks similar to Mac OS X’s Quicksilver.

Facebook View Photo in Album: Adds a link above photos to see them in their albums, even if you’re not friends with the photographer. Adds links to view all photos of a user together (regardless of who took them). Adds links to view whole galleries/albums on one page.

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Amanda is OIA's new IT person - in charge of all things technological, including the development of our new-look website. Oddly enough, she comes from a biochemistry background... go figure.
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