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Put on your toolbelt

These days, it seems like nearly every Web site or shareware program offers a toolbar or add-on of some sort that integrates into your browser. So what is the catch?

Toolbars are everywhere. Google has one, and so does Yahoo. These days, it seems like nearly every Web site or shareware program offers a toolbar or add-on of some sort that integrates into your browser. So what’s the catch? Unless you run Internet Explorer, they probably won’t work for you. Users of IE have long had the ability to add a plethora of toolbars to their browser, with fewer being available for Netscape and next to none that are compatible with everyone’s favorite open-source browser, Mozilla.

Until recently, if you were a Mozilla aficionado and wanted to use toolbars, you were simply out of luck. In true open-source fashion, however, coders have begun altering toolbars to work with Mozilla and, in many cases, even creating Mozilla-only toolbars from scratch. In this month’s edition of Windows Advisor, we’ll take a look at four of the best toolbar add-ons for Mozilla and discuss how to make them work for you.

Google Bar

Users of IE have long been able to add a special Google toolbar to their browser, while the rest of us have felt shunned. Microsoft, move over. Thanks to a bunch of talented programmers, the Google bar now works with Mozilla. Search newsgroups, track down images, and even save searches for later–all without ever leaving your toolbar.

The toolbar doesn’t work perfectly yet–a few bugs have been found, such as a problem with not saving the history, but for the most part the program works great. If you do a lot of Google searching (and who doesn’t?) this an essential add-on for your browser.

Yahoo Companion

While the Mozilla version doesn’t (yet) offer all the features of the official add-on, it’s a boon for Mozilla users who are addicted to Yahoo. Using the toolbar, you can access Yahoo mail, bookmarks, weather, news, and all of the various Yahoo search options. Though not complete, what is here seems to work flawlessly, performing just as quickly as does the official companion on IE.

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is one of the few tool bars made to support Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Mozilla equally. At its most simplistic, StumbleUpon is a random site generator. Click on the “Stumble” button on the toolbar and you’re taking to a random site on the Net, where you’re given the opportunity to rate (thumbs up or down) and review it.

But it’s also more that that. Everyone who joins gets his or her own spot on the network, to which they can upload a photo, add links to their favorite sites, and post comments. You can even see lists of folks who rated sites in a similar manner to you, and that’s where things get interesting. Depending upon how much time you want to invest in the concept, you can use this addictive new tool bar to make new friends, find recommendations for sites you might enjoy, or just have fun hopping to random sites.

Mozilla Amazon Browser

More than just a toolbar, Mozilla Amazon Browser (MAB) actually allows you to perform searches against the American, British, German, or Japanese version of the Amazon.com product catalogue and see the results–complete with price, availability, reviews, and cover photos–from an interface within your browser. And because you don’t actually have to visit Amazon to do searches, the results are nearly instantaneous.

You can save your searches, customize exactly what information you receive, and more. If you purchase a lot of items from Amazon–or just want to use Amazon for reviews before purchasing elsewhere–this toolbar is an amazing resource. About the only thing it won’t do is purchase your favorite books for you.

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