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Using Mozilla's Web developer extensions

I read some stuff about Web Developer extensions in Mozilla Application Suite and am wondering: Would these tools be useful to enterprise sys admins?

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The hundreds of extensions and add-ons built for the Application Suite and for Firefox/Thunderbird are part of the general customisation story of Mozilla. Most extensions provide value-added or streamlined workflows when using the Mozilla products. These features appeal to those who are heavy users of Mozilla tools; people who either have repetitive tasks or are creative power-users. If you have such users, particular extensions may relieve some of their specific frustrations.

Deciding whether to use a particular extension or not is a Systems Integration process -- you first have to have a need that a given extension is a fit for. So using extensions is about meeting existing needs, not about providing eye-candy or cool toys.

In general, customisation of Mozilla is a highly useful activity for sysadmins, provide that you have a little time. Because the whole of Mozilla's interface is supplied as plain text files, it is very easy to "harden" the application by subtracting away features that you don't want. That is the opposite of adding extensions. Similarly, it is possible to enhance the interface as extensions do.

Once you've made your changes, it is also easy to bundle up the results into a fully installable package.

Mozilla's XUL is the technology required for extensions, and that technology I've only touched lightly on here. XUL is a good way to wrap up any command-line sys admin task into a nice GUI window. Such a GUI window is easy to operate once it's built. WebMin could be enhanced to work that way, for example.

Using XUL requires more effort than merely dropping in an existing extension, though. Perl or Web skills are ideally required.

This was first published in April 2004

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