Take a moment right now and notice what browser you're using to access the Internet. (A browser is a software application that sends and receives digital information on the Internet.) If your computer runs Windows and you haven't downloaded a different browser, you're likely using Internet Explorer. Those on a Mac are probably using Safari.
There are actually a number of browsers that are free to download and offer a variety of additional services. My preference is Firefox, which works on any computer and in multiple languages. One of the biggest advantages is that you can install free tools to enhance your productivity and workflow when you're working online. Below are 10 Firefox add-ons that I recommend to all journalists.
Colorful Tabs. This is a very simple program that changes the color of your tabs. (When you open a new page in Firefox, a "tab" appears with the title of that website.) I usually have at least 20 tabs open at once, so color-coding them makes it easier for me to remember which page is where.
Zotero. If you do a lot of research online, I highly recommend Zotero, which is an add-on that helps you collect, manage, cite and share your research and sources. It lets you keep a detailed history of everyone you've found online, and you can leave yourself notes to search through later. An excellent resource for journalists!
Language Packs. If you speak more than one language, you'll want to install Firefox's language packs which include character sets and dictionaries in ever language you can imagine.
Image Zoom. This add-on lets you zoom in and out on any image you find online. You can carefully examine images without having to download them, which is of great help to those with dial-up connections or in areas with limited Internet access.
TinEye. This is a fantastic reverse-image search tool that I showcased on IJNet a year ago, and it's now available as a Firefox add-on!
SimilarWeb and StumbleUpon. SimilarWeb add-on is similar to StumbleUpon (and the icon even looks the same). It will instantly show you websites related to the one you're browsing. StumbleUpon is a recommendation engine that lets you "stumble" onto websites that match your interests.
Gmail Manager. For those of you using Gmail and Google Apps, this is a must-have add-on for you.
Google Shortcuts. If you use other Google products, such as Google Reader or Webmaster Tools, this add-on will create shortcuts for instant, easy access to the tools you use most.
A complete list of available add-ons is here. One caveat: the more add-ons you install, the more information Firefox has to manage. If you install a few dozen add-ons, it will seem like you've lost significant Internet speed.
Amy Webb is a digital media consultant and the CEO of Webbmedia Group, LLC. She has also launched Knowledgewebb, a new website for multimedia training. You can follow Amy on Twitter. Webbmedia Group is a vendor-neutral company. Any opinions expressed about products or services are formed after testing, research and interviews. Neither Amy Webb nor Webbmedia Group or its employees receives any financial or other benefits from vendors.