As the web evolves, the ways of using it evolve with it. We’re long past the era of total uniformity when it comes to accessing this information wealth, but there is still much room for personalization and improvement. Our browsers give us a basic view, defaulting to the most common usage case, but there’s no reason to strictly adhere to what is most common.
Augmented browsing is a concept that broadly describes how one can automatically improve the web experience. This improvement can be in regard to the information on the pages or to its presentation. Although in practice this means modifying HTML and/or CSS, the concept itself is not limited to any particular technology.
If you’re a Firefox user – rejoice, because there are addons created for the purpose of augmented browsing. You can use them for simple actions, such as changing an unpleasant color scheme to something easier on the eyes, or employ them for more complex goals, like remodeling the user interface, rearranging or hiding information, displaying instant translations, or indeed nearly anything else you might find useful.
The changes you make to a web page are executed on-the-fly, before or after the page loads. It’s important to remember that they take effect only in your browser – you’re not actually modifying the original web page, just the way it works on your computer.
Greasemonkey scripts can customize the appearance, functionality, and rendering of web pages, both on single web page and domain levels. They can also be used as global browser enhancements. Greasemonkey can help you download videos from YouTube, make Facebook photos bigger and easier to navigate, check who unfriended you on Facebook, enhance Google’s services like Mail and Calendar…
If there’s something you want your browser to do, and you know how it should be done – Greasemonkey is perfect for you. Don’t worry if you lack the programming skills, though – just visit userscripts.org, the main repository for Greasemonkey scripts, and choose from hundreds of free scripts.
Stylish is regularly featured as one of the recommended addons on the official Mozilla site. This addon is similar and often compared to Greasemonkey, though there is one key difference between them.
Still, the addon is amazing – you can change the looks of particular web pages like Pinterest, Twitter and Reddit, or apply global styles; for example, make all web pages use a custom font of your choice.
In addition to that, there are app styles which modify the appearance of Firefox and Thunderbird as well as other addons like Speed Dial or Down Them All. The styles can be used to add transparency and new icons, arrange the browser elements differently, change the color of the Firefox interface…even make Firefox look like Chrome or Safari.
If you don’t feel like writing your own Stylish scripts, userstyles.org is the place to go. Beware: you might lose hours browsing the awesome scripts that are available there.
Bookmarklets are usually used for simple tasks like searching, statistics, window resizing, zooming or changing the background color. However, there are bookmarklets that integrate with popular social sites like Reddit or Pinterest and provide quick and practical access to their functions.
We should also mention Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus which makes hiding ads easier. This addon requires that you have Adblock Plus installed, and it shows up as an option in its menu.
When you choose “Select element to hide”, all elements on a web page will appear within a red rectangle when you hover over them. To hide an element, left-click within the rectangle. The setting will be saved and this element will be hidden the next time you visit that website. Similar to this is Remove It Permanently; it’s a standalone addon, meaning that it doesn’t require any other addons in order to run.
Augmented browsing may sound complicated and abstract, but as you have seen, it boils down to a very simple idea that many Firefox users have recognized as a way to make their browser even more powerful. Of course, there are alternatives as well as special versions of these addons for other browsers.