How often do you use the Internet during the day? Two hours a day? Four? Whether you are filing a brief, searching for new legislation in your state, or researching legal information about a particular case you are working on, the Internet has become an integral part of our lives. Traditionally, web browsers are pretty similar in functionality. Out of the box you can bookmark favorite web pages and organize them. That's about it. There are, however, some great additions to web browsers that can make your experience better, faster, and more efficient through the addition of toolbars, bookmarklets, and extensions.
Security is always a risk when installing any third party plug-ins on any computer. Before installing any new software, extension, or plug-in on your computer, contact your system administrator.
Toolbars are great additions to web browsers. They allow you access to information right from Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox instead of going to search engines or specific websites. Google, Yahoo!, and now LexisNexis all have toolbars that can speed up your search process and allow you to focus on matters that require more attention.
Google and Yahoo! - Similar in function, the Google and Yahoo! toolbars are among the most popular toolbar around for both IE and Firefox. These toolbars allow users to search the Web, provide a pop-up blocker, auto-fill, access to news, spell-checking and other features.
In typical Google fashion, they currently have a beta of their next version available at http://www.google.com/tools/toolbar/T4/. This version offers a more streamlined approach by incorporating additional icon buttons versus text-based buttons. The toolbar also allows you to create custom buttons to your favorite websites or RSS feeds. Finally, the new toolbar allows you to send clips or links to web pages via SMS messaging, or through your Gmail account.
The nicest thing about the Google Toolbar for IE is that you can search Google instantly. Those who use Firefox may not see the need for the toolbar as there is a search bar already built into the browser. The next version of Internet Explorer, IE 7 will incorporate a similar feature.
LexisNexis - LexisNexis released a toolbar for IE in January 2006. Those who have a LexisNexis account can conduct specific searches directly in its databases via this toolbar. The interface is very simple, with a basic search box and then a "Select Source" drop menu where you can drill down to specific areas ranging from Codes and Regulations to Federal Litigation. It even lets you search Shepard's. Get the LexisNexis Toolbar at www.lexisnexis.com/toolbar/.
TinyURL - There are many bookmarklets available on the Internet, but none are more efficient than TinyURL. Have you ever received a link in an e-mail that wraps to the next line, but it breaks? You then have to copy and paste the URL into your web browser and hope that you got it all in order to open it. A frustrating process to say the least. TinyURL solves that problem. TinyURL is a website that allows you to paste large URLs into its interface, and it will in turn automatically create a shortened ("tiny") URL that is easy to use and will not break when placing in an e-mail message or posting on a website. This bookmarklet allows you to create that "tiny" URL without having to go to their website. You can create a tiny URL from any web page just by clicking on the bookmarklet link in your toolbar. You can get the TinyURL bookmarklet at http://tinyurl.com/#toolbar.
Extensions are somewhat similar to bookmarklets, but they provide more features. Often they work like min-programs or scripts that extend the functionality of a browser far beyond its original framework. Currently extensions are only available for Firefox. Personally, I use Firefox solely for the use of extensions. They allow me to leverage my browser to accomplish tasks and access information quicker than IE. If you use Firefox, here is a short list of extensions that you may find valuable to assist with your tasks on the Internet.
All-in-One Gestures - This extension allows you to use your mouse to navigate, or perform other macros within your browser. Move forward, back, open a new tab or window by holding down your right mouse button and performing a specific gesture. Use pre-defined gestures, or create your own. After using this extension, you'll never surf the web the same way again (the URL is http://tinyurl.com/cg6xy).
CustomizeGoogle - While Google is the most popular search engine around, it is not always the most relevant when it comes to search results. CustomizeGoogle adds links to other major web and blog search engines to perform the same search you just did in Google (the URL is http://tinyurl.com/df242).
PDFDownload - PDFDownload is a nice extension that gives you options when you click on a PDF in your browsers. You can open it in a new tab, download it, view as HTML in a new tab or cancel the download. These options come in handy when you click on a link that you didn't realize was a PDF, or when you want to view other pages while the PDF is opening up (the URL is http://tinyurl.com/bfkpy).
GoogleSuggest - Sometimes we don't use the best search phrase when looking for certain information. GoogleSuggest adds a list of other suggested search phrases that are similar to the one you are typing in. It dynamically narrows your search phrase as you type it in (the URL is http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/suggest/index.html).
Additional Search Engines
Another advantage to Firefox is that it allows you to load additional search engines into it's default search box. Do you prefer to search Yahoo! vs. Google? No problem. Do you like to search Wikipedia for certain topics? Adding Wikipedia to your search box is as easy as clicking a link. You can add many different search engines to your Firefox browser by heading to https://addons.mozilla.org/search-engines.php?application=firefox.
Armed with the right arsenal, your browser can be configured to be much more functional than visiting website to website. While Firefox has the most customization possible, using the right toolbar can enhance your experience using Internet Explorer as well. At the end of the day, using a toolbar or extension is about accomplishing the task at hand faster so you can move on to other tasks.