Why Firefox is great for Bioinformatics ?

Firefox, the latest offering from the Mozilla Foundation is one of the best web browsers in the market at the moment. In addition to built-in extras like popup-blocking, tabbed browsing, smart searching capabilities, the Mozilla development platform offers more than 200 add-ons in the form of extensions.
According to the mozilla update site, the official download home for all extensions:

Extensions are small add-ons that add new functionality to your Mozilla program. They can add anything from a toolbar button to a completely new feature.

Firefox offers the average biologist many advantages over Internet Explorer or Opera. Warning:As the developer of one of the first bioinformatics extensions for Firefox, the case that I put forward below may be biased !!!

a) Bioinformatics Extensions: Search and Analysis

  • biobar – A power-browsing toolbar for searching over 40 biological databases. The complete list of databases than can be searched in given here. In addition, the toolbar offers a high degree of customisation, by allowing users to add their own databases to the toolbar. Biobar is available for the mozilla family of browsers including Firefox, Mozilla (1.4+) and Netscape 7+.
  • bioFOX -Code bioFOX aims at implementing various bioinformatics tools as an extension on Firefox. Analysis of your favorite gene(s) usually require(s) retrieving it from a database like NCBI or Swiss-Prot and then performing one or more tasks including translation, blast search, property analysis like codon usage, molecular weight calculation etc. bioFOX is available as a sidebar only for Firefox and can be activated by pressing Ctrl-shift-F after installation. The bioFOX homepage has more documentation.
  • BioMed Central Toolbar – BioMed Central has a toolbar available for both Mozilla/IE (Wonders!) which, much like biobar, allows a user to search BioMed Central, PubMed, Faculty of 1000 and Google. A similar search plugin is available for Firefox from the same site.
  • Athens Toolbar – This toolbar will be useful to people who use the Athens Authentication Service to access sites like Ingenta for full-text access to library subscription journals. Not very useful for people outside the UK.
  • LSID – The lsid extension enables resolution of lsidres URIs. The lsidres protocol is used by IBM’s LaunchPad for Life Sciencer Identifiers (LSIDs). At present, LauchPad is only available for Internet Explorer 6 running on Windows. This extension is a first step towards adding support for this protocol to other browsers.

b) Search Plugins: Quick Searches

Firefox comes built-in with a search box at the top-right edge of the browser. by default, the search plugins supported for that box are Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Dictionary, E-bay. However, it’s just as easy to add other search engines for this box. I have listed a few for Life Sciences below:

  1. NCBI Global – Search NCBI
  2. NCBI PubMed – Search Entrez
  3. HubMed – Search HubMed
  4. SwissProt – Search SwissProt

These and many others can be installed by a single click from Mycroft.

Other fantastic general purpose extensions include AdBlock a must to block all those unwanted banner ads, flash iframes etc.

Please let me know if the list is incomplete so that I can maintain a uptodate list for future reference.

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