Google has released its toolbar for Firefox, its first product designed specifically for a non Internet Explorer browser. While some Google products work with FF, none of them have been exclusively produced for the popular open-source browser. The Google Blog announces it, and the download is right over here. This version of the toolbar has no pop-up blocker, since Firefox has a built-in one, but it does have all of the regular features of the Google Toolbar, including PageRank and the much maligned AutoLink feature.
I’m installing it now, but I think this picture says it all:
Yes, Google did not find it at all a problem that their own screenshot shows Google selected in Firefox’s search bar, a great feature of the browser that makes search toolbars irrelevant. Nope, not at all a problem.
Still, it is nice that they point to the open-source Googlebar, which had previously filled the void for Firefox users who insisted on having a Google Toolbar. Google has even decided to embrace Firefox by designing two other Firefox extensions, Google Send to Phone and Google Suggest.
UPDATE: So, I installed it, and, while a search toolbar might not be necessary for Firefox, I think most people would agree that the Google Toolbar can provide some useful tools for any browser, so it could be worth checking out. I wish I could remove the Google Search box, though, and just use the tools.
I’m surprised Firefox is so anti-customizable. Why can’t I drag the Google Toolbar up, putting on the same line as the regular toolbar buttons. In IE, I’ve dragged things around exactly how I want them. Right now, the first row has both the file menu and the URL field, the second has the navigation buttons and standard IE toolbar, as well as the MSN toolbar (just the search box, at the end of the row). The third row has the Google Toolbar, with plenty of room to use the excellently useful Word Find buttons. The fourth row has the tabs for tabbed browsing. In Firefox, while I can recreate a similar setup, I can’t drag the Google Toolbar around at all. In fact, with so few buttons in Firefox, I would have liked a three row setup, combining the FF toolbar and URL field on the first row, put the Search box on the same row as the Google Toolbar. and tabs below that. For some reason, Firefox doesn’t allow that.
Anyway, its still a good product. So is Google Suggest, which oddly only works with the Firefox search box, not the Google Toolbar, making the Toolbar even less useful for actual surfing! The Send To Phone feature is great, too. Just select some text and click the phone icon, enter a number and cellular carrier and a text message is sent to the phone with the text. Thankfully, Send To Phone remembers where you last sent the message, so if you tend to send to the same number, its a two-click process.
UPDATE 2: I take it back! Google Send To Phone divies up the text into smaller blocks, resulting in a bunch of short text messages. Now, I realize this is the fault of stupid phone companies limites text messages to 123 characters (while still allowing picture messages that are measured in kilobytes), and not Google’s fault at all, but if the network stinks, you can’t use the product. Maybe Google should warn if you are about to send a message too long for the phone? Imagine deciding to send your friend a two-page article, and getting yelled at for sending 250 text messages!
Another problem is that Google doesn’t exactly send the text messages in order, with me getting them like this: 1/4, 2/4, 4/4, 3/4. That could be a major problem with a twenty-part message. Again, more of a network problem, but one Google should address by spacing out the messages more.
Also, I found a bug in the Google Toolbar. If you type a letter into the search box, then press down on your keyboard, you get options based on things you’ve already typed. However, try pressing up to get back to the search box. Doesn’t work, right? You’re stuck, and have to reach back for the mouse. Well, you could press TAB to get back, but the up key should have been enough.