Firefox rules — plain and simple. If you don’t have this web browser, you don’t know what you’re missing. And you’re missing everything. So go get it right now. I’ll wait.

OK. Ready now? The main reason I prefer Firefox over Internet Explorer is the degree of flexibility it offers me to customize my browsing experience. One way it does this is through extensions (or add-ons), small pieces of software you install to add features and functions not available in the base installation. There are hundreds to choose from and these are the five I can’t live without:

  • AdBlock Plus: This extension blocks ads and banners from within web pages, leaving you with a much less cluttered screen. This is an extension I installed for my legally-blind father, who is now much less distracted by annoying ads. It helps him focus on pure content. Here you can see the difference when you use Firefox with AdBlock (on the left), vs. IE without an ad blocker (on the right) By the way, that "Winner" advertisement was spasmodically flashing red and black, and I almost had a seizure.

  • Forcastfox: Still using that resource hog, WeatherBug? Get rid of it immediately and install this add-on instead. You get an unobtrusive real-time Accuweather forecast for your selected city. This highly customizable extension displays right in your toolbar or statusbar. If you work in a windowless office, you can’t be without this one!

  • ColorfulTabs: Tabbed browsing made even more beautiful! This extension colors each tab individually to improve the overall appearance of the browser interface. If your eyes tire from staring at a PC all day, ColorfulTabs is a must. Here are three webpages open in the same browser window, each with its own distinguishing color.

  • StumbleUpon: Channel-surf the Internet! This add-on helps you find and share great websites based on your personal interests. Click the Stumble button to channel surf the best-reviewed sites on the web. Click the thumbs-up or down buttons to rate sites and StumbleUpon will "learn" to deliver more of what you want.

  • Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer: This extension lets you synchronize your bookmarks between multiple PCs. You can also login to to manage your bookmarks from anywhere.

You can browse for these and other add-ons at the Mozilla extensions page. When you’re ready to install one, follow these instructions.

We’ll use ColorfulTabs as an example. Note: Make sure whatever extension you install is supported for your version of Firefox. This will be plainly noted under the extension’s description. Click the Install Now button to begin.

Some extensions have End User License Agreements that you must accept in order to use. Click the Accept and Install button when prompted to do so.

At the Software Installation window, click the Install Now button to continue.

When the installation completes, note that you must restart Firefox for the extension to take effect.

Stumble it!