This weekend, I happened upon a very cool bit of functionality that's actually built right into the browser's search bar - no extension required. To check it out, click in the default search box (or use CTRL+K to put your cursor there) and make sure that Google is your current search engine (CTRL+UP and CTRL+DOWN will cycle through your installed search engines).
Now try typing some of these, without hitting enter:
- 100 cm in inches
- sqrt 4096
Because of the auto-fill capability in that search box (which suggests searches as you type), these expressions and conversions get calculated and returned on the fly. Given that most people have a web browser window open all the time, you can't get much more convenient than this.
Here's a blog post that provides some other Google tips that you may not be aware of. I've used most of these for a while, and not all work on the fly like the expressions above, but checking time in foreign cities and getting quick movie showtimes were cool new ones for me.
On a related note, here are some of the must-have extensions that I install with any new Firefox setup:
del.icio.us Extension -- The new 1.5 version replaces the built-in Firefox bookmark capability by adding a sidebar with dynamic tags and swapping the built-in bookmark keyboard shortcuts. Note that your standard bookmarks aren't touched and are always available.
Flashblock -- Blocks Flash objects from appearing in any web page. Instead, you get a little Flash logo that you can click if you decide you want to see the Flash app. Makes the web a LOT less "blinky."
Google Toolbar for Firefox -- Provides one-click access to all sorts of Google searches and properties. Turn on the Suggest feature and you get the same "suggest" functionality described above.
IE Tab -- Some sites just don't behave well in Firefox. This extension lets you open a site in a new tab that hosts Internet Explorer right inside the tab. No need for a separate IE window!
Send Tab URLs -- When I'm researching something, I will sometimes have a LOT of tabs open. This extension creates an email message with the title and URL for all current open tabs. Very useful when you want to send some research to others or when you want to send some links to the office or home.
Tab Mix Plus -- Lets you control all sorts of settings around tabbed browsing and managing tab sessions.
Tabs Menu -- Couldn't be simpler. Adds a "Tabs" menu to the menu bar, with a dynamic list of current tabs under the menu. Very useful when you're trying to navigate a ton of tabs.