Always a heavy user of bookmarks and feeds, Luís Miguel one day decided to customize his Firefox sidebar to better accommodate his personal tastes (he didn’t like how the ever-present sidebar pushed web content aside). But Luís soon discovered he could only go so far solving this problem with minor CSS tweaks.
That’s when he resolved himself to develop a full-blown add-on. He created OmniSidebar, an elegant extension that allows you to slide your sidebar into view with a simple gesture, among other rich interface features.
Another of Luís’ add-ons—FindBar Tweak—has a similar origin story; Luís identified a personal desire first, then built an add-on to address it. In this case he wanted a quick way to scan code for just the parts applicable to his work.
“Earlier today I was working with pinned tabs, and I had to research how they happen,” explains Luís. “Looking for the word ‘pinned’ in Firefox’s code using FindBar Tweak, I was able to easily read through only the relevant bits in a few seconds, because it not only takes me directly to what I’m looking for, but also helps me visually make sense of what is actually relevant.”
It sounds like you basically create all of your add-ons based on personal browsing needs. Is that an accurate characterization?
Luís Miguel: Yeah, that’s a fair way to put it. Everything has been about making my Firefox behave and interact with me the way I prefer it to, from quickly finding what I’m looking for in a page, to having my feeds and bookmarks readily accessible without screwing up the rest of the page layout, properly organizing all my buttons in the browser, keeping a clean window but always ready to interact in whatever way I need it to. The “anything goes” approach of Firefox add-ons make them a very fun playground for me in that respect.
As a procrastination enthusiast, I’ve found that when the process—towards whatever goal—is optimal, fast, and effective, I am the most motivated to do it. So I look for every way to enhance productivity in every task I do, not just for developing, even just casual browsing really.
Although, that’s not entirely the case anymore. There’s a lot in my add-ons that come from user suggestions and requests, many [features] I don’t really use myself. But if it’s to improve the add-on and I have the availability to do it, how can I say no to the most awesome and supportive users a developer could ask for?
Beyond add-ons you’ve created, do you do other types of development?
LM: I’ve contributed a few patches for Firefox itself through Bugzilla, but that’s about it. When I set out to do something, I focus on it, so right now I bleed add-on code.
Are you working on any new add-ons you want to tell us about?
LM: I do have a couple of ideas for new add-ons, but those probably won’t happen for a while, mostly because I have to focus on my current ones a lot, as they will need to be ported to WebExtensions eventually. Since my add-ons are mostly UI-modifications at their base, that will be… challenging.
I have been working on Tab Groups 2 though, which is a major rewrite of almost everything, to hopefully make it more stable and perform better. It’s turning out really awesome.
What other add-ons—ones you haven’t created—are your favorites and why?
LM: I have around 30 add-ons enabled in my main profile at any one time. A few favorites come to mind…
AdBlock Plus is always at the top of my list. I dislike waiting a long time for pages to fully load because of several blinking boxes, or misleading ads.
Download Panel Tweaker for a sleek, direct, and fully functional downloads panel.
Tab Mix Plus for optimized opening, closing, moving, and loading tab behavior. There’s just so much it can do!
Stylish for a few nits here and there, and the custom glass style I made for myself, which I’ve found no other theme or add-on out there can even come close to this.
I especially like Turn Off the Lights. It helps me focus on whatever video I’m watching. I tend to get distracted easily. If there’s something in the corner of my eye that stands out for some reason, I will look at it. So that functionality is simple and yet very effective.
Thanks for chatting with us, Luís! I can think of no better way to close this conversation than by sharing a recent installment of your web series…