One thing I couldn’t do without in my browser are toolbars. Having my favourite bookmarks, tools, and search engines directly accessible from my browser saves lots of time and increases productivity. However, there are limits this usefulness as I am beginning to discover.
There are literally hundreds of toolbars out there. A simple search on Softonic reveals almost 200 results! Currently, I have four toolbars installed in Firefox – the Google toolbar, Torrent Search Bar, Rankquest toolbar and the Live TV toolbar. It’s getting to the stage though where Firefox is not only taking increasingly long to open but I’m getting confused between the various bars. One thing I keep doing is entering searches in the wrong boxes. The toolbars are so crowded too with little widgets and tools that I keep accidentally clicking on the wrong ones and losing my page.
To emphasise the perils of toolbar overload, PC4Media posted a snapshot of the hilarious results. As they point out, many of these toolbars are doing nothing more than trying to gain ‘real estate’ on your screen – nothing much more than a big advert. However, they also point out that toolbars are an important innovation because they open up the browser market that’s dominated by IE and Firefox:
All browsers are free and there are only a few alternatives. So, there is little incentive or business justification for anyone to innovate there. With toolbars, on the other hand, there is lots of incentive to innovate and have the newest coolest feature (eg search desktop, RSS readers) because it drives people back to the search site where they may click on paid ads.
Some toolbars are simply a nuisance though as this story from Passive Voice points out. This particular user installed the StumbleUpon toolbar and ended up having to reinstall Firefox as a result of the problems it created:
…I started to notice weird things happening in Firefox. For instance, I couldn’t delete individual history items anymore. If I wanted to hide my obsessive visits to DJ Waldow’s blog I couldn’t do it without clearing my entire history…The second problem I noticed is that I could no longer use my home key in certain circumstances. If I were to hit the home key in the Google search box or in the location bar it simply would no longer work.
The moral of the story? Keep your toolbars to a minimum unless you really need them!