My 5 must-have Firefox extensions and what I use them for

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Firefox is a much better browser than the market share would indicate. With just one big exception (tab management), I would go so far as to say it’s the best browser available to nearly all platforms.

It’s a shame that Firefox gets overlooked but for those who do know how well the browser works, you get it. For those who might be on the fence about using Firefox, the extensions feature might help sway you.

Also: Google delays killing third-party cookies in Chrome again. What you need to know

My favorite extensions level up the open-source browser for me and my workflows. Each of these extensions is free to install and use and helps add a bit of extra security and efficiency to the browser.

With that said, let’s get to the extensions.

1. uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin is the king of content blocking for Firefox. With over 7 million downloads, the numbers speak for themselves. Most think this extension is little more than an “ad blocker” but that’s selling it short. 

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uBlock Origin is a wide-spectrum content blocker that blocks ads, trackers, coin miners, popups, prefetching, hyperlink auditing, and more. uBlock Origin works with the help of various lists of known threats and issues. Out of the box, the extension uses EasyList (for ads), EasyPrivacy (for tracking), Peter Lowe’s Ad server list (for ads and tracking), Online Maclicous URL Blocklist, and uBO’s own list. There are other lists you can enable but the default collection works very well.

If I could only install one extension to Firefox, this would be it. I would even go so far as to say uBlock Origin should come pre-installed on Firefox; it’s that good (and necessary). In this modern era, visiting certain types of websites is a security and privacy crapshoot but uBlock Origin helps tilt the odds in your favor.

2. Privacy Badger

Unlike the wide-spectrum nature of uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger focuses on one thing: invisible trackers. What makes Privacy Badger so important is that it learns as it is used. Instead of relying on lists, this extension discovers trackers based on behavior. 

Privacy Badger also automatically opts you out of data sharing and selling as well as tracking. If that weren’t enough, Privacy Badger also automatically removes link click tracking on both Facebook and Google, so those sites cannot track the links you’ve clicked on.

Also: The best secure browsers for privacy in 2024

Use Privacy Badger along with uBlock Origin (along with Firefox’s built-in security measures) and you’ve got one of the most secure browsers on the planet.

3. Bitwarden Password Manager

Continuing with our theme of security, you should be using a password manager. When you do adopt a password manager, I highly recommend Bitwarden. 

Also: How to use Bitwarden Identities to secure your most sensitive data

Not only does it have a robust feature set, end-to-end encrypted vaults, and apps for desktop, mobile, and web, but it also has a browser extension. One of the reasons many refuse to use a password manager is that it adds yet another step in their already busy day. To that end, they’ll allow their web browser to store passwords for easy logins. Unfortunately, web browsers aren’t nearly as safe as legitimate password managers. 

With the Bitwarden Password Manager Firefox extension, you get the best of both worlds. Not only do you have the extra security layers of a real password manager, but also the simplicity and efficiency of easy logins.

4. Sideberry

The only area where Firefox struggles is tab management. Out of the box, Firefox’s idea of tab management is pretty much the same as it ever was… none. That’s a shame, given how browsers like Opera and Safari have created some of the best tab management options available.

Also: 5 ways to improve your Chrome browser’s security

Although Firefox doesn’t have an extension to rival Opera’s Workspaces, it does have Sideberry, which adds a sidebar where you can better manage your tabs with a flat list, tree view, grouped tabs (folders), colorizations, automatic unloading, and custom tab titles. Ever since I started using Arc Browser on MacOS, I’ve come to really enjoy side tabs. The only thing I wish Sideberry could do is hide Firefox’s default tab bar.

5. ClearURLs

How many times have you wanted to share a link with someone, only to find the link a never-ending stream of characters that extends far beyond the necessary address? All of those extraneous characters are tracking elements and look something like this:​

The above link is for a vinyl copy of Rush’s “Moving Pictures” album on Amazon. The only bit you really need is this:​

With the ClearURLs extension, when you click on the Amazon listing, it strips away all of the tracking bits and presents only the necessary link. To me, that’s a must-have.

And there you have it, five extensions that help level up Firefox’s security and efficiency. If you don’t find an extension here that tickles your browser fancy, you can always check the Firefox extension market and find an exhaustive list of possible add-ons to help make Firefox the web browser you’ve always wanted and needed.

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