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Revolutionizing the Web with Firefox and Greasemonkey (with screenshots)

Posted in Firefox and Greasemonkey, Popular Posts, Technology by engtech on August 24, 2007

Web Browser Tips & Tricks

A greasemonkey is a mechanic who works on your automobile. He gets his hands dirty, and goes under the hood to find out why your car is making that clunking noise. Greasemonkey is an extension for Firefox that does much the same thing, but without the ridiculous fees.

This guide is intended for beginners

In my previous guide I explained how to install a Firefox extension, and hopefully sparked some interest in why you would want to extend your web browser in the first place. I used the Greasemonkey extension as an example for a very good reason. Sometimes you want to extend your web browser in a big way, like putting a new room in your house. That’s where an extension comes in (it’s like hiring a construction company). Other times all you want to do is repaint a room or re-hang a door; something you could do yourself over a weekend. That’s where Greasemonkey comes in. There are many small jobs and minor tweaks to web pages that would be overkill for a full Firefox extension.

Greasemonkey is a unique extension in that it lets you install these things called user scripts. User scripts are much smaller than extensions, and are often targeted to much more specific tasks than extensions. There is a web site called UserScripts.org that is devoted to these small tiny hacks people have created to make the web work more like the way they want it to.

It can be complicated to create your own user scripts (it requires understanding the Javascript programming language), but it is dead simple to install and use scripts other people have created. And let me tell you that a *lot* of people have created scripts. There are over 7500 user scripts on UserScripts.org. If something on a web page has annoyed you, there is undoubtedly a user script that fixes it.

What Can Greasemonkey User Scripts Do?

  • Remember information
  • Remove parts of web pages
  • Change how web pages look
  • Automatically download information from other web sites and put it into the current page
  • Cross-reference information from other web sites
  • Speed up common tasks so that they require less clicks

Because user scripts use the Javascript programming language there is really almost anything that they can do. Or at least, that would be the case if they weren’t restricted. One of the nice things about Greasemonkey user scripts is that they’re restricted in ways that regular Firefox extensions aren’t. User scripts won’t change your Firefox toolbars, add things to your right click menu options, look at files on your computer or rub your cat’s hair the wrong way.

Useful Greasemonkey User Scripts

Install Greasemonkey

Greasemonkey installs like any other Firefox extension. This guide shows you how to install Greasemonkey in a step by step process with screenshots.

How to Find Greasemonkey User Scripts

userscripts.org logo

The best source for finding Greasemonkey scripts is userscripts.org. To find scripts for a specific web site, type its name into the search box and hit enter.

userscripts.org help search end hit enter

The left hand side of the screen will return a list of scripts. Unfortunately there is no way to sort them.

userscripts.org search results

If you click on the script name it will take you to a page with more information about the scripts. The easiest way to tell if a script is any good is by the number of times it has been installed, and how much effort the author goes into explaining what the script does and how it works.

example of good script documentation

To install a script click on the “install this script” link in the right hand column.

Hot Tip: I’ve created a script that highlights the most popular user scripts and makes it easier to find the best scripts on userscripts.org.

Lifehacker.com and Lifehack.org both often feature Greasemonkey user scripts.

Installing a Script

All user scripts end with the .user.js extension. If you do not have Greasemonkey installed, or Greasemonkey is disabled, then your web browser will try to download the file instead of installing it.

use download count to see how popular a script is

Click on this link to start installation of my Akismet Auntie Spam script.

A box will pop-up that gives a short description, tells you which web sites the script runs on, and offer to install it. Click on the Install button.

firefox greasemonkey extension install script dialog

A message will appear temporarily in the lower right hand corner of your web browser telling you that the installation was successful.

greasemonkey firefox userscript install

Turning Greasemonkey on and off

You can enable and disable Greasemonkey temporarily by clicking on the little monkey icon in the lower right corner of your web browser. This is a great trick for when a script isn’t doing exactly what you want – you can turn off all of your scripts and interact with the web site normally as if you didn’t have Greasemonkey installed.

turn greasemonkey on and off

Advanced Users – Managing Scripts

greasemonkey script management

If you click on Tools >> Greasemonkey >> Manage User Scripts it will open up a windows that lets you:

  • Control which web sites the script does or does not run on
  • Enable or disable specific scripts
  • Uninstall scripts
  • Directly edit the script (it will ask you which text editor to use the first time you try it)

greasemonkey userscript firefox edit disable manage

Heading to the management panel is a really useful way to further tweak scripts, or just change the web sites they run on.

Advanced Users – Configuring Scripts

I can’t tell you how to configure a specific script, but I can give you a general overview of the various ways it can be done.

Editing the Script

Example: Find images that are too wide

This is the sign of a lazy programmer. It isn’t that hard to edit a script, but it is still a pain in the butt when they tell you to change settings directly in the script. I usually won’t bother installing scripts like this.

  • Click on Tools >> Greasemonkey >> Manage User Scripts
  • Choose the Script
  • Click on Edit
  • Make the change
  • Save

Running User Script Commands

Example: Pagerization

User scripts can only modify the Firefox menu in one place, under Tools >> Greasemonkey >> User Script Commands. It may be grayed out if you don’t have any scripts installed that register commands.

greasemonkey firefox user script commands register

Hot Keys

Example: Facebook photo album keyboard navigation

Some scripts use hot keys to perform actions. You’ll have to read their documentation on how to use them. When you’re on the web page that the script works with, hitting keys on your keyboard will cause the script to do things.

Changing Settings Interactively

Example: Pre Fill Comments

Smart scripts configure themselves through dialog boxes the first time you run them. This is by far the recommended and most painless way for scripts to configure themselves. Hint.

firefox greasemonkey install guide prompt for settings

Troubleshooting

Q1: Greasemonkey is cool! Is there anything else out there like it?

Stylish is a very similar extension that lets you apply user styles (not scripts to web pages). Stylish is to CSS as Greasemonkey is to Javascript. It lets you change the CSS of any web site to improve the way it looks, or get rid of annoyances. Greasemonkey user scripts will let you do more than Stylish, but if all you want to do is change the appearance of something then Stylish is the right tool for you. You can find styles that other people have created at UserStyles.org.

Q2: I want to create a Greasemonkey script, but I don’t know how to program.

Platypus is WYSIWYG editor for Greasemonkey scripts. It will let you create Greasemonkey scripts by moving around and interacting with parts of a web site.

(WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get)

Q3: What about Internet Explorer?

Yes Virginia, it is possible to use some userscripts with Internet Explorer. Watch this space.

33 Responses

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  1. [...] Update: Just found a nice post which explains how to use the Greasemonkey extension for Firefox. [...]

  2. syahidali said, on August 25, 2007 at 6:21 am

    awesome post man. you cover it all. this is so “pillar post”

  3. engtech said, on August 25, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    @syahidali:

    Thank you. I’ve been writing so many Greasemonkey apps lately, I realized I needed a good “how-to” on installing them.

  4. [...] Skip navigation Subscription OptionsMost Popular PostsIDT Labs – Free Software ToolsWordPress.com Resources – Tips, Tricks and ToolsWordpress.com Theme ReviewsWordpress.com Theme Review HelpGreasemonkey script: WordPress Category ResizerWordpress.com 7 Day Referrer ParserPerl Script – WordPress.com 7 Day Referrer ParserGreasemonkey Script: Akismet Auntie Spam for WordpressGreasemonkey Script: Find images that are too wideTag Cloud Generator for Wordpress.comTag Cloud Generator AdvancedTag Cloud Generator – Release NotesWordPress Themes by InternetDuctTape.comBlack and Blue and Read All Over Theme for WordPress SandboxMoon Under Uranus Theme for WordPress SandboxMiscellanious WordPress Scripts and ToolsGreaseMonkey Script: WordPress Comment NinjaTechnorati Favorite Your FansTechnorati Favorite Your Fans – Release NotesComic BloggerGreasemonkey script: Flickr always search for Creative Commons licensed photosGreasemonkey Script: Yahoo Pipe CleanerTag CloudAll Posts by Category and TitleSeriesGift Guide for Geekseaster eggsReader Appreciation for RSS subscribersWelcome to Internet Duct Tapebloggoogle1ec000b3808eedbf.htmlAbout MeDisclosureImages Credits « Revolutionizing the Web with Firefox and Greasemonkey (with screenshots) [...]

  5. Top Posts « WordPress.com said, on August 26, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    [...] Revolutionizing the Web with Firefox and Greasemonkey (with screenshots) [image] A greasemonkey is a mechanic who works on your automobile. He gets his hands dirty, and goes under the hood to […] [...]

  6. [...] Internet Duct Tape has a post up talking about GreaseMonkey, how to install it and how nice it can be. [...]

  7. [...] Revolutionizing the Web with Firefox and Greasemonkey (with¬†screenshots) digg_url=’http://www.gadgotchy.com/index.php/08/2007/education/firefox-with-greasemonkey-add-on-what-is-it-good-for1/’; digg_skin = ‘compact’; digg_bgcolor = ‘#FFFFFF’; digg_title = ‘Firefox with greasemonkey add-on, what is it good for?`1′; digg_bodytext = ”; digg_topic = ”; Powered by Gregarious (42) Share This (No Ratings Yet)  Loading … [...]

  8. [...] Read the complete article on the subject here. [...]

  9. [...] Revolutionizing the Web with Firefox and Greasemonkey (with screenshots) Firefox and Greasemonkey [...]

  10. [...] Revolutionizing the Web with Firefox and Greasemonkey (with screenshots) Using Greasemonkey to enhance web sites and make them easier to use. [...]

  11. [...] How to Install a Greasemonkey Script [...]

  12. [...] to learn how to use Greasemonkey Firefox extension and how to find and add Greasemonkey scripts, Internet Duct Tape has an extensive guide with lots of illustrative [...]

  13. [...] Revolutionizing the Web with Firefox and Greasemonkey (with screenshots) « Internet Duc… – [...]

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  17. Sandra said, on February 03, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I have installed greasemonkey. I want to download my facebook videos to my PC.
    When I got to manage “user scripts”, I add “www.Facebook.com”to the list and next time I look, it is not there. I have not been able to get the link to download under the “Tag this video” and “report this video”.
    Can you help me?

  18. engtech said, on February 04, 2008 at 9:59 am

    @ Sandra:

    It doesn’t sound like you installed the Facebook downloader script properly. Click on this link and install it:

    http://userscripts.org/scripts/source/9789.user.js

    that should do it

  19. [...] going to have to install several user extensions to get it to work. These are kind of like Firefox extensions, except for Media Monkey. They’re easy to [...]

  20. [...] Install this script – How-To [...]

  21. [...] How to install a Greasemonkey script – How-To [...]

  22. [...] How to install a Greasemonkey script – How-To [...]

  23. Salman said, on April 01, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks. good screenshots and explainations.

  24. elyssa said, on April 06, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I’d like to be able to download facebook videos to my computer.

    When I click http://userscripts.org/scripts/source/9789.user.js this link, It opens a window asking to ‘save file’ or ‘cancel’. When I ‘save file’, It doesn’t open. It says theres an error.

    I’m new to this, so could I please get a clear explanation?

  25. [...] How to install a Greasemonkey script – How-To [...]

  26. billso said, on May 07, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I have no reason to use Akismet anymore. I use a lockdown plugin called Bad Behavior that stops most splogger scripts from accessing my site in the first place.

  27. [...] is for all the Greasemonkeyers in the house who want to learn how to be much more productive when it comes to hacking together [...]

  28. [...] than duplicate a full tutorial on Greasemonkey and FriendFeed, I’d suggest you check out the tutorial on Internet Duct Tape. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to click on the link below to install the [...]

  29. [...] love Firefox because of all the ways I can extend it with Greasemonkey and because of ad-block plus. Internet Explorer isn’t as bad as it used to be, but [...]

  30. porno said, on September 22, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    thanx alll….

  31. Teck said, on September 26, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Thank you I just found out about grease monkey, tonight through your blog and then I came across this walk through post thank you very much for the great walk through with awsome clear & sharp screen shots.

    I have downloaded your Akismet Auntie Spam script.
    & you’re [WORDPRESS] Comment Ninja 0.61 script.
    which have been very helpful.

    Thank you.

    Teck

  32. erich13 said, on October 12, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    SSLGoogle can be replaced by installing an Add-On called CustomizeGoogle (http://www.customizegoogle.com/) and setting some options.

  33. rosana said, on December 21, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Need help, I can’t click on user script comands although downloaded few scrips. Tnx


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