Extending web browser functionality – Greasemonkey for all web browsers

Ever felt that you have had the need to enhance your web browser, or the functionality of some web site you frequently visit? Here I will explain how to do that.

How to extend web browser functionality

Firefox is of course the uncrowned king of offering extending functionality to its web browser, both through Firefox extensions and with the help of Greasemonkey.

But, and as many people don’t know, all major web browsers offer such a Greasemonkey option, but in various forms. Therefore, let me introduce you to Greasemonkey and userscripts, which basically are helper JavaScripts run through the help of Greasemonkey. Start with installing Greasemonkey (or similar tool) for your preferred web browser:

Firefox – Greasemonkey

Very simple, go to Greasespot, read a little about it and then install Greasemonkey.

Safari – get SIMBL and GreaseKit

If you prefer Safari and is on a Mac, you can extend it with the help of something called SIMBL. It’s a little bit more tricky, i.e. no actual installer, but rather about putting some files in a certain location. Not too scary, but might put some people off.

The upside of this is great, though! It enables fantastic services like those mentioned in Pimp My Safari and through GreaseKit it let’s you run userscripts as well.

Google Chrome – enable Greasemonkey functionality

What’s very exciting is that Google seemed to have thought about this with their Google Chrome web browser. If you follow the instructions in HOW TO: Install Google Chrome Greasemonkey Scripts (Windows Only), you can add userscripts to a c:\scripts folder (create if needed) on your computer.

Note that the first step in the description isn’t necessary, though – just download the latest official version of Chrome and Greasemonkey will be built-in.

Opera – add userscripts

With Opera, there’s an easy way to point to a local folder on your computer for it to look after userscripts. Just follow the instructions in Opera: Tutorial – User Javascript and off you go!

Internet Explorer – IE7Pro

As with most tasks, Internet Explorer doesn’t really seem to be built for working, no matter what feature-area we’re talking about. However, with the help of IE7Pro you can add some extra functionality to it, and it also lets you run userscripts.

Please note, though, that most userscripts are written with standards-compliant web browsers in mind, meaning that due to improper event handling and such in IE, a lot of userscripts won’t work in it.

Userscripts

Have you gotten your web browser ready and is eager to start out extending it? A first good tip is to go to userscripts.org and find any number of scripts suiting your needs. Bear in mind that all scripts there will work in Firefox, some will not work in Safari, Google Chrome and Opera and most will probably not work in Internet Explorer.

Basically, just test your way forward.

The state of web browser extending

While the above advice offers you help on how to make your favorite web browser become a little better with userscripts, it baffles me that Firefox is so far the only web browser with a proper extension architecture, and officially promoting this to the public. No doubt a huge part of the Firefox success comes from this, and they have achieved it in a great way.

So, the natural move for any other web browser vendor should be to offer this functionality as well, effectively competing with Firefox on the same level. And, if they’re smart, they do it in such a simple way as the Mozilla way, preferably with support for the same extension code, to encourage web developers to port their scripts to their web browser.

Therefore, all other web browsers should step up, right? Right.

8 Comments

  • Celc says:

    I was really excited when I noticed Chrome had greasemonkey support( a few weeks ago) as I figured I could use it too fix whatever I was missing from Firefox, however Chrome sadly doesn’t support any of the GM APIs yet so the limitations have put me of.

  • HB says:

    I use Chrome from time to time and didn't know about that capability, thanks! Kinda sad that this can also bring IE quirks to user scripts, but at least the option is there for those who want to write cross-browser scripts.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Celc,

    Good point. For userscripts just generally enhancing web sites, though, it has been very good for me. Also, it sounds very probable that Google will try to support the existing Greasemonkey APIs a swell.

    HB,

    Yes, that's the risk. Userscripts will be bloated to cover up for all IE shortcomings, so most likely not many will take that route. But, as you say, it's an option for those interested at least.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jenny,

    Yes, it’s quite useful! :-)

  • Jenny says:

    Yay for Greasemonkey. I use scripts for automatic listing of the referring page in Flickr & for removing ad bar on facebook (ahem).

  • [...] There are other ways of adding Greasemonkey functionality to your browser [...]

  • Skorpionik says:

    To use GreaseMonkey script on Chrome with full funcionally used addon Tampermonkey

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Skorpionik,

    Thanks for sharing!

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