There's no reason to take the Web as it comes. Not when there are Firefox add-ons that turn Web pages into putty that you can shape as you wish. These three--Zotero, MashLogic, and RSVP Reader--let you gather and store all or parts of Web pages, open a customizable info box for whatever topics you encounter, and convert a block of text into a string of phrases that flash in a box at a speed you control.
Turn your favorite pages into collections
A few days ago, I wrote about by letting you customize the Web pages you save. Zotero is like bookmarks cubed. Not only can you save text, images, or entire pages, you can annotate and categorize the information for easy retrieval.
My only complaint is that the Zotero window takes up half the screen and can't be resized. Fortunately, it's easy to close the window to get a full view of your browser. To reopen the window, click the Zotero button in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
Zotero's capabilities go far beyond collecting and tagging Web pages. It's designed for researchers and lets them attach files and notes to items, take a snapshot of the page, and add bibliographic references. All entries are time- and date-stamped, and you can even open a mini-text-editing window. I sure wish I had one of these when I was a student.
Add-on lets custom search tag along
If you can get past the tiny blue dots the MashLogic add-on places below text and links, the add-on comes in handy. Hover over the dotted item and a small window pops up with information about the item from the sources you specify.
Click the MashLogic icon that appears to the left of the address bar to select the sources supplying the add-on's information. Your choices include Wikipedia, New York Times, Twitter, Yelp, and Guardian UK, as well as such categories as movies, books, music, shopping, and news and feeds. You can also suspend the dots for all sites or disable them for the site you're currently on.
Convert a page's text into a video stream
I was hoping to report how much faster I plowed through Web text with the RSVP Reader add-on, but I just couldn't get used to reading words as they flashed in a small box one, two, and three at a time. I still get a kick out of the novelty of a page's text appearing in bits and pieces.
RSVP Reader appears as a toolbar with buttons for making the text larger or smaller, and positioning the text in the box. In addition to the standard Play, Pause, Stop, and Rewind, buttons, you get buttons to speed up or slow down the text playback.
I tried reading several text-heavy pages with different types of content (news, literature, even poetry) with RSVP Reader and the old-fashioned way, and even after experimenting with different text-playback rates, it didn't feel like I was going through the material faster the flashing-text-box way. I was disappointed that I couldn't reposition the text box, which is at the far right of the toolbar. But the add-on does offer a totally different way to browse.