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Joe’s Guide to Free Elearning Tools: Firefox Environment Backup Extension November 11, 2009

Posted by jmullock in e-Learning Tools.
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Item: Firefox Environment Backup Extension

Category: Utilities

It’s not something you often think of but a pc is not just a computer, it’s personal computer.  Think about it:  How easy or difficult would it be to log in and get your work done on a colleague’s machine?  We’re not talking about defeating the password, just being a to figure out what is installed, where files are saved and with what defaults the various programs are set.

While I don’t know of a universal “reconfigurator”, I do know of a great utility that will allow you to move you personal browser settings easily from one machine to another, or reinstall them easily on your own:  The Firefox Environment Backup  Extension.

What it Does:

The first caveat should be obvious: the Firefox Environment Backup  Extension (FEBE) will only be useful to users of Firefox.  Sorry IE and Safari folks 😦  Now that we have that out of the way…

FEBE allows you to save all of the customizations you have added into Firefox into easily re-installable files.  If you have ever added an extension or plugin to Firefox, you may have noticed that it does so by using small “xpi” installation files.  FEBE recreates the original “xpi” files for all of your extensions, and also backs up your installed themes and bookmarks.  Back-ups can be run as needed, scheduled to run at a specified time, or on start-up, or on close of your browser.  Depending on how you have set FEBE to run, back-ups can be full or incremental.  Once the backup is run, FEBE produces a report that displays as a web page, with the back-up files displaying as clickable links.

As an aside, there is really no limitation to using FEBE to back up Firefox files.  It will allow you to specify files and directories to be included in a back-up, so it can actually be used as a lightweight/general purpose back-up program that runs within your browser.

When to Use:

Like all back-up procedures, it is best to keep a regular schedule.  I keep my home machine and browser running on a continual basis, so I have FEBE scheduled to run as a nightly process so that I don’t have to think about it.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think about it for a while.  It would run.  I’d see the new tab on the morning.  Say, “That’s good” and move on.  It wasn’t until I managed to muck up my browser installation recently—trying out a decidedly Alpha version of the latest FireFox release—did I remember that I had a week’s worth of FEBE back-ups available.

Rather than spending time trying to rescue my previous installation, I was able to wipe all previous versions of Firefox off my machine, reinstall the most recent (stable) version, and run my most recent FEBE back-up file.  In about 5-10 minutes I was completely back in business.  As the Guiness Brothers once said, “brilliant!”
How to Get:

The current version of the Firefox Environment Backup Extension is 6.3, and works for Firefox version 3.0 and higher.  It can be found within the Mozilla Add-ons for Firefox pages:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/2109

or directly from the developer’s web site:

http://customsoftwareconsult.com/extensions

The utility/extension is definitely freeware, however there is a “Contribute” button if you would like to provide a donation.  If you are not sure how useful this would be for you, do what I did:  Download the extension, schedule your back-ups, and if you find that it saves your bacon one day, send the guy two bucks and a thank you note.

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