How to Enhance Your Browser with Greasemonkey

greasemonkey-logoHow would you like to be able to customize the layout of the Google homepage? How about add better video controls and a download button to YouTube? Or set a profanity filter that works across all websites? Maybe remove all the “What type of leafy vegetable are you?” quizzes from Facebook? These are very few of the things that can be done with Greasemonkey.

By itself, Greasemonkey does essentially nothing. At least, nothing that you as a user would notice. To really use it, you download Greasemonkey scripts which all have some special purpose. For example, right now I’m writing this from a browser with Greasemonkey installed, and I’m using scripts to enhance YouTube, Facebook, and Google Images.

The Greasemonkey website describes the general function pretty well –

Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows you to customize the way webpages look and function.
Hundreds of scripts are already available for free. And if you’re the tinkerer sort, you can also write your own.

I should note that some other browsers support these scripts, but often in a limited fashion. Opera can run some Greasemonkey scripts, and Safari has Creammonkey to achieve a similar end.

Installation

You can download the Firefox extension from the Greasespot homepge. It will install normally just like any other Firefox addon, and you’ll likely have to restart your browser. Once it’s back open, you should see a Greasemonkey icon in the lower right corner of the browser window.

greasemonkey-icon

Adding Scripts

Once installed, you can begin adding in scripts. The scripts will not require a browser restart, but if you’ve already got the page open that the script is meant to act on (such as YouTube), you may need to refresh the page. To get an idea of the type of changes Greasemonkey can do, here’s a comparison of the same YouTube video page with and without the YouTube Enhancer script.

First the normal YouTube play screen…
Normal YouTube screen

And now with Greamonkey enhancements…
YouTube with Enhancer script

As you can see, this gives you a LOT more options in terms of video quality and control. This is just one of MANY great user scripts available from userscripts.org.

Recommended Scripts

No Greasemonkey article would be complete without a list of some of the most useful user scripts. Here I’ve listed some of the ones I’ve found to be particularly helpful.

  • YouTube Enhancer – Demonstrated above, adds new video controls and download option to YouTube.
  • TinyURL Decoder – Shows you what’s behind those TinyURL redirects so you’ll never get Rickrolled again.
  • Textarea Resize – Allows for a larger text area in websites that only provide a small text box.
  • Folders4Gmail – Allows you to organize your GMail labels into a category hierarchy so you can use “sub-labels”.
  • YouTube Cleaner – Removes some of the extra cruft from YouTube (like comments) that you may not want. Can be easily enabled/disabled.
  • Pre-Fill Comments – If you frequently comment on blogs like MakeTechEasier, you can use this script to automatically fill in your name/email/URL.

And many, many more.

Do you have any Greasemonkey scripts you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!