The speed dial that greets Opera and Google Chrome users is undoubtedly a timesaver for those who tend to frequent the same websites. Its continuing omission from Firefox may be a deal breaker for some thinking about migrating back now version 4 has been released, but the good news is that there are third-party Add-ons that provide this missing functionality.
One of the best is Fast Dial, recently updated to support Firefox 4 (albeit with a slight visual glitch that turns a cell opaque from transparent when refreshed). Once installed, you’re given nine spaces to fill – this number can be customised from the Add-on’s options dialogue. To add a website to the speed dial page, just right-click it and choose Add to Fast Dial. Fast Dial will appear by default whenever you open a blank page (again, this behaviour can be customised) or by clicking the new Fast Dial button that appears next to the navigation buttons in the main toolbar.
Once in place, sites can be dragged and dropped between different spaces on the Fast Dial page to reorder them. Right-click a site to access more options, such as removing it from the list or customising it further (you can, for example, replace the site thumbnail with an icon, dozens of which are available from Add-in’s home page).
Other customisations include being able to replace the static thumbnail with a live preview of the website in question – this will slow things down, but you can see how it works by ticking Preview on the Advanced button of the site entry’s Properties dialog.
You can even customise the Fast Dial page itself with a theme or two – again, lots of ready-made examples are available from the UserLogos site.
A decent facsimile of the speed dial function found in Chrome and Opera, with plenty of options for the tweaking enthusiast.