- the extension can’t be downloaded through the usual route so is very slightly more faff to install
- ideally we don’t want participants to use their usual Firefox profiles when taking part in the study (although this is basically no biggie as long as a) they don’t have 300 tabs open like I do, and b) they ideally use a separate window for all the experiment browsing)
- if we’re using university machines, they might not have Firefox installed (or let users install their own extensions), and they’re unlikely to let users install their own programs
- if we want to install a ‘custom build’ (or just an ordinary version with our extension!) of Firefox on uni machines, that’s a lot of faff for IT and us
So, another option I’ve been thinking about which I think would also be useful for other studies based on using Firefox extensions, is to use a ‘portableapps’ version of Firefox (see e.g. lifehacker). This has a few advantages:
- portable apps don’t actually install anything on the machine, so you don’t need admin rights to set them up
- portable apps clean up after themselves – when you delete them, that’s it, they’re gone
- you can set them up in advance – so for example, the one I’m running is set to run alongside my main version of Firefox (see http://portableapps.com/node/19615 )
- you could then set it up as you wish (install extensions, set homepage, etc.), and provide it as a download, which can then be deleted after the study
Note this is a) probably against Mozilla’s terms (see section on ‘modifications’ and the section below that on shipping with pre-installed extensions) (see also this discussion) and b) may not work if you move directories – although for Firefox I’ve just done this and I don’t seem to be having any issues.
As a slight aside, this thread (re: ‘auto’ installing extensions) is also useful for people who want to roll out ‘custom’ firefox installs.
You can download:
- Windows Firefox Portable (also works under Linux with Wine)
- And a Mac Firefox Portable (I haven’t tested this one yet)
So – long live portable apps! Anyone see any other uses here?