10 useful Firefox-based apps

Mozilla's underlying Web browser technology also runs non-browser applications

Web browsers built upon the same technologies that power Firefox are fairly common. ( Flock , which integrates its user interface with social-networking sites, is one of the better known examples.) But there are also dozens of applications that rely on at least some aspects of the Mozilla platform.

Here are 10 useful desktop programs that run on the open-source Web browser's native technology. All of these applications are free for you to download and use -- and only one is a Web browser.

Boxee

Boxee

Boxee has been one of the programs of choice for many tech hobbyists putting together their own custom-built media center hardware. But it also supports Apple TV, and you'll be able to buy an actual branded Boxee Box media console later this year.

The Boxee software itself is topnotch, organizing your media (video, music, pictures) under a series of great looking menus, and presents easy navigation through media remote controls. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can install an app which will turn either of these mobile devices into a remote control for your Boxee set-up.

Buzzbird

Buzzbird

This free desktop client provides most of the features you need to interact with your Twitter friends and followers. You can read through the history of a discussion between two people through Buzzbird's "conversation view" when you click replies to tweets. Browsing and reading profiles, and following or unfollowing people, are all done within this program without needing to open an external Web browser program.

Buzzbird also includes other tweeting conveniences such as support for multiple user accounts, and a built-in URL shortener.

Celtx

Celtx

Created originally to be a screenplay word processor, Celtx has grown into an all-in-one suite that helps you produce a film, from the script stage to shooting it.

Most screenwriting programs cost hundreds of dollars, but Celtx is not only free it also includes a host of other tools: for storyboarding, breaking down shooting schedules, online collaborating on the script. The screenwriting word processor itself abides with the strict film industry standards for page and margin formatting, and font required in screenplays.

KompoZer

KompoZer

There's no lack of Web page editors built on the Mozilla platform. The one in the SeaMonkey application suite is perhaps the best known, but we recommend checking out KompoZer.

KompoZer, which was unofficially spun from Nvu , is a stable and good free choice if you need some CSS support in your Web design. It also includes an FTP tool to upload your pages directly to your server.

(Another Mozilla-based Web page editor, BlueGriffon , is in current development to provide more advanced CSS support. But no release of it has been made yet.)

Kylo

Kylo

What makes this, the only Web browser we chose to feature, unique from other Mozilla-based browsers? It's been developed to be used on TVs. Kylo's menus, icons, fonts, general overall user interface is specifically designed to be viewed on your big, wide, flatscreen set (plugged into your computer's video-out connection), as you sit about six feet away on your couch. A notable, very cool feature of Kylo is its on-screen virtual keyboard.

Wireless keyboards and mice are suggested for use with this TV Web browser. Kylo's developers also recommend a ring-shaped wireless mouse/remote control called The Loop that costs $99.

Miro

Miro

Miro is a media player that its developers bill as specially designed for HD video. It supports playing video files in several formats, including MPEG, QuickTime, WMV and Xvid, and can download video from YouTube and other sites. The program can also be set to download video podcasts via RSS feeds and bittorrent.

Miro's developers emphasize community contributions, so users are encouraged to submit RSS feeds to their own originally produced video content. Selected videos are featured in the program's start page, which presents thousands of shows you can browse through, and search for, under an attractive interface that looks like an online media store.

Songbird

Songbird

This started out as a straight-up iTunes clone that suffered stability issues in its early releases, but over the course of its development has evolved into a fully usable alternative to Apple's media player. Songbird's user interface works similarly to iTunes. It supports video playback, DRM-protected music downloads from the iTunes Store, and you can add a lot of other features by installing add-ons.

Officially, Songbird supports synchronizing with Android and Pre smartphones, but there's also unofficial support for the iPod/iPhone through an add-on.

Spicebird

Spicebird

Along with Web editors, there is no shortage of standalone e-mail clients built upon Mozilla. But we think Spicebird is the one most worthy of mention; essentially, it merges together Thunderbird (Mozilla's official e-mail program), Sunbird (a defunct calendar program) and Telepathy (a real-time instant messaging system) to present a collaborative and more robust e-mail client.

Besides chat and a calendar, it includes a simple project manager, and various widgets running within it that access Google Maps, weather information, international time zones and RSS feeds. With Sunbird, you get an e-mail command center on steroids.

TeleKast

TeleKast

Do you produce video blogs where you talk directly to the camera? Then you'll find TeleKast not only useful but necessary. You can write your script with it (or import text in XML format, or copy and paste words into it from an outside source) and edit it. Then TeleKast's teleprompter function will display your speech full-screen in large, bold white font against a black background. Hit the "Enter" key, and the words scroll up at a comfortable reading pace.

XULPlayer

XULPlayer

This media player is built on Mozilla technology combined with that of MPlayer . XULPlayer utilizes Mozilla's XULRunner runtime package which makes it easier for users to customize its user interface.

And it's not just for playing video, but can convert video files to other formats. XULPlayer has presets to easily transcode your video so that it can be played on your mobile phone, media player, gaming handheld, or other devices. It also features video-streaming through peer-to-peer technology.

Howard Wen reports on technology news, trends and products as a frequent contributor to Network World and Computerworld .