The latest Gran Paradiso nightly brings an important improvement to the Add-ons Manager. Along with themes and extensions, now it’s possible to see, enable and disable the installed plugins, those small applications that allow Firefox to show special content embedded in many web pages including Flash animations, video and audio in a variety of formats ( Real, DivX, Windows Media, QuickTime), Adobe PDF documents, Java applets, etc.
In Firefox 2 and previous versions there’s no easy way to determine what plugins and what versions are currently installed. To view present plugins a user could enter about:plugins in the location bar but the result is a very long and hard to read report. To disable a specific plugin, a user has to uninstall it or manually delete the related files, a task that could be hard to explain and followed by support people and end users respectively.
The ability to disable plugins also provides an easy way to work around security vulnerabilities that affect plugins.
An option not currently implemented is a way to check for updates for the installed plugins. A periodic check for new, more stable and safer versions and automated updates would be a big step forward security-wise.
Then there’s the problem with plugins that involve more than one file. For example, QuickTime is split into five library files, each of them to handle a different file types subset. The Plugins page lists the plugin as many times as there are files and there’s currently no way to tell which one is related to what. Java is another popular plugin in the same situation but Mozilla is already evaluating options to address these cases.