After a bit of research, I’ve concluded that there are many different ways of developing extensions in mozilla / firefox. And they all vary over time. Most of the problems appear to surround the registration of chrome (the actual browser bits as opposed to the content it displays).
Originally, you had to register the chrome by hand. This involved editing the file
chrome/installed-chrome.txt in the mozilla application directory (source: Rapid Application Developmen with Mozilla). You also had to develop your application in the same place. This is probably ok if you’re on windows, but it utterly sucks if you’re in Unix as you don’t have permission to do any of this.
Later on, along came firefox with it’s extension manager. This let you easily install extensions into your profile instead of system wide—a blessing for us Unix users, and probably making life easier for windows users too.
Developing under this setup now used install.rdf and chrome.manifest files. I have no idea if you can develop using the “edit+reload” style with this version.
Now, for firefox 1.1, the extension manager has changed again. And it’s all different. Whilst I understand all the reasons for doing so, the lack of documentation about how all this fits together is very annoying for people trying to develop against a stable platform.
But, looking at the docs shows that extensions really should be easier to get going with this new method. I hope.
Of course, all my troubles are probably because I’m using Ubuntu’s version of firefox instead of one of the official builds…