Automatic Transmission Shifters
High performance shifters give you the features you need for accurate shifts every time. Column shifters are the worst type for performance. Upgrading to a better automatic floor shifter usually gives you a reverse and/or neutral lockout. That means even if you push the shifter past second gear, you'll stop at 3rd on a 3 speed and not destroy an engine or transmission by hitting neutral or reverse. Companies like Hurst and B&M have been making shifters for many years. These are quality straight line shifters that are usually floor or console mounted and attached to auto transmissions with a shifter cable.
Hurst made the Quarter Stick shifter famous. Today, many companies have copied the basic design. Race shifters have neutral and reverse lockouts to prevent an engine destroying neutral or reverse gear hit. Either is not good for an engine or transmission. Race shifters are dead accurate with a short throw and positive stops at each shift point.
Hot Rod & Performance Shifters
Companies like Lokar make street rod shifters that are more suited to everyday driving. They are generally floor mounted or some mount to the rear of the transmission. Most street rod shifters come with several choices for the length of the handle. You'll also find a reverse lockout in the center of the shifter handle. If you want to keep your shifter on the floor, a Lokar shifter is a good choice.
Air shifters are used in drag racing or bracket racing. A controller is set to shift the car at designated RPM levels or at a certain time. The controller activates a solenoid that is hooked to compressed CO2 (usually). The compressed air activates the actual air shifter moving the lever. Air shifters usually are meant to work with popular racing shifters like the Quarter Stick from Hurst.
Electric shifters are similar in idea to air shifters. A controller, at designated RPM or time, is set to fire an electric pulse to an electric solenoid which moves the shifter. No air (CO2) is involved in the process, only electric. RPM switches are typically used that read off the ignition system.