Chrome extensions for power users

Add-ins abound for the increasingly popular and powerful browser

For many, Google’s Chrome browser has taken on the scrappy upstart role in the desktop browser wars. Although the debate rages on as to which browser’s used the most (Net Applications invariably puts IE on top; StatCounter’s unwaveringly on the Chrome side), there’s no question that Chrome’s quite popular among savvy Windows users. Once upon a time, Firefox drew the largest cognoscenti mindshare because of its vast array of add-ons. That’s changing. Here are my 15 top picks for extensions to Chrome, the browser I use most.

LastPass 2.0

The best-known online password manager has an excellent Chrome extension that works simply and effectively to help you keep track of all of your passwords, generate random passwords for new sites, fill in forms, and much more. Passwords are encrypted locally before being sent to the Internet, so even LastPass can’t get to them. Runs and shares passwords on IE, Firefox, Opera, and Safari; premium upgrade adds Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, and multi-factor USB authentication.

Evernote Web Clipper

If you aren’t using Evernote - or one of its competitors - to clip and save Web pages, files, photos, handwritten notes, and on and on, you’re behind the times. Think of Evernote as an electronic shoebox where you can cram just about anything. (Earlier this week, Evernote announced enterprise-friendlier Evernote Business that works with the same Chrome add-in.) Once the information is in the shoebox, it’s easy to sort and slice and dice it. And you can add, manage, or retrieve information from your PC, smartphone, tablet, or iOS device very quickly. Take a photo of a handwritten page using your phone’s camera, and it’s rendered as searchable text.

Google Mail Checker and Send from Gmail

If you have a Gmail account and don’t mind turning Gmail into your default email program, these two extensions are no-brainers. Google Mail Checker puts a small “M” icon on your Chrome address bar that lists how many unopened messages are waiting for you. Tap on the Send from Gmail icon - an “M” with an arrow - and Chrome strips out the URL of the current page, sticking it inside a newly formed Gmail message, ready for you to finish and send. Both of these are from Google; there are lots and lots of Gmail extensions for Chrome, but these are the two I go back to all the time.

Google Dictionary

Another indispensable, free Chrome extension from Google. After you install Google Dictionary, you can double-click on any word, and a full definition appears in a yellow bubble. Click the More link, and you’re taken to the Google Web definitions page for the word - a comprehensive mashup of definitions and uses from all over the web. You can also select a word and click the Dictionary icon to see the same content, but without being transported to the web definitions page.

MightyText for Android

Android phone (and Android SMS-enabled tablet) users take note. If your life seems to be swamped with SMSes, some relief is at hand. Install the MightyText app on your Android phone and then install it on your computer as a Chrome extension, log in to your Gmail account, and suddenly all of your texts get synced between your PC and your phone. Compose texts on your computer, using that lovely keyboard, and yul hve fewwwer msssedup txtsd.

Send to Kindle by Klip.me

If you want to save, organise, and push web pages to any kind of computer anywhere, Evernote’s the king of the field (see earlier slide). But if you specifically want to capture web pages and send them to your Kindle, where you can read them even if you’re not connected to the Internet, Send to Kindle by Klip.me works well. Don’t want the whole page? Highlight your chunk of choice, click the icon, and the selected stuff shows up on your Kindle. You’ll need to take a trip through your Kindle’s Personal Document Service settings, but once it’s set up, you’ll be hooked.

TooMany Tabs

Even if you have a huge screen, sooner or later you’ll frantically open a bunch of tabs in Chrome, and end up with more of the critters than you know what to do with. TooMany Tabs lets you group the tabs any way you like, and treat the whole group of tabs as if it were just one. Click on the ganged-up tab, and all of the grouped tabs spread out. An absolute necessity for anyone doing serious research on the Web, handling multiple topics simultaneously. Particularly cool when used to group the tabs in your Home Page - they get loaded into Chrome, for faster access, but you don’t have to look at them unless you really want to.

Download Master

Plenty of Chrome add-ons claim they’ll scrape all of the files referenced on a single page, and download them en masse to your computer. Few perform as advertised, and none that I’ve used work as fast as Download Master: It schedules downloads intelligently, then herds them through Google’s built-in Chrome download manager. Automatic problem detection and resume, HTTP and FTP support, and the ability to work through proxy servers make it my page scraper of choice.

Right-click Search Wikipedia

I like this extension because it does just one thing - as it happens, one thing I need to do all the time - and it does that one thing with no fuss. Here’s how Right-click Search Wikipedia works: Highlight whatever you want to look up in Wikipedia, right-click, and choose Search Wikipedia. That’s it. The corresponding Wikipedia page shows up in a new tab, and your old tab stays right where it is. If you right-click on a link, Right-click Search will offer to look up the precise text in the link. There’s no icon, just a right-click context menu entry, and the extension doesn’t mess with the original page.

TinEye and Search by Image (by Google)

Long before Google announced its Search by Image service - where you drag a picture on to the Google search page, and it finds similar pictures - there was TinEye, an innovative reverse image search service based in Toronto. Both product scan billions of images for matches and near-matches. Both now include the ability to right-click on an image inside your web browser and choose “Search image.” But they give very different results, with neither being superior to the other in all circumstances. Why not install both? They play very well together, and it only takes two right-clicks to get the best of both ocular search worlds.

PageRank Status

Sure, you want to be able to bring up a site’s PageRank. And Alexa score. And Compete and Quantcast rank, daily traffic reports, Whois registration information, the physical location of the server, and the first name of the webmaster’s aunt’s hairdresser. Well, maybe not that much, but PageRank Status certainly comes close. Surely the Swiss Army Knife of the SEO monitoring set, PageRank Status tells you more than Klout ever will.

PanicButton

Act like this has never happened to you. You’re browsing along, minding your business, when all the sudden you want to hide all your open tabs. Like, right NOW. PanicButton does that, and it stores those hidden tabs for later reuse. I’ve found one other great use: if I’m dashing out of my seat to, oh, go rescue a wailing baby or discipline a wayward cat (home offices, eh?), I click the PanicButton real quick before leaping. That way, it doesn’t matter what happens - the electricity can go out, the cat can bite my mouse, the baby can relieve himself on my keyboard - and I know that all of my tabs are safe. They even sync across Chrome sessions.

  • LastPass 2.0
  • Evernote Web Clipper
  • Google Mail Checker and Send from Gmail
  • Google Dictionary
  • MightyText for Android
  • Send to Kindle by Klip.me
  • TooMany Tabs
  • Download Master
  • Right-click Search Wikipedia
  • TinEye and Search by Image (by Google)
  • PageRank Status
  • PanicButton
  • Play
  • Play
  • Backward
  • Forward

Google Mail Checker and Send from Gmail

If you have a Gmail account and don’t mind turning Gmail into your default email program, these two extensions are no-brainers. Google Mail Checker puts a small “M” icon on your Chrome address bar that lists how many unopened messages are waiting for you. Tap on the Send from Gmail icon - an “M” with an arrow - and Chrome strips out the URL of the current page, sticking it inside a newly formed Gmail message, ready for you to finish and send. Both of these are from Google; there are lots and lots of Gmail extensions for Chrome, but these are the two I go back to all the time.

For many, Google’s Chrome browser has taken on the scrappy upstart role in the desktop browser wars. Although the debate rages on as to which browser’s used the most (Net Applications invariably puts IE on top; StatCounter’s unwaveringly on the Chrome side), there’s no question that Chrome’s quite popular among savvy Windows users. Once upon a time, Firefox drew the largest cognoscenti mindshare because of its vast array of add-ons. That’s changing. Here are my 15 top picks for extensions to Chrome, the browser I use most.

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