While I need multiple browsers for my job, Chrome is my daily go-to choice. Its where I spend my days working, though I sometimes open Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera for certain tasks. Why? Well, its fast, handles multiple tabs easily and has a great selection of extensions that make my job easier.
Extensions may sound like icing on the cake to most people, but when you make your living in a web browser some of these little add-ons can become rather important parts of your life. I was recently asked by a colleague which ones I thought helped me the most and that I thought were essential to my daily functions as a tech writer, and I did not have much problem rattling off a few answers. So, with that said, here is a list of my five favorite extensions that I use every day.
This is by far my favorite extension for Chrome and it gets bonus points for also being available on Firefox. Whenever I install, Chrome I always set the browser to re-open with the tabs from the previous session. Ninety-five percent of the time this works flawlessly, but its that other five percent that is the problem.
I keep open multiple tabs at all times — the sites I write for, new stories, research for articles and more. I can not afford to lose this information, so as a backup plan I do periodic saves to Tab Cloud. The app will keep as many saves as you wish and it orders them by date and time. I do periodic saves and tend to keep the last five at all times.
Tab Cloud requires you to have a Google account, but that really is not much of a barrier to entry, given that almost all of us have one these days. Plus, if you are using Chrome, then you really should have a Google account to keep your browser in sync, anyhow.
We all close tabs sometimes, only to realize that it was something we needed. Chrome has an option to let you “Reopen closed tab” if you right click on a current tab, but if it was five or ten tabs ago then you will need to keep repeating that step until you finally arrive at the one you are looking for. This is a waste of time and results in lots of old tabs now being open again.
Recycle Bin for Chrome fixes this hassle by keeping a list of all of your closed tabs. Simply click the icon up in your menu bar and it will display a list of all them, in order.
The icon also features a number over the top of it to let you know how many tabs it is saving for you. There is a reset button that allows you to “empty” the bin when you choose to. One word of caution — unlike Tab Cloud, it does lose its contents if Chrome is closed.
While many web sites and services provide spell check by underlining words that you have misspelled, that number is far from a majority. Many sites and forms simply leave it to you to risk not looking the fool with a silly typo.
The Grammarly service is a free spell checker that works with such sites as Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and almost anyplace else on the web. It uses contextual spelling as well as grammar checking, a thesaurus and a dictionary. It’s way more than the built-in spell-check, and something I rely on.
While saving open tabs to retain information for future reference is a great way to work, it is far from everything. Evernote is a great cloud service that is available everywhere, including your mobile devices.
The service’s Webclipper works in your browser (not just Chrome) and also on most mobile platforms. Everything you save in one place becomes immediately available everywhere else. The best part is that you do not need to save an open tab and you also don’t need all of the web site. Webclipper can save any portion of the site that your need — text, image, links or more.
You can add tags and comments to your clippings as well. You could even clip entire web pages to read later when you may be offline.
I previously used Hover Zoom for this, but it recently came out that the developer had sold out the user information to a marketing company. While I don’t fault someone for trying to earn a living, I also have no desire for my browsing habits being exported without my permission.
A developer over at Reddit came up with Hover Free, an alternative that does not share any of your information, but still includes all of the features that the original did.
Hover Free does something incredibly simple — it enlarges an image upon mouse-over. It does not work with every single web site, but it works with most, so you will get this behavior in a large number of places, even from within Google Reader (while it still lasts). It’s handy for getting an easy look at images that have been shrunk down to a thumbnail or something slightly larger.
I install very few extension in Chrome in an effort to keep the browser fast and lean. There are a few additional ones that I use on occasion, but I generally keep them disabled unless I have a need for one. These five are enabled full-time and I use each on a daily basis.
There are thousands of Chrome extensions available out there. What ones do you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.