A lot can be said about Google Chrome. And most of it should come as no surprise to you, the die-hard PC user that likely has more browsers installed within your operating system than games on your hard drive.
That’s not intended to be a disparaging statement; it’s celebratory. You’re a geek. You want to get the best browsing experience possible, which often involves jumping from browser to browser depending on what extensions or add-ons you like using, how you like pages rendered, and other miscellaneous—yet important—facets of the many available browsers you can choose from.
Well, a lot has changed since Chrome’s debut in late 2008. The gap between Mozilla’s extension library and Google’s has narrowed considerably. In fact, you can pretty much replicate an identical experience in each browser—for the most part, you’ll find extensions to fit just about anything you want to do.
But that certainly doesn’t help you when you get to the brass tacks of it all: Which extensions should you use? On a new installation of Chrome, what’s the top-ten list of items you need to download before you run your first Google search; read your first Maximum PC article; chuckle at your first lolcat?
Well, that’s what we’re here for. Let’s begin.
Xmarks the spot, as the joke goes. In this case, the “spot” is, “your comprehensive collection of bookmarks that you don’t want to lose every time you hop to another system or web browser.” And you won’t, not with this awesome extension. For Xmarks gives you an automatic method for synchronizing your browser bookmarks to a centralized server—the “cloud,” as it were—which you can then pull down onto any applicable browser installation… anywhere.
Of course, you might not want your repository of lolcat sites to populate your Xmarks-enhanced work computer. And that’s totally fine. The extension allows you to set up separate profiles for each PC, if you so choose, to give you even more control over which bookmarks go where. No matter what, however, your bookmarks will always stay on the cloud. Reinstall your OS, buy a new computer, switch to Firefox—you’ll be rocking the same bookmark setup forevermore.
I place Chrome Notepad right below Xmarks because the two, in some strange way, are quite similar in their functionality—and they go about synchronizing data between your Chrome browser installations in a near-identical way. In this case, Chrome Notepad is an extension that pops up a little writing window within your Chrome browser, which you can use to leave notes to yourself in any particular font size (or window size) you want.
The genius of the is extension is that it drops these notes into a folder within Chrome’s bookmarks listings, which it then synchronizes throughout any browser you’ve installed the extension into. The extension even remembers the exact space where you last left your cursor within the notepad window—that’s dedication, let me tell you. Anyway, for an ideal to-do list that you can modify with, well, your novella in progress… look no further than Chrome Notepad.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And Foxish Live RSS is a blatant replication of Mozilla Firefox’s Live Bookmarks feature. What’s that, you say? I applaud your dedication to the Chrome platform, if so. Live Bookmarks is a fancy Firefox way of having both a bookmark folder and an RSS feed in one. Instead of having some kind of separate subscription and reading mechanism for RSS feeds, Firefox allows one to transform an RSS feed into its own bookmark folder of-sorts.
Thus, whenever you click on said folder in your bookmark toolbar or drop-down menu, you’re presented with a list of the most recently updated RSS items as individual pages. Easy enough, right? Foxish Live RSS replicates this feature for Chrome near-perfectly—instead of automatic updates, however, it refreshes your feeds for new information every five minutes or so.
Ahh yes, Adblock. Though I shake my fist at this extension for its ability to deprive you of the very Internet-based advertising revenue that my employers depend on to pay me, I nevertheless can’t help but agree that certain forms of internet advertising are downright annoying, if not deplorable. Adblock is one of the best methods for ridding your browser of these obtrusive forms of advertising in one fell swoop.
The beauty of Adblock is that it’s super-customizable, giving you the opportunity to best match the extension’s powers to your specific uses and browsing patterns. Like the text ads that accompany Google search results, but want to nuke everything else? Not a problem.
Heck, you can even use one of Adblocks pre-created filter lists as a “default” level of blocking if you don’t really feel like customizing things up. Manually add advertisements to the list that Adblock doesn’t catch or, more importantly, whitelist sites that you want to support with a click or two cough maximum pc dot com cough.
I know, I know. Why would you ever want to jump back to Internet Explorer, of all things, if you’re already rocking one of the best browsers on the market? Sadly, not all web applications agree with you on that one—especially in the corporate environment. I won’t name names, but there are definitely some instances where I’ve found myself having to fire up good ol’ Internet Explorer at work due to some kind of Chrome rendering issue with a particular app.
Well. Never again! IE Tab allows you to summon the IE rendering engine within Chrome itself, giving you the best of both worlds: one unified browser that you can use to view pages, combined with the dreadful Internet Explorer experience that you might need to access a particular page. It’s as simple as that. Just hit the appropriate button in your Chrome toolbar to jump to IE-within-Chrome, and you’re good to go!
While it might only really apply to web developers, Firebug Light is nevertheless one of the most essential tools you can think of to have alongside your Chrome installation if editing HTML and CSS is you cup of tea. Why’s that? Firebug Light allows you to quickly pull up the full details of a given page, split into sections for easier scanning.
For example, the extension’s HTML tab gives you quick access to all the bits and pieces of code populating a site’s head and body. Better still, you can mouse over any part of the page you want--the code that’s the basis for said element will immediately pop up in Firebug Lite’s window. And if you want to get really fancy, you can head on over to Firebug Lite’s CSS section, which allows you to change various page elements on-the-fly to see how they render.
The Internet can be a scary place, trust me. But often times, the issue is not the content you’re about to surf on over too—it’s the fear that the site itself, while designed to appear like a safe and trustworthy place to park your digital self, is actually a complete and total front for malware, exploits, or other unpleasant issues. Even the savviest of Maximum PC readers can sometimes get spoofed by an errant link, but it’s not as if Chrome has an extension that will take you back in time to prevent you from ever clicking in the first place. Or does it?
Web of Trust isn’t a time machine, but it is a cloud-driven rating system for Web browsing. The millions of users of the extension have all weighed in on which sites are legitimate versus those that might be a little more risky for you to hit up. Colorful little ratings accompany site listings on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, to name a few. And, like a traffic light, you’re on your own if you decide to run your way through a big ol’ red-means-stop symbol when browsing.
I realize that Google Chrome has a pleasant little way for remembering passwords within your browser. You know, the age-old deal of, “Do you want to remember this?” that pops up whenever you enter your secure credentials on a page. Nothing against that feature, but LastPass is simply the next evolution in password maintenance that, like Xmarks, works with more browsers than merely Chrome.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. LastPass allows you to save your passwords to a secure cloud location regardless of what browser you’re using (of those supported) and what its location happens to be. You can use this extension to share the same passwords between your office and your residence via a single list that, itself, is locked by a master password that you set for the service. Best of all, once you’ve linked your various systems to the service, you can have the extension auto-login to any site you want from any computer you control. Neat, huh?
Reopening a closed tab in Chrome is super-easy, right? Just hold down Control, jam Shift, and hit “T.” Voila. Up pops the tab you were last viewing.
Now, what if you wanted to check out a tab that you were viewing, say, eight tab-closes ago? Would you really want to pull up that many old tabs just to get to the single piece of information you sought? Dare you try to navigate your way through Chrome’s history, which can itself be mucked up and confusing based on the browsing you’ve done through any number of individual tabs?
How about Sexy Undo Close Tab? This super-small extension slaps a button right on your Chrome toolbar that gives you a heaping serving of additional control over tabs that you’ve sent to the great beyond. Click the button to see a huge list—which you can configure via the extension’s options—of tabs you’ve previously closed. Click one to open it right back up into a new tab. That’s as complicated as it gets.
Privacy buffs, take note: Google Chrome’s incognito mode is one of the best ways to do your daily browsing without leaving any trace of your whereabouts on a given system. However, just because the feature exists doesn’t mean that you’re always going to use it each and every time you hit up your browser. Memories lapse; people are often in a hurry. You might very well fire up your Facebook account and unknowingly leave evidence that you were not exactly working between the hours of one and five.
That’s where Autonito comes into play. This extension is like a buffer between you and the Internet. Within the extension, you list sites that you always want to use incognito mode to browse. Now, if you attempt to type the URL for these sites into a normal Chrome window, the browser automatically intercepts your request and fires up the site, instead, within incognito mode. Your privacy is safe.