Now the world’s most popular web browser, Chrome is a major success for Google – and one of the reasons people love it so much is its support for extensions.
These add-ons are generally tiny and install in seconds, but can drastically change the way we use the web. From boosting browser performance and beautifying our new tabs to saving us money on our online shopping and keeping us safely password protected, there’s an extension for almost everything – and new examples appearing all the time.
We’ve scoured the Chrome Web Store for the best new extensions, as well as identifying the older must-haves. Read on for the essential extensions that every Chrome user should download.
Best new extensions
1) Share to Facebook
If you’re one of the millions compelled to use Facebook on an hourly basis, this extension will streamline your workflow – or, at least, your share-flow. While you’re on a website, clicking Share to Facebook’s toolbar icon will bring up a dialogue box allowing you to instantly share a link (or, say, a YouTube video) to Facebook, along with a comment. You can share to your own Timeline, a friend’s Timeline, a group or via a private message.
2) Netflix Party
Netflix Party is the ideal solution to a very modern day problem – how to watch Netflix films and shows with your mates when you’re not all physically in the same place. Add this extension and you’ll be able to create a virtual watching party, sending friends a link to join and synching playback so that, no matter where you are, you’re all watching the same thing at the same time. There’s even a chat client built in, so you can share your thoughts when Frank Underwood does something particularly underhanded in House of Cards, or when Adam Sandler gets angry and starts shouting in anything he’s ever been in.
So, thanks to Chrome, you no longer do you have to binge-watch alone. It’s just a shame tech hasn’t discovered a way to virtually share a bowl of popcorn. Yet.
You probably shouldn’t be sitting in front of your computer late at night – it’s a cause of eyestrain that makes it harder for you to get to sleep. But let’s face it, if there’s some especially entertaining Facebook beef going down, or you suddenly decide you must know the entire history of Liechtenstein, you’re going to be sat in bed glued to that laptop screen.
Darkness helps reduce the strain on your peepers by adding free dark themes for Google and Facebook, and for Gmail and YouTube if you make a one-off payment of US$4.99. And it’s not just easy on the eyes in the literal sense – the themes are attractively designed, too.
4) Amazon Worldwide Shipping
Online shopping has turned us all into spoilt brats by making our once-regular trips to the high street and supermarket virtually unnecessary, but there are still some things you can’t buy on Amazon UK. Luckily, most of them are available on Amazon US!
And with this extension, you can buy them and have them send directly to your home, no matter where in the world you are – just add your desired items to your shopping cart, navigate to the shopping cart page, hit the extension icon in your toolbar and the postage costs will be calculated for you (NB: there’s no guarantee that said postage costs will be reasonable, and while the service tries to group as many purchases into as few packages as possible, sometimes it’ll be more than one box).
If you’ve always got ideas flying at you, or you just need somewhere to scribble a shopping list, consider adding Papier to Chrome. When you open a fresh tab in the browser, Papier turns it into a blank sheet for taking notes. Uncluttered and clean, it keeps a character/word count in the bottom right corner, while a clickable box in the bottom left corner gives you access to settings including formatting options and a dark-hued night mode, and the ability to print. Your musings are automatically synced within Chrome, so your Papier notes won’t disappear when you close the tab.
Procrastination has never been as easy as it is today. Thanks to the web, we’re constantly getting pulled away from work to guffaw at memes on reddit, troll Facebook friends, get into arguments with Twitter eggs about which season of Game of Thrones is the best (let’s be honest: it’s the first one), and scour Wikipedia for fascinating facts about the Luftwaffe.
If you’re a prime sufferer of this condition, StayFocusd might just be the cure. It restricts the amount of time you’re able to spend on selected sites per day – once you’ve used up your allotted minutes, that site is blocked for the rest of the day. You can tweak the list to your specific needs, and if you feel your resolve waver, you can pick the “Nuclear Option” – which prevents you from accessing the sites for a set amount of time, regardless of your allowed minutes.
7) Smart Tab Mute
One to file under “simple but effective”, this extension does exactly what it says on the tin: if you have multiple tabs playing audio at once, it brings order to the cacophony by automatically muting all except one. A feature that will probably become standard in all web browsers at some point in the not-too-distant future.
If you use Gmail and Google Calendar, Calbert is a must. It’s a seamless bridge between the two that lets you create quick calendar events by automatically extracting details from emails (like names, times, dates and durations), letting you swiftly edit anything you need to, then whizzing it directly into a calendar entry. While it works best with Gmail, it’ll work in any website to a degree – you might just have to populate all the form data manually.
The Classics: Money Savers
Few people want to be the person at the checkout fumbling over tatty old coupons and causing a supermarket pile-up. Honey lets you check out voucher codes for reams of retailers without doing the digging yourself. For some retailers it’ll even automatically try out all of the available codes for you.
10) The Camelizer
If you want to do all of your Christmas shopping in an hour or two rather than dragging it out into a two-month saga, Amazon is the way forward. Its prices change all the time, though. To check you’re not potentially on the cusp of a radical price drop, you can use the Camelizer plug-in to check the entire price history of products.
11) Mockingbird Freebooks
If only you’d known the Philip K Dick book you’ve just ordered from Amazon is available as a free ebook from Project Gutenberg. Install this Chrome extension to avoid making the same howler again.
Mockingbird will automatically flash up a message with a download link if the book you’re looking it is available as a free download. It currently works with Amazon, Goodreads, Audible and Barnes & Noble. Project Gutenberg has 50,000 free ebooks, so just about enough to cover your flight.
The Classics: Performance Boosters
12) The Great Suspender
Tabbed web browsing is a godsend, of course – how else would we keep one eye on our Gmail inbox, another on the cricket score and a third on that eBay auction we’re trying to win? But tabs can also prove a giant memory drain on your computer, hogging all the RAM and slowing everything down. This extension helps by automatically suspending non-used open tabs until they’re required. You might lose that eBay auction, but you’ll gain a speedier laptop.
Pushbullet brings your computer and smartphone together in a brilliant marriage of convenience. With this extension installed, you can send and receive SMS messages on your desktop, reply to messages from apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Kik, have all your phone’s notifications appear on your computer, move files easily between devices (including universal copy and paste) and much more. iPhone users should not that many of the features are exclusive to Android phones, and that some (such as on-computer SMS and the ability to copy and paste from phone to desktop, or vice versa, require you pay a subscription fee of US$39.99 a year or US$4.99 a month).
14) Tab Wrangler
Like The Great Suspender, Tab Wrangler is an extension that aims to save you time and free up memory by automatically managing your browser tabs. If you’re the sort of person who ends up with 25 open tabs without trying, this’ll shave precious seconds off your day by closing the unused ones for you.
Options include the ability to set a time limit on tabs, closing them after a period of inactivity, as well as lock selected tabs to prevent closure. Closed tabs, meanwhile, are kept in a “Tab Corral” (a sort of history folder) allowing you to retrieve them easily.
The Classics: Prettifiers
With return tickets to the International Space Station still a way off, you have two options for a daily fix of satellite imagery – build a DIY rocket cam, or use these handy tools to bring earth cam to your browser. Our favourite new Chrome extension, Urthecast Imagery delivers a stunning new hit of landscape porn from its ISS camera every time you open a new tab. Prepare to spend large parts of your working day staring vacantly at your screen.
If you like your new tabs to come with a little more functionality, Momentum pairs beautiful images with a rich dashboard of info: the current time and weather, a to-do list and a list of user-defined links. There’s even an inspirational quote, and a place to record your “main focus” for the day – which, yeah, comes across as a bit naff, but you’re free to totally ignore it if you like.
If you’re a voracious reader on the web, you probably find some sites’ formatting and clutter can become a distraction. Cut the noise with this extension, which reformats any web page into clean, easy-to-read text. You can choose from three typefaces (which can be re-sized using a slider) and night and day modes, and there’s also a reading list mode, enabling you to collect articles to be read at your leisure later on.
The Classics: Time Savers
18) Hover Zoom+
A brilliantly simple extension, Hover Zoom+ allows you to hover your mouse pointer over any website image and have it display at full size (or at a size that fits your browser window, whichever is smaller). It’s particularly useful when browsing reddit, as the site’s default formatting uses tiny previews – with this extension, you can blow these up to a viewable size without having to open a new page.
19) Save to Pocket
One of the best reading list services is Pocket, which lets you save web articles for later reading, and syncs across multiple devices. So you can save an article (may we humbly suggest something from Stuff.tv?) on your laptop, then read it later on your smartphone. And this extension makes saving articles an incredibly quick and easy process – after installing it, just click the Pocket icon in your Chrome toolbar and whatever web page you’re currently on will be added to your reading list.
20) Lazarus: Form Recovery
A must for anybody that frequently fills in web forms, Lazarus autosaves everything you type so that crashes, timeouts and network errors don’t spell doom for your words. As anyone who’s ever hit “save” after 10 minutes of writing to be confronted by a blank screen knows, losing your work can be a major headache – so Lazarus’ ability to bring things back from the dead is a true time-saver.
While online security is vitally important, remembering different passwords for all the services you use can be a real drag – hence why so many take the decidedly risky “one password fits all” approach. But LastPass makes things much easier, by generating unique passwords for each service and locking them in an online vault that can only be accessed by you (and your master password). And amazingly, it’s free!