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Eight Chrome Extensions I Can’t Live Without | Kestrel's Aerie

Eight Chrome Extensions I Can’t Live Without | Kestrel's Aerie

Eight Chrome Extensions I Can’t Live Without

Many of you know I’ve been using the Chrome web browser from Google for several months now (ever since a reliable OS X beta made its appearance, in fact). Before that, I was a staunch supporter of Mozilla’s Firefox. 1 However, I was enticed by Chrome’s claims of greater stability, faster operation, and increased security.

In practical use, I’ve found Chrome to be much more stable than Firefox. With Firefox, I would often be plagued by browser crashes, especially as I opened more tabs or windows. With Chrome, even in the earliest beta, I’ve never experienced a browser crash, regardless of the number of tabs or browser instances running. I’ve also been impressed by impartial evaluations of Chrome’s speed and security, two years running.

One of the big concerns with Chrome as it was being developed was the lack of extensibility, one of the hallmarks of Firefox almost since its inception. That’s also something that kept me away from Chrome at first; however, that’s no longer a valid reason to avoid Chrome, in my judgment. Incidentally, one of the features of Chrome’s extensions I find most refreshing is that there is no need to restart the browser after installing most extensions: They just work. (Off the top of my head, I can’t recall any extension that requires restarting Chrome, although Gmail extensions may require you to refresh that page.)

Granted, there may not be equivalent extensions in Chrome for AdBlock or NoScript, but I’ve not found those absences to affect my browsing in any way. For one thing, I’m much more tolerant of most advertising, especially since I now display ads on my blog.2 To be sure, there are similar extensions for Chrome; however, I haven’t seen the need for them.

So instead of AdBlock or NoScript, there are other extensions I find to be must-haves for myself, and I will introduce you to eight of them in this article. Why eight, instead of five, or ten? Simple question with an easy answer: There are more than five I find indispensable, but not ten. (Yet.) So without further ado, here are the Chrome extensions I find to be most useful for me.

Edited to add: As a reminder, I use the Mac version of Chrome, and I know when this version was originally released in beta, there was no support for extensions. Since then, of course, extensions are supported, but I know there are at least a few that work on the Windows version of Chrome, but not on the Mac version. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to the Linux version and its extension compatibility.

Clip to Evernote (by Evernote) – Use the Evernote extension to save things you see on the web into your Evernote account. It even lets you search through your notes. (Unfamiliar with Evernote? It’s an infinitely useful “catch-all” for anything and everything you might want to save, from notes you create, to web shots, to emails, or any other information you want to keep in a single location. Follow the link to learn more.)

LastPass – LastPass is a free password manager and form filler. LastPass is also available for Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari (Mac), and will synchronize your LastPass vault across all platforms and machines.3

Send from Gmail (by Google) – Makes Gmail your default e-mail application and provides a button to compose a Gmail message to quickly share a link via email. Normally, a mailto: link will launch your default e-mail client (Apple Mail, Windows Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook, etc.). Well, my default e-mail app is Gmail, so that’s what I want to use when I click an e-mail link. This hand extension makes that happen.

Speed Dial – Speed Dial for Chrome – replace Chrome new tab with your predefined visual bookmarks. One of Chrome’s best features is what happens when you click the “new tab” button: A new tab opens with some of your most frequently visited sites already available for single-clicking to open. Speed Dial allows you to fully customize that page with whatever “visual bookmarks” you prefer, which I find very handy, especially for reference sites, or sites I want to pull up quickly without having to scroll through a long list of bookmarks.

Tynt Blocker – Allows the user to prevent Tynt.com from recording copy/paste events from sites that use Tynt’s tracer script. Here’s what the author has to say about Tynt.com, which I see as a threat to fair use under US and international copyright laws:

A number of sites (e.g. http://sfgate.com and http://nydailynews.com) have begun using Tynt.com’s tracer technology to detect when you copy part of a web page so that they can track where that copied content is used.

While interesting, the use of Tynt by a site necessitates sending tracking information to Tynt’s servers when you do nothing more than copy some text or drag an image from the browser, all without your knowledge or consent. This mechanism raises a number of security and privacy concerns.

While Tynt’s embedded script does seem to include a means of being disabled, there also seems to be no way to disable it as a user. This simple extension gives users the ability to either continue using Tynt or to disable it when it is detected, thus giving the user control of his or her privacy.

View Thru – Display the full URL behind shortened URLs. URL shorteners—bit.ly, goo.gl, and the like—are a real boon when URLs have the potential to extend for scores or hundreds of characters. However, shortened URLs also have the potential to lead the unwary into places one doesn’t want to visit: sites with keyloggers, trojans, viruses, and other malware. View Thru lets you see the actual URL to ensure that purported link to a YouTube video is actually going there.

W3C (x)HTML Validator – Display one of 3 icons (valid, warning(s), error(s)) in navigation bar related to validity of (x)HTML document currently shown. If you maintain your own site or otherwise work with HTML or XHTML, this extension will identify any errors against the official specification, whether full or transitional. Unfortunately, I’ve found that knowing the errors and fixing them aren’t always congruent: WordPress has a nasty habit of occasionally reverting my corrected code (e.g., an unescaped ampersand (&) just can’t be fixed in a few places). However, it should enable you to fix a lot of errors that creep in, especially some of the more egregious ones. The display of the source is generally helpful, and the explanations are very clear and unambiguous.

Xmarks Bookmarks Sync – Backup and sync your bookmarks and open tabs across computers and browsers. Xmarks is also available for Firefox, Safari and IE. If you have or use more than one computer, or more than one browser, then you need a way to sync bookmarks across them. Xmarks does the job admirably. It’s simple, works in the background, and helps keep your browsing environment familiar, regardless of which browser or computer you’re using at a given time.

So there you have it: Eight extensions for Chrome that I find indispensable. What are your must-have Chrome extensions? (Or Firefox or IE8?) Are there Firefox extensions you want to see in Chrome? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see if I can come up with Chrome equivalents or alternatives.

__________
Notes:
  1. Even in its latest incarnation, I do not like Safari, from Apple. In fact, comparing Safari to Internet Explorer, IE8 is the hands-down winner, for me. I’ve tried Opera as well, and it just didn’t appeal to me.
  2. I also don’t frequent the kinds of sites where more agressive ad- and script-blocking might be desirable.
  3. KeePass and 1Pass are also very popular, as is RoboForm (not free); I simply prefer LastPass.
 

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25 Responses to Eight Chrome Extensions I Can’t Live Without
  1. Mr. Moore
    June 16, 2010 | 11:09

    Holy Cow! the need for the Tynt Blocker blows my mind, and I think the Send from Gmail and Speed Dial are super cool/useful. Must haves!

    • Kestrel
      June 16, 2010 | 11:16

      Yeah…when I read about this (probably in Lifehacker), it blew my mind too. That sort of thing also explains why sometimes the copy function simply doesn’t work (and that really pisses me off!

  2. Bre
    June 16, 2010 | 11:11

    Woot! Such a useful post, Kes! I have been using Chrome as well and had no idea of all the great extensions out there. *Cough* Granted, I haven’t really looked that hard. Thanks for all info I will be checking a few of them out :D

    • Kestrel
      June 16, 2010 | 11:17

      Well, I am a bit of an extensions nut (kinda like my WoW UI :p). I’m just hoping to see a few suggestions in the comments on great extensions I haven’t discovered. (Note that not all the ones I use are listed—just the most critical. :)

  3. Tami
    June 16, 2010 | 11:12

    Oh, shiny! I like the html validator in there. You find me a replacement for EasyComment and you may have a convert!
    Tami´s latest blog post is Re-Un-De-RailingMy ComLuv Profile

    • Kestrel
      June 16, 2010 | 11:19

      I’ll look. In the meantime, allow me to suggest Gruml as a feed reader for the Mac. Free and open source, and when you click a title, it opens the article internally as though you are using a browser. Not a lot different from GReader, but I like being able to have a separate app that is every bit as intuitive and functional.

      • Tami
        June 16, 2010 | 11:23

        I’m much more likely to use an available and beloved web app than download a mac app. I do half my feed reading at work, which is not a mac, and I’d rather keep it all together. Plus, I don’t really like downloading stuff. XD I’m still using opera on Athena because I’m loathe to download another browser. And I’m not a fan of opera.

        • Kestrel
          June 16, 2010 | 12:34

          Time to put Chrome on Athena. You KNOW I’m right. ;)

          • Tami
            June 16, 2010 | 12:37

            *laughs* Like I said, find me an easyComment replacement!
            Tami´s latest blog post is Re-Un-De-RailingMy ComLuv Profile

          • Kestrel
            June 16, 2010 | 12:38

            EasyComment is an Opera extension? Thought it was Firefox.

          • Tami
            June 16, 2010 | 12:42

            Pfah, it won’t let me reply to your other comment. No, it’s firefox, but I don’t even want to download firefox onto athena. If I could get easycomment AND all this other stuff on chrome, It’d be like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

            I could download it anyway, but…

            /lazy
            Tami´s latest blog post is Re-Un-De-RailingMy ComLuv Profile

  4. Marianne
    June 16, 2010 | 11:18

    I’ll admit I’m a pretty die-hard firefox fan (noscript and adaware remain must-haves, alas) that tyntblocker thing? Jeezus, that’s just scary. Makes me wonder if tyntblocker (which I’d probably not need terribly often) is worth the loss of noscript and adaware… >.<
    Marianne´s latest blog post is You know, evil little voice…My ComLuv Profile

    • Kestrel
      June 16, 2010 | 11:25

      My confidence in Chrome’s security enabled me to do without NoScript. And as I said, now that I have ads on my site, the hypocrisy of using an ad-blocker (and I did use AdAware in FF, as well as AdBlocker) pretty much rules out those extensions for me.

      That said, there are still way too many sites that have loud, annoying music or video that starts up when I open up some pages, and I am really considering something to block those. When I find the perfect annoyance blocker, I’ll be sure to post about it!

      With respect to Tyntblocker, since I started using it early this month, I’ve been shocked at the number of sites that emply Tynt.com. It’s…scary, at best!

  5. Tarsus
    June 16, 2010 | 11:51

    I’ve been thinking about picking up Chrome for a while (essentially ever since my experience with Google Wave made me think that the experience could be better than with Firefox). I’m sure I could live without AdBlock, but I’m so used to the security that NoScript provides I’m not sure I could live without it at this point.

    It seems like NoScript would block Tynt too, but I’m not sure about that. I suppose it would depend on how the script was embedded.

    • Kestrel
      June 16, 2010 | 12:32

      Interestingly, several of us are coming to the conclusion that Chrome, in fact, does make Wave considerably less laggy, especially as the Wave lengthens.

      To test whether NoScript blocks Tynt.com, go to sfgate.com or nydailynews.com, and copy some text. Paste it to Notepad and see if you get the added Tynt text.

  6. Softi
    June 16, 2010 | 12:11

    The one thing that I absolutely *have* to have on whatever browser I’m using (currently Firefox as for some reason Chrome keeps not working properly on my vista laptop…) is Xmarks.
    I particularly like how I can sync my open tabs between computers, since my bf and I are often swapping between my iMac and the laptop. Makes life much easier with that one!
    Softi´s latest blog post is Dear Blizzard, give me a BETA key!My ComLuv Profile

    • Kestrel
      June 16, 2010 | 12:33

      Time to upgrade to Win7 on that laptop, Softi! :D (But I’m sure you knew that.) That said, really don’t know why Chrome wouldn’t work under Vista: That’s where it was originally developed (for Windows, anyway).

  7. Mike
    June 16, 2010 | 12:42

    Thanks for the great coverage of Evernote. I work for a company called Shoeboxed.com, and we actually integrate with Evernote. Shoeboxed scans your receipts and business cards and data enters them into your Shoeboxed account. From there you can export anything and everything to Evernote. Check out http://www.shoeboxed.com for more information or call us at 888-369-4269.

    Thank you!

    Mike Tooley
    Shoeboxed.com
    mike@team.shoeboxed.com

    • Kestrel
      June 16, 2010 | 13:07

      If I weren’t retired (and thus not needing to keep receipts and business cards) I’d definitely have Shoeboxed installed. I looked at it when it was announced, and thought it looked pretty darn good!

  8. Kouki
    June 16, 2010 | 12:46

    I’ve been using Chrome for months now. While I’ve already gotten my adblock and such, I’ve actually never used NoScript for Firefox. Chrome does say, however, for their next update to 5, it will be supported, so there’s hope for that.

    Personally I use the Web of Trust (WOT) extension since I browse sites that link to other sites and it lets me see which sites are marked as safe and which aren’t. For social networking I use Chromed Bird and Friends Mural for Facebook since I don’t have many friends, and I don’t have to see the site in order to see what my friends are doing.

    Thanks for posting this, I wouldn’t have known about them otherwise.

    • Kestrel
      June 16, 2010 | 13:08

      Ahhh…will have to check out WoT. And you just reminded me of a point I failed to make (but will edit in): There are a few extensions that won’t work (yet) on the Mac version of Chrome (sorry, I can’t speak to the Linux version at all). I think WoT may have been one of these early on; I’ll be checking that out in just a moment.

  9. Kimberly
    June 17, 2010 | 19:08

    Wow! Thanks for the Tynt Blocker heads-up. I just thought of the service as annoying (as in “Please don’t add extra crap to what I’m pasting.) but the tracking aspect’s pushing it.

    That said, my parent company will probably drop it on all our websites in 3…2…1…

    • Kestrel
      June 17, 2010 | 20:58

      Hahahaha! Yeah, I imagine so, if they haven’t already (unless they can’t afford it?) :-o

      I haven’t checked to see if our local newspaper (a former employer of mine) has it…but I never look at the online site, since I subscribe to the print copy. :)

  10. Mishaweha
    June 21, 2010 | 08:09

    Great post! I need to save it for later — I think I’ll be using quite a few of these extensions on my home browsers (especially the xmarks one, as I often go between my desktop and laptop). I’m also going to try out Evernote, as I’m on the look out for an easy way to organize my ever changing collection of online comic links that I can access anywhere. I’ve tried out Personal Brain (http://www.thebrain.com/) which I like because of it’s tree structure (I’m using it at work, actually), but it doesn’t go across PCs (for free, at least). But Evernote seems to be based on ‘The Internets’, and looks pretty cool too. It could replace that draft gmail email I have filled with links upon links… or those Google Docs I have full of random comic ideas!

    • Kestrel
      June 21, 2010 | 08:36

      Evernote would certainly work for that; so might Xmarks (since the whole point is to synchronize bookmarks). You could create a single bookmark folder for comic links, and put everything under that.

      Of course, with Evernote, you can tag each note as well, and of course creating subfolders is a snap. Incidentally, you can attach a URL to each note in Evernote as well. So the flexibility is there to use it in whichever way suits the way YOU work!

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