The browser add-on debate has been raging for years. Do those helpful little plug-ins help productivity or just grind your browser to a halt? Frankly, we can't live without them, and we think you might enjoy some of our favorite helpful additions, as well. With Chrome finally having a solid community of developers pumping out extensions, we thought it a perfect time to pick 13 essential plug-ins for your browsing pleasure.
Weather Channel or Weatherbug (Weather)
Maybe it's just our morbid fear of being stuck in a thunderstorm, but we've got to have our up-to-the-second weather stats. Weather.com's 1-Click Weather
both give amateur meteorologists a full suite of hourly forecasts, 10-day predictions and animated radar maps. (Yes, we pretend to predict thunderstorm movement according to the animated maps.) Both apps stay docked and visible, satisfying the need to know the current weather and temperature at all times.
's calendar and task management extension is essential for Google Calendar addicts. The handy little extension lets you check and manage your day at a glance without having to load the full Google Calendar experience, and supports multiple calendars. The requisite 'Event Add' tool is there for meetings and reminders, Google Tasks are fully supported, and the DayHiker alarm clock is pretty handy, too.
Though we dream of having all incoming calls and texts routed to our desktops (since picking up the phone is so difficult), the Google Voice extension
is the next best thing. For anyone using Google's venture into talk, the Voice extension lets you initiate calls by simply clicking numbers embedded in the Web. Frequent texters will find a lot to like; you'll get text message alerts, the ability to send free texts from within a pop-up window in your browser, and a way to easily browse all your recent text messages.
We've lost count of how many browsers we've learned to use over the years, and Google is really pushing it by forcing power users to learn yet another set of key commands. Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and now Chrome all opt for different carpal tunnel-inducing key combos for bringing up the latest downloads window. Save yourself the pain, and just install the Downloads extension
. It adds to your browser, right next to the address bar, an easily clickable icon that brings up all those torrents you just grabbed.
Google's excellent Dictionary extension
is simple and effective. In short, double-clicking on any word in any online text will produce a pop-out window with a definition. Clicking the Dictionary icon in the address bar presents full results (i.e. pronunciation, part of speech, full definitions, examples of usage) from Google's dictionary service
and from additional Web searches.
Twitter users are a weird bunch. Many prefer to do their tweeting from the official site, others crave full-screen displays of concentration-searing, multi-column, 140-character lists and some opt for the minimalism of browser extensions. Chromed Bird
is among the best of Chrome's in-browser lot, as it gives you full access to your @replies and direct messages, and even comes with support for lists, all in a collapsible pop-out window. Plus, it's easy to minimize when the boss strolls by.
Google Mail Checker Plus
Google has an official Gmail checker extension for Chrome that successfully does its job: alerting you to new mail. This unofficial extension, though, does much, much more
-- including SSL support for security, and both visual and audio notifications. Best of all, the drop-down inbox preview lets you read, delete, mark as read, star or archive any incoming e-mails. It's easily the most powerful e-mail extension available for Chrome.
Even though we here at Switched rely on advertising to make money, we understand that online ads can be a tad annoying
. That's why we suggest getting the Chrome-based counterpart to one of our favorite Firefox extensions. AdBlock
does exactly what it says -- blocks ads -- and does it well. In fact, it not only prevents advertisements from appearing, but it actually keeps them from being downloaded, making it a valuable security tool as well.
If you've never used mouse gestures before, you are denying yourself one of the greatest enhancements to the browsing experience conceived to date. Smooth Gestures
is the only mouse gesture extension for Chrome we've found that works just as flawlessly on Windows, Mac and Linux. It's worth installing for the time and effort saved on navigating back and forth alone. Rather than moving the mouse to click on a button, simply right click and move left or right, no matter where on the page the pointer is.
Do you Digg? Stumble? Buzz? Tweet? If you're the type who constantly posts links for others to check out, especially if you use several different venues, you'll probably want to install Shareaholic
, which lets you quickly post links to all these services and many more. Added bonus: it has customizable shortcuts, so all you have to do is press "d" to Digg an article, or "t" to tweet it.
xmarks (bookmark syncing)
Chrome has bookmark syncing by default, but Xmarks
beats the included tool in one important way: its compatibility with several different browsers. Xmarks syncs between Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer -- regardless of whether you're using Linux, Windows or OS X. Xmarks can even sync your tabs across different PCs and browsers, and allows selective syncing of bookmarks, just in case you want to keep some private.
RSS Subscription Extension (RSS)
A strange omission from an otherwise thoroughly modern browser, Chrome does not include the ability to detect, read or subscribe to RSS feeds
. Every other major browser on the market includes these capabilities, but strangely Google has relegated them to an extension. This official add-on from Google
brings Chrome in line with the rest of its competitors, and is essential for any news and RSS junkie.
This Chrome add-on turns your browser into your music manager
. By combing websites for songs, it allows you to listen from a unified interface, or add them to your library for playback later. It won't replace iTunes or a Rhapsody subscription, but, for audio aficionados and music blog buffs, there is no more valuable addition.