Google Chrome is a fast and capable web browser, but if you’re only using it in its originally downloaded state, you’re missing out on a trick or two.
Chrome’s features can be expanded in all kinds of ways with ‘extensions’ - free downloads that do everything from keep you safer while you surf to making web pages more readable.
You can download Chrome extensions from the Chrome Web Store, but we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 favourites to get you started.
You can manage Chrome’s installed extensions by selecting More tools - Extensions from its Options menu (the three dots at the top-right of its window).
Tip 1: Add popular shortcuts
Link: Black menu
If you’re using Chrome, there’s a chance you’re also a fan of Google’s other services. If that’s the case, Black Menu makes life a little easier by putting a list of shortcuts to the most popular ones on the Chrome toolbar. Just click the button and you can jump directly to Gmail, Maps, YouTube and more. You can use some services inside Black Menu’s pop-up window, too, for even faster access.
Tip 2: Store favourite web content
Is there anything more frustrating than finding something interesting online — then forgetting where it was? Dragdis gets fixes this by acting as a digital backup for your brain. Just drag anything you see on the web — images, videos, links or selected text — to the right of the Chrome window, drop it onto the Dragdis sidebar that appears and it’s saved in your account (create a free one at the Dragdis website. You can then see everything you’ve saved (and from where) by clicking the Dragdis button on the Chrome toolbar.
Tip 3: Browse in private
Web pages use all manner of hidden tricks to track what you do when you visit them - and even what other web sites you visit afterwards. If you don’t like the idea of being spied on while you surf, Ghostery gives some much-needed privacy protection. Once installed, work through the simple set-up wizard (or use the one click application) and your web browsing will soon be more private than before. One word of warning - some sites won’t work properly with Ghostery enabled, but you can click its toolbar button and add the site to its ‘whitelist’ to remedy that.
Tip 4: Check spelling and grammar
Keeping your internet comments free from spelling mistakes and grammatical errors isn’t always easy when you’re typing in a hurry, which is where Ginger comes to the rescue. Just click its toolbar button, sign up for a free account and type into its window. Ginger will then highlight any misspelled words and other issues - and fix them with a click.
Tip 5: Automatically save your typing
Link: Lazarus: Form Recovery
There’s nothing worse than filling in an online form or writing a long comment on a web page and then losing everything when your web browser crashes - and Chrome does crash from time to time. Like its name suggests, Lazarus can bring your words back from the dead. There isn’t much to see when Lazarus is working - just a tiny icon that appears in any text box you’re typing in. You can click this to see anything you’ve already typed that Lazarus has saved, but it will restore forms and comments automatically when you return a the web page you were on.
Tip 6: Block junk in search
Google Search can be a real pain when its list of results is filled with junk from spam sites that tell you nothing useful. The best way to deal with these is to block them and Google has created a tool to do just that. It’s called Personal Blocklist and, once installed, you’ll see an extra Block icon below your Google Search results. Give this a click and you won’t see that site in the search results again.
Tip 7: Save articles to read later
If you’re always finding interesting articles on the web but never get around to reading them, give Pocket a go. Sign up for free and you can save pages to your Pocket account, then you can then read in a cleaned-up form (just like Clearly’s) when you’ve got a bit more time. The clever bit is that your account also syncs automatically with the free iPhone, Android and Windows Phone app, so you’ll always have something to read in your pocket - even when you don’t have an internet connection.
Tip 8: Re-open tabs
Link: Simple Undo Close
Chrome’s Control + Shift + T keyboard shortcut opens its last-closed tab, which comes in very handy if you closed one accidentally. But what if you want to re-open one of the other tabs you closed? Cue Simple Undo Close click the button and you can restore your most recently closed tabs — or more of them if you right-click the toolbar button and change the extension’s options.
Tip 9: Is a website safe?
Short for Web of Trust, WOT gives you an at-a-glance guide to how trustworthy web sites are. Search for something using Google Search or another search engine, and you’ll see an icon next to its each result that shows how other WOT users rate the sites’ safety - green for good, red for bad. You’ll see the same on the WOT toolbar button when you visit a site, too. It’s easy to be caught out by dodgy sites when surfing on common sense alone - WOT adds a useful layer of safety.