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The best Google Chrome extensions 2012

Software & AppsFeatures
by Eric Griffith, 04 Jul 2012Features
The best Google Chrome extensions 2012

We like Google Chrome and Version 19 features an amazingly responsive browsing experience, security to prevent crashing, synchronisation of bookmarks and preferences between Chrome browsers on other computers, great HTML5 support, and built-in Flash and PDF readers.

But even all of that isn't enough for true browser aficionados. We need extensions.

Google Chrome's support for extensions kicked off just three years ago and has exploded since. After last year's Chrome Web Store facelift, the collection now rivals Firefox's.

Rather than stumble through the almost endless number of entries in the store, we bring you our choice of 61 extensions just about everyone should consider for extending and improving your browsing experience, sometimes in ways you didn't even think possible.

There are a lot of extensions specific to Google and its services, which isn't surprising considering Chrome is Google's browser. They work across operating systems and best of all, every extension mentioned here is entirely free, so there's no harm in giving them a try. If you don't like one, just type chrome://extensions into the browser's address bar. From there, you can disable or remove any or all of them. You can also right-click an extension's icon in the toolbar to remove it.

In this feature, we cover extensions for Blogging, Screen Capture, Google Services, Images, Interface Enhancement, Productivity, Security, Shopping, Social/Sharing, Tabs, and Video.

If we've included your favourites or if we've missed the best, let us know in the comments section.

BLOGGING

1. ScribeFire Never leave Chrome again when writing up your latest pithy post. ScribeFire is a full app for blogging that works only within the browser. It opens up a tab with all the info on your pre-set blog or blogs, with a big editing space for creating the content.

2. Zemanta Zemanta is a blogger's best friend. This extension, available for multiple operating systems and browsers, supports many blogging systems to help insert images and related article links. It sources them from big image sites like Flickr, and content sites like Wikipedia, IMDB, and many more.

SCREEN CAPTURE

3. Awesome Screenshot Capture & Annotate Don't limit yourself to basic screenshots. Make them awesome by annotating them with shapes, arrows, and text comments. One click will then upload the image to AwesomeScreenshot.com for sharing.

4. FireShot There's no lack of screenshot tools in Chrome, but FireShot is a favourite. It captures an entire page (even what you can't see), the visible portion, the whole browser window, or just what you select. It will then send the new image to an editor, save it (even as PDF), upload it, print it, copy it, or email it.

GOOGLE SERVICES

5. Attachments.me for Gmail Attaching items to an email, no less a message in Gmail, is easy - if the file is on the desktop. But if it's stored in the cloud, it can be a pain. This attachment makes it simple to access files on your Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box accounts and attach them to a message, without even leaving the Gmail interface.

6. Chrome Toolbox (by Google) Google created this toolbox extension to make it easier to access all the hidden settings of the Chrome browser. Reach it via the Settings page of Chrome, and you'll get options that impact tabs, short cuts, and quick-launch buttons for bookmarks.

7. DayHiker DayHiker puts all the online goodness of Google Calendar in your Chrome toolbar. You can do the major things like check your schedule and tasks, plus it will remind you about events. If you're a Google Calendar user, you almost have to use it.

8. Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer With this extension installed, when you click a link to a PowerPoint presentation (a .PPT file or the like) or a PDF file, you'll be shunted directly to Google Docs/Drive to view the file. You won't even have to download it and open it in actual PowerPoint or Adobe Reader, or re-upload it to Google Drive first.

9. Google Dictionary (by Google) Load it up, double-click any word on any web page, and you'll see a pop-up with the definition. Or search for words from the toolbar. (Brits be warned - it appears to only support US English).

10. Google Reader Notifier If you're addicted to reading RSS feed subscriptions in Google Reader, you owe it to yourself to use the Reader Notifier. The icon in the toolbar informs you of unread posts, and gives you fast access to them.

11. Goo.gl URL Shortener Google's own URL shortener service can be accessed via the Chrome toolbar with this extension. It will instantly shorten the URL you're visiting and copy that new address to the clipboard for use anywhere. It'll even generate a QR code of the URL.

12. Google Voice (By Google) Google's voicemail service utilises this software to extend right into the browser. It offers on-the-fly access to your messages (with transcriptions), and can initiate VoIP calls over Google Voice. Every phone number you see on a site becomes clickable for calling.

13. Offline Google Mail Web-based email doesn't have to be exclusive to an Internet connection. This extension ensures there's a cache of your messages for reading when you're offline, and you can compose new messages and "send" them, synchronising everything once you reconnect.

14. Google Quick Scroll When you search on Google and then skip to a page in the results, sometimes it's hard to tell exactly why Google thought the page was even relevant. Quick Scroll appears only when needed and highlights the bits of the page that are pertinent to your query.

NEXT: Images and Interface Enhancement Extensions

IMAGES

15. Image Downloader Bulk download all the images on a single Web page with this extension. It'll display a view with all the images, and you can specify just those you really want before the download starts.

16. Image Search by Cooliris Google Image fanatics rejoice. Cooliris, the fantastic interface for browsing thumbnails in a continuous scrollable 3D wall, can be the default view for your image search on Google, thanks to this extension.

17. Hover Zoom There are a lot of thumbnails images on the web, on sites like Google Images, Flickr, DeviantArt, and social networks. This extension shows you the full-size image in such lists when you hover your mouse over the thumbnail.

INTERFACE ENHANCEMENT

18. AdBlock and 19. Adblock Plus Adblock Plus is the community-driven extension ported from Firefox that everyone loves for blocking banner ads. The unrelated AdBlock (without the 'plus') does the same thing, but also adds video ad blocking on sites, such as YouTube, and even in Flash-based games. Both are hugely popular, but AdBlock has nearly double the downloads (almost 6.5 million) since it was around first on the Chrome platform. Considering the video-ad blocking extras, and that Adblock Plus is now whitelisting some ads it deems "acceptable," the plus-less AdBlock is the best pick among the two excellent products. (Of course, you could forgo both and continue to let the ITProPortal staff get paid. We won't mind that a bit.)

20. Clearly Like the popular Readability extension listed below, Clearly works to make sure the pages you read online are clean and clear. It takes the copy of main articles and puts them on distraction-free pages, which you can customise. The big upside: if you like the article, you can instantly save it to Evernote, since both were created by the same company.

21. IE Tab In days of yore, many websites were built to work best with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. If you encounter some in your browsing travels along the Info Highway, use IE Tab to load the page using IE's rendering engine, but still remain within the confines of a Google Chrome tab.

22. Mega Button The Mega Button is exactly that - a button on the toolbar that gives you access to just about every setting and bit of info you could want in Chrome, including history, bookmarks, plug-ins, and downloads.

23. Oweb Voice Input Oweb Voice Input installs a little microphone icon in the text box of every web page you visit with Chrome. Click it, dictate the necessary content, and a speech-to-text engine fills out the form for you. It supports 30 different languages.

24. Pocket The service formerly called Read It Later is still all about letting you read content you find...later. It works with browsers, email, and phones. Set up an account and start saving content with the Pocket extension, bookmark buttons, or apps. One click saves the content so you can access it anytime later, on all your devices. Content isn't limited to text; you can store video to watch later, too.

25. Readability Set up an account on Readability first, then install the extension. A click on the drop-down menu gives you the option to read now, read later, or send to Kindle. If you pick the first, you get the article on the page in question in a clear, uncluttered interface. If you choose to read later, you can view the article at your leisure when you visit your Readaiblity.com account. And, of course, sending it to your Kindle is a good way to fill your ebook reader (or any device with Kindle software).

26. Send from Gmail If you click a "mailto:" link on most webpages, it'll launch an email client, typically your desktop software like Outlook. If you've embraced Gmail as your platform of choice, Send from Gmail will ensure that's what you get instead. Plus, the icon in the toolbar lets you send the link or the current page from Gmail without cutting and pasting. It even works with Google Apps with your own domain name.

27. Stylish If you've ever used Greasemonky on Firefox, you'll appreciate Stylish. This extension works with scripts you download from userstyles.org to transform the look of websites. There are thousands of scripts to choose from, and something there will help improve your browsing on Facebook, Tumblr, Google, or elsewhere.

28. SuperSorter If your bookmarks are just a digital pile of names, run SuperSorter to help you organise them. It will sort them, delete duplicates, merge folders full of bookmarks as you request, or kill off empty folders.

29. Xmarks Bookmark Sync Chrome has its own method of syncing bookmarks, tabs, passwords, and settings between browsers (using your Google account), but Xmarks continues to go it one better by syncing between all browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE on the same or multiple computers.

30. X-notifier X-notifier shows you the unread count for multiple accounts, such as Gmail (multiple accounts), Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL.

NEXT: Productivity, Security, and Shopping Extensions

PRODUCTIVITY

31. Evernote Web Clipper Evernote is the premier way to clip and store everything you see online that's worth keeping. This extension for the service makes it a breeze, even isolating what it sees as the main content of a page, and storing just that. You search through it all later using Evernote.com or the offline software and apps.

32. Feedly Feedly proves that all RSS feed readers don't have to be ugly. It's a stylish way to read of your favourite blogs. It also works directly with Google Reader and all the major social networks for sharing content.

33. Ginger – Grammar & Spell Checker Ginger puts an advanced spelling and grammar checker at your fingertips. In a Word doc, for instance, you can see errors in real-time as you write.

34. RescueTime Chrome Productivity Meter Stop wasting time online. RescueTime measures how much time you spend at every website you visit (it pauses if the keyboard and mouse go untouched for two minutes or more), all in the background. Later, you can get a report of just which sites are your biggest time sucks.

35. RSS Feed Reader If you were a fan of Firefox's Live Bookmarks, which put an RSS feed right on the bookmarks toolbar, then you'll love RSS Feed Reader. It instantly tells you when there are new posts on your favourite feeds and makes it easy to subscribe to RSS/Atom feeds. It even has different themes so you can change how it looks.

36. StayFocusd Use this tool to help your self-control. It can limit the amount of time you're allowed to spend at websites in Chrome. If you give yourself one hour a day on Facebook, that's it - StayFocusd (there's no "e") won't let you back on the site. It can block specific pages, whole sites, and even Flash apps or games. Couple this with the RescueTime extension above, and you'll be very productive.

37. Lookup Companion for Wikipedia Wikipedia is arguably second only to Google for searches throughout the day. Lookup Companion gives you toolbar access to searching, with results showing up in the drop-down, which you can easily open in a new Chrome tab.

SECURITY

38. Ghostery There's a lot going on behind the scenes as you surf the Web. Things called bugs, beacons, pixels, and more are used to track what you're doing. Ghostery is there to tell you what is happening in the background, and give you control over these "extras." If you don't like a company or what it is doing, Ghostery can block scripts, objects, even whole images so you can retain your privacy.

39. History Eraser Did you forget to use incognito mode? History Eraser makes it easy to clear your browsing and download history, cache, cookies, passwords, and saved form data with just a click. You can even choose a time period for when data gets expunged.

40. LastPass LastPass is great for filling out forms and saving passwords to websites. It works across all operating systems, mobile devices, and, of course, web browsers. Make sure it's part of your Chrome security arsenal. It also imports stored passwords from other tools, as well.

41. WOT The Web of Trust is a full online community that rates a website based on one major criterion: can it be trusted? The WOT extension is the first line of defense against sites with a bad reputation, providing red, yellow, and green icons next to search results and giving you a heads-up notice before you click a link.

SHOPPING

42. Add to Amazon Wish List The Amazon Wish List is the de facto standard online for making a whopping list of items you crave, mostly because Amazon sells almost everything. Yes, almost everything. When you see an item for sale on a different site, you can still add it to your Amazon list using this extension. Now, people shopping for you can branch out to buy all the stuff you want, not just the stuff sold by Amazon.

43. Shopping Assistant Whenever you shop on a site, Shopping Assistant shows you what the product in question costs on other sites. It also includes a price history from Amazon products, so you can track the price fluctuation.

NEXT: Social/Sharing, Tabs, and Video Extensions

SOCIAL/SHARING

44. AddThis – Share & Bookmark (new) Set up an account at AddThis.com first and then install this extension. Click the drop-down menu on the tool bar (or right-click anywhere on a page) to add content instantly to social sites, translate info, bookmark pages, or print. AddThis supports more than 300 services including the big name social networks, blog systems, and webmail services.

45. Digg for Chrome The official Chrome extension for Digg.com will both display the number of diggs for the URL you're visiting in the address bar, and let you digg it yourself from the site (or share it on Twitter and Facebook). Click "random" and the extension will take you to previously dugg content you haven't seen before.

46. exfm music If you love music and visit a lot of music sites, exfm music is an extension you need to know. When you hit a page with MP3s on it, the exfm player pops up to stream the music, and will continue to play it even after you leave the site. If you want to share or find out what your friends are listening to, social networking links are standing by to assist you.

47. Facebook Notifications If you're a Facebook user - and what are the chances that you aren't? - this extension will alert you when there's traffic to your pages or groups. It provides pop-up status info and you can access all notifications or the Facebook Messages inbox from the toolbar.

48. Pinterest Pro The popular online pinboard, Pinterest, has an extension to make using the social sharing site even better. When you right-click any image, you'll have an option to add it to Pinterest instantly. It also zooms in on images on your board without having to click the home site and randomly shows you popular pins when you click the icon in the toolbar.

49. Send To Kindle Readability can handle this job, but Send to Kindle is one of those extensions that's so popular that it still has a five-star rating from users even after 525 reviews. Set up your Kindle account to accept emails from the makers of the extension at Klip.me and soon you'll be sending articles galore to your favourite ebook reader for future perusal.

50. Shareaholic for Google Chrome Shareaholic is virtually a classic for any browser and a must for those who need instant access to social networks. From the drop-down menu, you can post directly to Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Evernote, Digg, and more than 250 sites with just this one extension. It even has the Goo.gl URL shortener built in.

51. Social Fixer This extension exclusively works with Facebook to provide all the improvements you can imagine. You get a tabbed interface for your feed; better post filtering; an option to hide read posts; a record of those who dare to unfriend you; customised skins; and quick access to Pages, groups, and events. Facebook addicts should not go without it.

52. Twitter Notifier Once just a way to see how many unread tweets you had, Twitter Notifier is now a full Twitter client that lives in your Chrome browser. You'll get pop-up notifications outside of Chrome as needed if the client isn't visible, but there's a full timeline view accessible from the toolbar, which you can make float on the desktop.

53. Unsocialize: The Link Unsocializer Everyone hates those links on Facebook that either try to make you use a Facebook app merely to read something or, worse, write status posts on your wall. This extension bypasses those hyper annoying links, so you get directly to the content, never giving up your personal info.

TABS

54. Awesome New Tab Page When you open a new tab in Google Chrome, you get a page with some shortcut options, usually based on your most-used bookmarks. This extension puts a new interface on that New Tab page. It supports its own customisable, dynamic widgets, which you can move to fit your needs, all in a Metro UI-inspired look.

55. Incredible StartPage This extension is all about making the beginning of your browsing session more productive, with a splashy look that displays your top bookmarks, notes, and recently closed tabs. Your Chrome Web Apps get a separate tab for launching, and you can customise the appearance with beautiful background images (even your own).

56. TabCloud If you open a lot of tabs and want to revive them after you close the browser on your computer - or on other computers or your Android handheld - TabCloud can help. It saves them for access later, or at the same time on multiple systems.

57. TooManyTabs for Chrome Sometimes you just open too many tabs. Exceed 20 and forget it, the interface is impossible to use. This extension manages that overflow, providing a bird's-eye view of open tabs. It lets you search the open ones and sorts them in different ways (by domain, title, or creation time).

58. VerticalTabs Tabs can hog a lot of space at the top of the browser window. If you don't like that configuration, VerticalTabs places all your tabs in a vertical dropdown menu accessible from the toolbar.

VIDEO

59. Magic Actions for YouTube YouTube videos get a makeover with Magic Actions. When installed in Google Chrome, you can use your mouse wheel to control volume, select HD or cinema mode (with darkened background), and turn off the auto-play as desired, among other options. It even hides ads in videos for you.

60. MediaPlus Typically, you only get to watch video or view images in a webpage at the size the page creator intended. MediaPlus turns that idea on its head, giving you control over Flash content or other media, so you can move them around the page, resize them, open them in a new window, add effects, and download them.

61. YouTube Downloader: MP3 / HD Video It's not always easy to capture YouTube videos you may like, but this extension puts a download menu right on every YouTube page, so you can grab the video in question at any available resolution, and in formats like MP4, FLV, or even just the audio in MP3.

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