Ok, first and foremost: what the heck are browser extensions?
Let’s use Wikipedia’s succinct definition: a plug-in that extends the functionality of a web browser.
It’s like one minute you’re Inspector Gadget, strolling along casually saving the world (aka browsing the internet), and the next minute you’re shouting “Go, go gadget arms!” and you have (browsing) super powers.
A Bit About Browsers
This article assumes you are not using the default browser that came installed on your computer (i.e. Internet Explorer or Safari). Please, please, please don’t do that.
This has nothing to do with PC vs Mac or Apple vs Android snobbery. Why should you use something besides IE or Safari? Put very simply: you can do so much better.
Why order a burger with lettuce, tomato and American cheese when you could have it on a whole wheat bun with sautéed mushrooms, avocado, blue cheese crumbles and truffle oil fries… at the same price?
You can read a little more here from Digital Trends about the difference between browsers, but for this article we are going to talk about the best extensions for Chrome, my preferred browser. As of July 2016, Chrome had around 50% of the worldwide browser market.
If you prefer another respectable browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Edge or (ok, fine) Safari, many of these extensions will still be available. Simply search for “Firefox extension for XYZ” and you’ll be in business.
A Bit More Background
Why add browser extensions? The primary reason for me: a large number of the programs I use daily for work and pleasure are browser-based. That means when I toggle between them, I’m losing time and creating distractions. Browser extensions allow me to file an article to read later, add things to my calendar, put tasks on my to-do list or recall passwords without hopping over to a new program or window. Efficiency and simplicity.
A caveat: most of these extensions are related to websites, software and programs. You’ll want to either explore those programs or be an active user already. In other words, the nifty Evernote extension isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t use Evernote. (P.S. you really should give Evernote a go.)
Along that vein: if there is a particular program you use allthetime (hello, Wunderlist!) it will be 100% worth your time and possibly mind-blowing to do a quick search for “Wunderlist browser extensions.” The good folks behind your favorite apps and programs are very smart, and they’ve probably developed something phenomenal that is ready and waiting for you to download.
Side note: extensions can slow down your browser, so pick a handful of essentials and don’t go hog wild. With that said, Chrome is incredibly fast and reliable – so if you’ve been accustomed to IE or Safari and you switch to Chrome and set up a few extensions, you’re still going to feel like you’re browsing at warp speed!
Last but not least: you should absolutely explore the litany of browser extensions based on “editor’s picks” or key words (such as productivity or social media). Just head over to the Chrome Extension store and browse (as it were) to your heart’s content!
8 Best Browser Extensions for Chrome
Without further ado, here are my top picks for browser extensions:
1Password is my pick for secure password storage and encryption. However, 1Password really only sings when you install the browser extension so that all those passwords you’re constantly resetting and forgetting (again) auto-populate on your favorite sites.
I’ve already shared why I believe you should be using branded links if you’re a marketer, blogger or avid social media user, but a consistent link shortening and tracking tool is useful regardless of your job function. Enter Bitly.
My favorite resource for scheduling (or queueing) social media content across social accounts is Buffer, and they’ve built a lovely extension to make it simple to add items to your queue as you browse the inter webs.
It’s hardly a secret that Evernote is my end-all, be-all, absolute favorite tool… so imagine my delight at the existence of the Evernote Web Clipper! It’s a handy dandy tool for saving links, bookmarks, ebooks, PDFs and anything else I need to file in my external brain.
If you have a problem with too many open browser tabs (*averts eyes*), get ready to do a happy dance. I wrote a super-involved overview of OneTab right over here, but the short version is that it will squish (<— technical term) and save your many open tabs, giving you speedy browsing and helping you avoid heartache and chaos.
You run across ninety gajillion articles on the interwebs (and in your inbox) everyday, and you are totallygoingtoreadthem. Except, you keep forgetting where you put them. Did you bookmark them in your browser? Throw them in your notes app? Save them on Facebook? How about you just stop the insanity and put ALL your reading stuffs in one place to read later? This extension will help.
Please tell me you are totally a nerd like me and you lovelovelove tracking your every move? You’ve got your Fitbit for tracking calories, sleep and water and your Streaks app for setting micro-challenges for yourself over the course of the year. Now, you can geek out over exactly how much time you wasted (or didn’t) during your typical day.
Ok, this is only useful if you are a Wrike (project/task management platform) user, but I pinky swear your task app/project management software prolly has an extension… go find it! The Wrike extension allows you to turn the website you’re on (hello, conference you need to register for/hotel room you need to book) into a task. Brilliant!
Bonus Browser Extensions
These are good, they just didn’t make the first round draft picks:
Ok, transparency: this extension only does one tiny thing that I love… but it’s worth it! So, I installed it but I keep it hidden in my toolbar… because some extensions just need to work quietly in the background like Spanx. This one will throw Klout scores (more about them here) directly onto your Twitter feed, which is interesting and relevant IF you’re in the influencer/social media field. Everyone else? Prolly not so much.
The good people at 64px apparently exist exclusively to create lovely, useful extensions for Google Chrome users… hence, they are my faves. They’ve got a very cool extension called Notifications for Instagram that will give you a quick, at-a-glance peek at your latest post performance (if you’re into that kind of thing). Their other extensions are worth a peek as well.
You’re casually browsing the interwebs working on your current task list when you come across theperfect meal for dinner the day after tomorrow. Don’t interrupt that flow! Just file those recipes/ideas/outfit inspirations to Pinterest for future reference… bibbity bobbity boo.
Ok, I’m kind of cheating here – this extension is now called Sales Navigator for Gmail, because the big dogs realized it existed and it is awesome. I just thought Rapportive was a rad name. The short version? You’re in your Gmail inbox, but you can see rich LinkedIn/social media bios in the sidebar for whomever you’re corresponding with… so handy! This is another one I keep in Spanx mode (hidden in my toolbar and functioning behind the scenes).
And one more: jury’s out!
This was previously known as RiteTag, and I loved it as a prompt for quick hashtag analysis and cross-checking (for popularity, use scenarios etc). It went away and has apparently had a phoenix-esque rebirth, so I’ve got it on my list to revisit.
I’d love to hear what you think! Got a different take on the best browsers or an excellent extension I’m missing? Tellmetellmetellme!