12 Chrome extensions power users will love

These dozen add-on tools will help you harness and extend the power of Chrome

12 Chrome extensions power users will love
12 Chrome extensions power users will love

Much has happened in the World According to Chrome since we last looked at Chrome extensions. What was once a scrappy upstart browser has turned into a workday necessity. Many companies use the Google Drive/Docs office productivity apps, and (as you might imagine) Google’s Chrome works wonders with them.

If you’re ready to throw in your lot with the Googlies, these add-ins can make your life easier, your goings faster, and protect your backside in the bargain.

Here’s my list of 12 hard-working Chrome Extensions that I couldn’t live without. No doubt I’ve missed one of your favorites, so feel free to add them in the comments.

Adblock Plus
Adblock Plus

Tthe ongoing rivalry between AdBlock and Adblock Plus continues: In spite of the similarity in names, and in features -- both block ads on sites and maintain editable whitelists -- the two products are supported by completely different organizations, with conflicting goals. 

Most recently, Adblock Plus’s Acceptable Ads initiative -- putting sites deemed “acceptable” on a whitelist -- has left some claiming that ABP is taking bribes, while others feel the approach is reasonable. Compounding the problem: Many published reports fail to draw a distinction between the original AB and ABP. And there’s plenty of backlash about ad blocking in general.

If you’d rather use the original AdBlocker, it’s readily available and also highly recommended.

Adblock Plus
Free, open source; from Eyeo

LastPass 3.0 Premium
LastPass 3.0 Premium

With many online (and offline) password managers to choose from, I keep coming back to LastPass. The Premium version, for a paltry $1/month, stores and manages passwords, form-filling text, and boilerplate on iOS devices, Android devices, Windows Phone, Surface RT, and Firefox OS, in addition to all of the major browsers on PCs and Macs.

LastPass for Applications, part of the package, goes beyond the Web-filling features of its progenitor. It sits in the Windows System Tray, next to the clock in the lower right corner of the desktop. From there, you can add desktop applications that require passwords and “train” LastPass to log in to them.

LastPass
Premium $12/year; limited free edition available; from LastPass

Checker Plus for Gmail
Checker Plus for Gmail

I used to swear by Google’s own Gmail Checker, but that’s changed now that I’ve seen Checker Plus. Longtime Chrome extension author Jason Savard has outdone Google. This extension watches over your Gmail account, displays incoming mail as an unobtrusive pop-up -- with optional “You’ve got mail!” style audio alerts -- and lets you cut straight to a message without opening Gmail. It’ll manage multiple Gmail accounts, and, in short, do everything you want to do quickly with Gmail. 

The icon on the Chrome toolbar shows the number of unread messages accumulating in your inbox.

Bonus tip: If clicking on a mail link inside your browser sends you to Outlook, download and run Send from Gmail, from Google.

Checker Plus for Gmail
Free; from Jason Savard

Google Dictionary
Google Dictionary

One of the most enduringly useful Chrome extensions, Google Dictionary has been around for ages. Install the extension, double-click on a word, and a definition appears. If you don’t like the definition, you can click through to the citation or click More for a mashup of many definitions. 

Google Dictionary
Free; from Google

Chrome Office Viewer
Chrome Office Viewer

You probably know that Chrome has a built-in PDF viewer. You might not know that Google also makes a free Microsoft Office file viewer. Click on a DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, or PPTX file inside Chrome, and the viewer appears, with the document loaded and fully viewable (but not editable). 

Chrome Office Viewer
Free; from Google

Google Apps Offline
Google Apps Offline

Even if you rarely use the Google Apps -- Docs (word processor), Sheets (spreadsheets), and/or Slides (presentations) -- check out the Google Apps Offline feature. Google’s building a full offline support environment for its browser, and other companies are slowly following suit, writing Chrome extensions that make use of the offline capability.

To set it up, start on the Google Drive site, enable offline access in your copy of Chrome, then install the add-in. For those of you running Chromebooks, Offline’s already built in. Google has made it one-click easy to turn the feature on and off if you’re absolutely sure your Internet connection will stay up.

Google Apps Offline (installation instructions)
Free; from Google

Chrome Remote Desktop
Chrome Remote Desktop

Chrome Remote Desktop is moderately interesting for what does today -- set up an RDP-like or LogMeIn-like connection between two consenting PCs. With Chrome Remote Desktop, you can take control of another PC or allow another PC to take control of your PC simply by running the extension in Chrome on both PCs. It’ll even go cross-platform between Chrome running on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux machines -- as well as Chromebooks, of course.

What’s far more interesting is the apparent (near-term) future of Chrome Remote Desktop. It looks like Google is hard at work on both iOS and Android versions of the extension. Soon, Chrome may hold the key to cross-platform communication.

Chrome Remote Desktop
Free; from Google

Evernote Web Clipper
Evernote Web Clipper

Evernote stores anything and everything, from Web pages to photos to handwritten notes, and makes it easy to sort and find the stored items. The Chrome extension known as Evernote Web Clipper feeds websites (and more) into your Evernote collection: Navigate to a Web page, click the Evernote icon, choose what you want to save (article, full page, bookmark, screenshot), touch up the snapped item, choose one of your notebooks, click Save, and you’re done.

Evernote runs on Windows, OS X, iOS, Windows Phone, Android, and several additional platforms, and you can access your clipped notes through any Web browser.

Evernote Web Clipper
Free; Premium ($45/year) includes 1GB storage, sharing, max note size of 100MB; from Evernote

Hover Zoom
Hover Zoom

If you’ve preformed a Google search for images, you know what it’s like to be able to hover your mouse over a thumbnail and see a much larger picture appear. Hover Zoom behaves like that, but in an alternate universe. The pictures are big, and videos run, with only a hover.

Hover Zoom doesn’t work on every website, but for most of the big ones where you’re likely to want a zoomer, it works well: Facebook, Flickr, Imgur, Picasa, Pinterest, Tumblr, Wikpedia, YouTube, and many more.

Hover Zoom
Free; from Romain Vallet

Panic Button Plus
Panic Button Plus

The “boss key” has been a favorite hack since the earliest browsers: The boss walks in, hit one key and everything you were doing disappears. Panic Button Plus is the best boss key for Chrome. 

It isn’t just for bosses -- PBP remembers everything. If you get called away from your desk and want to save everything open in Chrome, you could leave it running and pray nothing happens with your computer or connection; you could shut down Chrome and hope restore brings everything back; you could put all open tabs in one ginormous Bookmark; or you can click Panic Button Plus, or press a key combination you set in advance, and everything’s there waiting for your return.

Panic Button Plus
Free; from WIPS.com

TooManyTabs for Chrome 2.0
TooManyTabs for Chrome 2.0

At some point in just about everyone’s life, you discover that you have so many tabs open in Chrome that you can’t even see the favicons -- no way to tell which tab is which without moving from tab to tab.

That’s where TooManyTabs comes in. Click on the TooManyTabs icon, and you see a complete list of all open, and recently closed, tabs -- in digestible thumbnails. Click on a thumbnail, and the selected tab comes to the forefront.

TooManyTabs
Free; from Visibo

MightyText
MightyText

If you have an Android phone, you need MightyText.

SMS messages are a pain in the neck no matter how quickly you can flit across the keyboard. Install MightyText on your phone, install the Chrome extension on your PC, log into your Gmail account, and MightyText consolidates all of your SMS messages, relaying them from phone to PC and back, dishing them up on a machine that -- hopefully -- has a bigger keyboard than your phone. Maybe the monitor’s better, too.

SMS is dying, or so I’m told. Until it’s completely kicked the bucket, MightyText is the best solution.

MightyText (for Anroid phone users)
Free; from MightyText