So Many Add-ons, So Little Time
In December, Google finally released a repository of extensions for Google Chrome. Chrome extensions numbered at more than 300 on launch day. As a beta project, extensions come with a few caveats from Google. For the moment, Google is only supporting extensions in its latest beta version of Chrome, so if you prefer the official, stable browser, you'll have to forgo add-on tools for now. Interestingly, the version of Chrome that supports extensions, dubbed "the Beta Channel" version, is only available on XP and Vista, not Windows 7, though Google has promised that extensions will soon be available for Google's new Mac version of Chrome, too.
In the meantime, Google Subnet blogger Julie Bort has scoured the extension library to come up with the ones that she thinks will boost your productivity at work. But she couldn't stop there. She added a few that are just plain fun, too.
Web of Trust (WOT)
Web of Trust warns you about risky Web sites that try to scam visitors, deliver malware or send spam. The WOT community has scanned millions of Web sites. Web site ratings are continuously updated by millions of members of the WOT community and from many trusted sources, such as phishing site listings. The nice thing about WOT is it doesn't block the site to the user, like other reputation-based wares, but gives users a traffic light graphic to let them know when they are venturing into dangerous realms. An interesting note is that WOT names among its investors MySQL founder Michael Widenius's VC firm.
Xmarks Bookmark Sync
Xmarks Bookmark Sync is one of the most popular bookmarking tools. It gives users a backup for their bookmarks and lets them sync them across computers and browsers Firefox, Safari, IE and now, Chrome. Xmarks gives users control over which bookmarks are synced to which computers, allowing users to keep private bookmarks at home while syncing everything else to a work computer.
Shareaholic for Google Chrome
The Chrome extension library offers numerous options for integrating Web content with social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook. Shareaholic is an extension of this ilk. I like it because it supports every popular social networking site (Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Reddit, LinkedIn) but also because it integrates with Gmail and Yahoo. Plus it's customizable. Share, save or e-mail the page you're visiting to Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Google Reader and over 80 more. You can also share videos, blogs and images.
LastPass for Chrome
LastPass for Chrome is a free online password manager and Form Filler that not only helps you track the zillions of passwords for social networks and other Web sites, but helps make them more secure. This extension allows you to import from every major password storage vendor (such as Roboform, KeePass, PasswordSafe, MyPasswordSafe, Sxipper, TurboPasswords, PassPack, Firefox and IE's built in password manager) and export too. It captures passwords that some others don't like for AJAX forms. Sensitive data is encrypted locally before it is uploaded so anyone sniffing around can't get access. One-time passwords and a screen keyboard also help protect your password list.
Since some Web pages only work with Internet Explorer, the Chrome IE Tab extension allows you to run IE from within a tab in Chrome so you can display them without leaving Chrome. You can configure the extension to do so automatically for URLs you specify. On a related note, this is somewhat along the lines of Google Chrome Frame. Back in September, the Google Chrome team thumbed its nose at Microsoft by introducing a feature in Chrome called Frame which lets IE users substitute Chrome's rendering engine in IE. IE Tab lets you use Chrome to run IE. Either way, users win, as they gain browser choice, even if they use apps that require IE.
Cooliris is a fast way to browse photos and videos. Rather than clicking through pages of images, waiting for each page to render, you scroll through a so-called infinite 3D Wall. Search for images and videos on Google, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook and more. You can also search and window shop online retailers. Cooliris Channels lets you scroll through more than a million TV episodes and movies, from Hulu, CBS, Fox, Sony, about 70 content providers all told. Customize your setup, share your Cooliris with your peeps on Facebook and so on.
MakeGadget allows you to take a URL and make it accessible via a simple "gadget like" container popup. This is particularly useful if there is a mobile Web app that you would like to use on your desktop browser. MakeGadget uses an HTML5 database to remember the last URL you entered.
RandomMagic is a decision-assistance tool. It adds three mini-applications: a coin flipper, a dice roller and a random number generator. When faced with a situation where you just can't decide, let RandomMagic do it for you. If you like RandomMagic, you might also enjoy a Chrome extension that generates random Albert Einstein Quotes or Flickr Interestingness which presents a new, randomly selected cache of interesting pictures from Flickr each day.
The Jamendo Radio extension adds a radio player that streams music from www.jamendo.com. Jamendo hosts music covered under the creative commons licenses, so if you want to support truly DRM-free songs, the Jamendo site is a good place to patronize. A popup lists the currently configured channels, although with a little work you can configure your own channels, too. To start, click the name and while the radio is playing, the popup will display the playback controls Play/Pause, Stop, Next and a volume control.
No doubt you've noticed that Julie Bort's list does not include one of the most popular extensions, an ad blocker. Believe it or not, Google does offer ad blockers and flash animation blockers. It also offers extensions that block ads from specific sites, like Facebook. So why didn't any make it to the list? Bort says, "Although ads can be annoying, magazines and newspapers are hurt by ad blockers. Given the state of newspapers during these economic times, and the fact that I earn my living from that advertising supported medium, I don't use them and couldn't bring myself to recommend any." Are there any other favorite extensions you'd like to see on the list?
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