Productivity with Chrome
Depending on which Web metrics firm you believe, Google Chrome either surpassed Mozilla Firefox in worldwide browser market share in late 2011 or will do so in early 2012, picking up the number two spot behind Microsoft's IE. Either way, it's clear that Chrome's star is rising.
If you're among those switching to Google's browser, you'll find add-ons aplenty to enrich your browsing experience. When extensions first became available for Chrome a couple years back, our sister site Network World put together a list of 10 great ones for work and play. Here are 10 more essential add-ons, many exclusive to Chrome, that will please everyone from procrastinators to productivity buffs.
When it comes to productivity, you are often your own worst enemy. StayFocusd can help. It lets you set a daily time limit for browsing time-wasting websites of your choosing; once your allotted time is up, the sites are blocked until the following day. You may be able to slip Facebook sessions past your boss, but StayFocusd's all-seeing eye can be disabled only by uninstalling the add-on, making this a nearly foolproof way to remain on task.
Customization hounds will find plenty to love here, too. You can configure StayFocusd to operate only during certain hours on certain days, and/or to block subdomains, individual pages and even certain types of content, such as Flash games.
Revisionists, rejoice! The Aviary add-on lets you edit images right in your browser without being rerouted to another site or program.
When you're browsing, just right-click an image and choose Edit Image in Aviary from the context menu. Up pops the image in a simple widget that lets you adjust colors, crop, rotate, eliminate red-eye, add silly "stickers" and more, then save it to your desktop.
There's also a screen capture feature that takes a snapshot of the page, opening it in a slightly more advanced in-browser image editor in a new window or tab. Here you can annotate your captures and add other effects, making this one powerful tool for bloggers or anyone else with an image-editing itch.
Never worry about finding websites from a previous browsing session again. Session Manager saves entire browser sessions in their current state, allowing you to revisit a series of websites accessed on a previous date, exactly as they were when you first clicked on them.
Session Manager is also ideal for synchronizing your daily Web browsing by helping you create sessions for certain times of day. Fond of social networking and email in the mornings? Session Manager makes it easy to load your routine while nursing that first cup of joe.
Chrome to iPhone or Google Chrome to Phone
Running out the door is a lot less stressful when you pair your Android smartphone with Google's Chrome to Phone or your iPhone with myPhoneDesktop's Chrome to iPhone (shown at left). Both send links, images, phone numbers and other important information right to your smartphone when you click on an in-browser button. With push notifications, the ability to set default actions for different data types and multiple handset support, they help streamline your digital life.
Both extensions are free; you'll need to install the corresponding app on your phone and have an account with Google or myPhoneDesktop. Google's Chrome to Phone Android app is free, while the myPhoneDesktop iOS app costs $4.99.
Taskforce turns your Gmail inbox into a productivity nerve center for your digital life. The add-on converts emails into tasks, schedules those tasks and shares them with others, even if they don't use Taskforce. And it does all of that without forcing you to leave your inbox.
Digital natives and novices alike can use this interface with ease: Most actions are carried out simply by clicking on a Taskforce button inside your mailbox. Install the add-on, fire up your Gmail account and watch your productivity soar.
Things to Do
Productivity tools with oodles of features work well for advanced taskmasters. But the rest of us may be better served by simple add-ons that actually encourage us to get things done.
Procrastinators, look no further than Things to Do. The add-on makes your duties inescapable by turning Chrome's New Tab page into a customizable to-do list. Each bullet point on your list can be dragged to a new position for easy prioritizing. Editing and deleting items is as simple as clicking on them, and keyboard shortcuts provide quick navigation through all the tasks you swear you'll get done today.
AddThis is your one-stop shop for all things sharing. Click the in-browser AddThis button and you'll be able to broadcast content to over 300 different Web services. That simple browser button lets you tweet, share or email links without the hassle of switching between pages.
It's ideal for thought leaders, social media marketers or anyone else with a generous digital spirit. AddThis also features translation functions for foreign-language content and can quickly be customized to share on lesser-known sites like Fashionista, Historious and Link Ninja.
FastestChrome, a Chrome version of the popular FastestFox Firefox extension, is like steroids for your browser. Although it doesn't actually load pages faster, the add-on's numerous features make browsing faster overall. For instance, it automatically loads the next page of a website for minimal interruption while reading, and when you highlight a word or phrase on the page, its definition appears in a pop-up.
Social media mavens will love the ability to highlight a link and check out its popularity on Facebook and Twitter, while shopaholics will appreciate the real-time price comparisons pulled from shopping search engines that are displayed anytime a product appears in Google search results. All this and more adds up to a Chrome enhancement that makes Web browsing a breeze.
Multitaskers, meet your new best friend. Install SpeakIt!, highlight on-screen text on a non-encrypted Web page and click the SpeakIt! toolbar button to hear the text read aloud to you while you get work done. It's the perfect way to listen to the latest celebrity updates from TMZ while, you know, doing important things. It's also a great add-on for eye-strained Web users in need of relief.
Be warned, however -- there's no easy way to stop SpeakIt! once it starts reading aloud, so be ready with your keyboard's Mute button.
This open-source tool supports every language that Google does, meaning polyglots and foreign language users have a chance to get in on the text-to-speech action. Wunderbar!
Good things come in small packages. With one click, the Up add-on sends users up one level in the currently loaded URL. It'll also display the path list back to the original website, making navigation among multiple URL levels quick and easy.
For researchers tracking down the home source of a citation or those who need to tap the root of a website quickly, Up is a must-have -- proving that some of the best productivity tools are the simplest.
Logan Kugler is a frequent Computerworld contributor. His most recent article was "LinkedIn groups for IT pros: How to find the best."