Five free Chrome tools for faster, easier searches
By Liane Cassavoy, PCWorldJan 23, 2014 3:30 am PST
At a Glance
Occasional error messages
Wikipedia Search lets you query the Web’s massive information site without interrupting your browsing.
Your search for the perfect search is over. Five free tools from the Chrome Web Store work with the Chrome browser to make searching easier, or help you tweak your search queries to minimize unwanted results. If you want to delve only into Wikipedia, or if you want to ignore certain sites—especially ones that seem suspect—you can do it with one of these helpers.
Highlight to Search
I’m lazy. I admit it. Sometimes, the idea of typing a query into a search engine is enough to discourage me from running a Web search altogether. But with Highlight to Search, I can embrace my laziness and still conduct the Web searches I need.
Once you’ve installed this Chrome extension, Highlight to Search lets you conduct searches for keywords you select on a webpage. Highlight a word or phrase, and Highlight to Search will display a small magnifying glass icon.
Click that, and you’ll see your highlighted phrase along with other search suggestions. Pick one, click again, and your search is complete: Highlight to Search opens a new tab, displaying Google’s search results for your query.
Searching doesn’t get any easier than that.
I resisted the allure of Wikipedia for a long time. It can’t be trusted, I said. It’s not reliable, I claimed. And now I’m over it.
Opening my mind to Wikipedia also opened the door to Wikipedia Search. This Chrome App and browser extension lets you search Wikipedia without leaving your current webpage.
All of the information you seek appears in a window that drops down from the Wikipedia Search icon added to your browser bar. The attractive and well-designed window includes images and links. You also have the option of clicking a button to view the Wikipedia page in a new browser tab.
Wikipedia Search isn’t perfect: On two occasions, it returned an error page in response to a basic search query. (In both instances, however, the error disappeared when I repeated my query.) Nevertheless, it remains a great way to dig up information from a vast trove of content without interrupting your browsing.
Personal Blocklist (by Google)
There’s such a thing as TMI (too much information) in search, too. Say that you prefer the food reviews posted on Urbanspoon to those on Chow or Yelp. A reliable way to prevent sites that you don’t want to read from surfacing in searches is to use Google’s own Personal Blocklist (by Google). Make no mistake: That’s its name.
This Chrome extension adds a link to all of your Google search results, so you can block search results from a given domain. Click it, and all such results disappear from view. The domain goes to your personal blocklist, which you can manage by clicking the Personal Blocklist icon added to your Chrome bar. Here, you can choose to block only subsets of certain domains, remove sites from your blocklist, or add others simply by typing them in.
When future searches return results from those sites, Google notifies you with a message at the bottom of the page and a link to view those results. Personal Blocklist (by Google) isn’t a universal cure to search-engine overload, but it is a handy way to tailor your results.
WOT adds small icons next to search results that all major search engines return, along with links that appear on your social networks and Webmail services. The icons use the traffic-light scheme: Green means the site is widely considered to be reliable; yellow suggests that you should treat the site with caution; and red indicates that it may pose a security threat.
Clicking the icon takes you to WOT’s site. There you see more details about the site, and you can read what other users have to say about it. WOT allows you to add your own information about any site on the Web, just by clicking the WOT icon on to your Chrome menu bar.
WOT doesn’t guarantee your safety on the Web, but it does help you navigate its dangers with the help of thousands of cyber-friends.
One of my all-time favorite browser tools, the Google Toolbar, isn’t available for Google Chrome. According to Google, that’s because many of the Google Toolbar’s features are built into Chrome itself. Still, I miss having a toolbar, which is why I love SearchBar. This Chrome extension adds a customizable search toolbar to Chrome.
SearchBar adds a magnifying-glass icon to Chrome’s menu bar. Click it, and a search toolbar appears. For easier access to the toolbar, use the settings menu to create a custom key combination, or have it display whenever you’re browsing. To use it, enter your query, and click the site you’d like to search.
The default options are Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Wolfram Alpha, but you can customize the choices by using SearchBar’s settings menu. SearchBar lacks the slickness of Google’s own toolbar, which becomes its own part of your browser. But since Google Toolbar isn’t available for Chrome, SearchBar is the next best thing.
Faster, easier, better search
Anyone can type a search term into a text bar. But these five tools do more, helping you dig exactly what you want out of the search results more quickly and easily. And they’re free, so you don’t have to dig out your wallet at all.