It’s no secret that I think Google Chrome is, by far, the best web browser. Ever. I could write a dissertation on how much I love it. In fact, it’s so good that I believe the forthcoming Chrome OS is going to change the way we work online.
One of the beauties of Chrome is its functional minimalism. Unlike most applications, there isn’t even a hint of bloat in Chrome. It lies at the hard corner of sleek and powerful. The Chrome experience immediately upon installation is fantastic, and just about anyone could have a great experience without installing any extensions- or add-ons- at all.
There are, however, a few extensions that I use and recommend to make it perfect.
Here, in no particular order, are the Chrome extensions I use, with a rating (1-5) of how essential they are to my online experience.
AdBlock. I will go out of my way to avoid the clutter of ads. The continuing malware problem is another reason to block as many online ads as possible. The combination of AdBlock and AdBlock Plus (see below) results in a completely ad-free experience. Essential Factor: 4.
Adblock Plus. This is the recent Chrome port of the ad blocking app I have used for years. I tried to use it alone, but found that it did not block certain message board ads, which are known to occasionally carry malware. So I went with a combination. Eventually, I’d like to settle on a single ad-blocking solution, but for now I’m choosing redundancy over screen bloat and possible malware. Essential Factor: 4.
Bit.ly. Like just about everyone else, I use Bit.ly to shorten the links I share on Twitter (Follow me) and elsewhere. I like being able to see the actual link destination as well as stats on the links I share. While helpful, this one is not terribly essential. If I had to uninstall one of my extensions, it would be this one. Essential Factor: 2.
Google Calendar Checker. I long ago moved my calendar and my contacts from Outlook to Google Apps. I like the ability to see when my next appointment is, and the ability to hover over the icon for pop-up details. Essential Factor: 3.
Google Dictionary. This is the first extension I installed and the one I would recommend first. A single click on any word on a web site will result in a pop-up definition or Wikipedia summary. This is a must-have extension. Essential Factor: 5.
Google Mail Checker. Since I use Gmail, via Google Apps, as my email app, this must-have extension notifies me of new mail. Essential Factor: 5.
Google News. This extension wasn’t made by Google, but it sure looks like it was. A simple click on the icon renders a tabbed, customized news display. Very nice. Essential Factor: 3.
Google Voice. Being pretty-much all-in with Google Apps, I use Google Voice for my voice mail and to make an increasing number of phone calls right from Chrome. This extension lets me know when I have new messages, texts, etc. Essential Factor: 3.
iReader. Much like ads, I hate all the clutter that most media sites append to their web pages, making them look like the TV screen in Idiocracy.
iReader will render the articles you want, in an elegant, scrollable display, complete with powerful, but unobtrusive, sharing features at the bottom. Essential Factor: 4.
NPR. I like to get my audio news updates as well as some music via NPR. This extension lets me quickly access content from the NPR site (even while browsing other sites), as well as music from great stations like UNCW. Essential Factor: 3.
PriceBlink. Since I do most of my shopping online, this extension, which tells you if there is a better online deal on the item you’re looking at, is a real money-saver. Essential Factor: 4.
RSS Subscription Extension. This Google created extension detects RSS feeds on the page you are reading and displays an RSS icon in the Omnibox, allowing you to click on it to preview the feed content and subscribe. Essential Factor: 2.
WOT. Web of Trust is a safe browsing tool, which warns you about risky sites that cheat customers, deliver malware or send spam. Essential Factor: 3.
That’s 13 extensions, which, in the interest of bloat-avoidance, is more than I would like. My plan is to treat extensions like I do stocks: only own a certain number of them. So if I find one I like, I have to decide if I like it enough to get rid of an existing one. I haven’t noticed any slow-down after installing these extensions, so I’m not sure what my magic number will be. Probably more than 10 and no higher than 15.
Another of the beauties of Chrome is the sync feature. If you install or uninstall an extension on one computer, corresponding changes will be made on the other synced computers. Just one more reason why you should be using Chrome as your default web browser.
I really dig Chrome. If you give it I try, you will too. What are you waiting for? Go get it.