Last week, Google officially opened the doors of Google Chrome Extensions, the extensions site for the Google Chrome browser. This puts Google Chrome one step closer to being a serious competitor for Firefox 3.5, especially considering the super-fast loading speeds of the Google browser. Google Chrome Extensions launched with over 300 active add-ons, with more being released daily, and features an auto-update (in the background) functionality to avoid the constant requests to update extensions that many find annoying in Firefox. Extensions are currently only available for the latest Beta version of Chrome, which can be found here, as well as for developer versions, and have seen some success on Mac and Linux platforms as well as Windows.
After a few late nights of obsessively searching the Chrome Extensions site and testing everything that caught my eye, I have compiled a list of add-ons that may sway you to (or sway you back to, as in my case) install Google Chrome as your primary browser.
It should be noted that many of these add-ons are also in beta stages (but updating regularly) and so I have provided a quick review of each to shed a bit more light on their usefulness and their issues – and their usefulness despite their issues. Also, it is a bit of an issue overall that many of the extensions in Chrome add an icon next to your url bar, shrinking it in size as more icons are added — and the icons cannot be worked with in any way and tend to move around, possibly based on how much you use them. This is hopefully something that will be fixed before extensions are released to the stable version of Chrome.
Brizzly – Version: 0.9
Brizzly makes Twitter and Facebook simpler and easier to use. See and share photos, videos, searches, lists, and more. Pretty awesome, if slow to load. It has replaced the pinned Brizzly tab for me, overall, but it lacks access to direct messages for some reason. Once the initial load (sometimes 5-10 seconds) is completed, the extension is very fast to navigate within and between accounts.
I chose to add 2 extensions here, with a third mention, as all are useful and can, in some ways, compliment each other. None of them are the perfect tool, though, which may lead me to continue development and such in Firefox.
Pendule – Version: 0.0.3
Extended developer tools for Chrome. This is a great extension to the developer tools already included in Chrome, adding several useful features as well as one click mark-up validation and path and link checking. The colour picker doesn’t work for me though. It stays stuck on #ffffff (white).
Web Developer Mini – Version: 0.34
Easy Access Web Development Tools for Google Chrome. A little less functionality than Pendule, but everything works. It also has one click validation and such — but it also offers a quick link to Browsershots, which is a cool service that will take screenshots of a site in multiple browsers for easy cross-browser checking! (works, for the most part…) — All in all, a good compliment to the native dev tools in Chrome, but would be so much better with full web developer tools like the Firefox extension. It should also be noted that there is a Firebug Lite available for Chrome which is also quite peachy, though many of its features are already available in the native Chrome tools.
Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer (by Google) – Version: 1.5.3
Automatically previews pdfs, powerpoint presentations, and other documents in Google Docs Viewer. Helps to get those items to open effectively within the web interface without having to open the application after download.
DotSpots – Version: 1.0.703.987
Connect blog posts, links, photos, videos and docs to any text on the web or into your social stream for all to see. Very cool annotation service with much friendlier and more focused functionality than Sidewiki. It is much more share and wiki-focused in that it allows for crowd editing (with approval of the initial dot writer) and general push toward adding useful information just in the way it is designed. The extension works well and works quickly. It pops up a little button that allows you to click to add a dot whenever you highlight parts of a notate-able webpage.
Evernote Web Clipper – Version: 1.1
Evernote’s Web Clipper extension let you save interesting stuff you see on the web. Works very well, though I often still use the Arc90 Readability2Evernote bookmarklet for text only clips. There doesn’t appear to be any right click functionality, unfortunately, which I found useful in the Firefox add-on and other Evernote plugins. There is a Readability extension for Chrome as well for those interested.
Favorite Doodle – Version: 1.13
Replaces Google’s logo with your favorite (Google) doodle. This is completely useless eye candy for the Google search page. I like it though… so it is here. I went with Cookie Monster. All Cookie, all the time!
Google Calendar Popout – Version: 1.5.3
Adds a Calendar Gadget button to the menu bar. Supports both Google and Google Apps accounts. Great little extension for interacting with your calendar if you don’t want or need it in a pinned tab.
Google Quick Scroll – Version: 0.5.4
Quick Scroll lets you jump directly to the relevant bits of a Google search result. This extension is awesome! It makes searching for that relevant section of the page that called the search result much faster and easier. Top of my list (if it weren’t in alphabetical order)!
Google Sidewiki – Version: 1.1
Contribute and read helpful information next to any webpage. We have covered Sidewiki before. Some love it, some hate it. I like it. The extension is good, though it is missing some functionality, which is a surprise (can’t do posts on anything other than the entire page). I also find it funny that it doesn’t actually load from the side… There is also a Sidewiki Bookmarklet available if you don’t like the extension.
Google Similar Pages beta (by Google) – Version: 0.5.2.10
Discover webpages similar to the page you’re currently browsing. This is pretty awesome! Helps you find pages that might have corroborating or better information — or just more info on the subject of your search.
Google Translate – Version: 1.1.3
This extension translates entire webpages into a language of your choice with one click. By the Google Translate team. Very handy and very fast translation tool for webpages — would be better, however, if there were a rightclick option and/or a page action icon that appears in the url bar as opposed to a button that adds relatively useless clutter to the navigation bar. Bubble Translate is another great option.
Google Wave Notifier – Version: 2.2
Displays number of unread Waves. This is an awesome extension for Wave users, and it does much more than the description says. It is pretty quick and allows for at a glance looks at Wave updates as well as easy opening of the updated wave you select, or Wave in general. It also allows you to enhance the configuration of Wave on opening so that you can have a semi-custom view of the page by "default". For example, I send both the Navigation and Contacts menus to a minimized dropdown tab, much like the Wave ping/IM conversations. This allows me to have a solid view of only my Wave search screen (in:inbox, by default) and the Wave screen itself, much like a standard email client with a collapsed sidebar.
IE Tab – Version: 1.0.11208.1
Display web pages using IE in a tab. This is a great way to open those pesky pages that only work in IE. So far, it works flawlessly — could do without the icon though. It would be much better if this were a dropdown menu option.
LastPass – Version: 1.62.0
LastPass for Chrome. LastPass has made my life much easier in general, and having the extension in Chrome is awesome! However, while the Chrome version of LastPass is pretty and generally functional, I find that it doesn’t always catch sites that it should auto-login and that it gets confused on sites that have multiple possible login accounts. It also has not yet offered to fill in a single form for me, which it should be doing.
RSS Subscription Extension (by Google) – Version: 1.8.1
Adds one-click subscription to your toolbar. This is something that should just be native to Chrome — and thankfully, the developers have made it a page action so that the icon does not add additional clutter to your toolbar.
Select To Get Maps – Version: 1.1.1
Select addresses on any webpage to get useful maps links. Useful to quickly open an address in Google Maps. Handy and doesn’t add an unnecessary icon to the top.
Shareaholic for Google Chrome – Version: 1.0.4
Share, save, or email the page you’re visiting using services like Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Google Reader and over 80 more. This extension (and service) is generally awesome. Easy to configure what items you want to share with/show in the dropdown, includes a bit.ly shortened link in the bottom right corner for one-click copy to clipboard and is also available via bookmarklet if you want to conserve icon space in the Chrome toolbar. Very easy to use, overall.
VerticalTabs – Version: 1.6
Simple Vertical Tab. Probably one of the most useful and simplest extensions out there. It allows the user to easily manage open tabs in a simple dropdown list, eliminating the problem of tabs getting too tiny to read when you have many open in Chrome. Has recently updated itself to include options for a tab counter, and you can also adjust the popup width and the tab title line size. There are other extensions that do the same thing, but I find this one to be the most visually appealing and easy to use.
One extension that I was very sad to not be able to include was Read It Later. Oh, it is there, but the functionality of it is so bare that you are actually better off, at this point, to set up a folder on your bookmarks bar for quick access to the various bookmarklets that Read It Later offers. I keep the extension installed and reactivate it periodically, hoping that it will be updated soon as it is a hugely useful tool and a major part of my online workflow.
Do you use Google Chrome? What extensions do you use or would you like to see?