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10+ Chrome extensions and Web apps for new users

Chrome extensions logoIt might only be a couple of years old and its extension interface might not be quite as powerful as Firefox's, but in terms of developers, big-name publishers, and sheer numbers, Chrome already has a very healthy ecosystem of add-ons.

When you factor in Chrome's exclusive selection of Web apps, it's even possible to say that Chrome has a wider variety of extensions -- or at least until Mozilla launches its Open Web Apps later in the year.

Still, as always, the problem with add-ons is finding the right ones. You have thousands of add-ons to choose from, and only a handful that are actually worth using. First-time users haven't got a snowball's chance -- unless they read this list of must-have extensions!

But this list of extensions is for converts, too. With massive defections from Internet Explorer and Firefox, Chrome has grown from just a few million users in 2009 to over 120 million at the start of 2011. Firefox users will be especially pleased to find almost every add-on has a comparable extension -- and IE users... well, they'll just be glad to have any extensions at all.

Whether you are looking for helpers or shortcuts, or full-blown Web apps, you will be pleasantly surprised with the variety and power of Chrome's extensions.

[All Chrome extensions are restartless, so be sure to try the extensions out as you go. You can remove them by right clicking their icon > Uninstall, or by visiting chrome://extensions]

Essentials


LastPass

When the Download Squad team were asked about their must-have Chrome extensions, LastPass was the top choice by some margin. In a day where you are your password, LastPass is more than a must-have: it's a necessity.

LastPass, by generating a unique password for each of your Web services, very effectively mitigates the potential risk of the two most common and dangerous attack vectors: Trojan keyloggers (malware), and server-side database breaches, like the one at Gawker last year.

To put it simply, you'd have to be rather stupid to not install LastPass.

Update: it looks like LastPass might not be as secure as we'd thought. For convenience, it's still excellent, but you might want to use KeePass as your password manager instead.

FlashBlock

FlashBlock only does one thing, but it does it really well: it blocks every Flash element from playing, unless you explicitly whitelist a website. You can also click a blocked Flash element to make it play.

It's great for low-powered devices where loading a page full of Flash elements can a) slow everything to a standstill, and b) drain your battery!

AdBlock

Topping the charts in terms of active users, for both Firefox and Chrome, with 13 million and 2 million users respectively, is AdBlock. It blocks ads, mostly by subscribing to massive (and constantly-updated) lists of advertising companies, but you can also use it to block other bits of websites, too.

For those that aren't so bothered by ads, but are worried by the tracking cookies they employ, check out Google's Keep My Opt-Outs, or Chromeblock (which claims to be even better at opting you out).

Xmarks Bookmark Sync

If you use Chrome on multiple computers, or across different platforms, Xmarks is by far the best sync tool available. Not only does it sync bookmarks and passwords, but it syncs tabs too.

Session Manager

Xmarks might have tab sync, but for some reason it only lets you open remote tabs -- in other words, it doesn't function as a session manager! For that, you need (the aptly named) Session Manager.

Basically, before you close your browser, save your tabs with Session Manager. Then, when you re-open Chrome, you can pop open all of your tabs with just two clicks. Never again will you be caught out by Chrome's rather flaky 're-open recently closed tabs' function...

Helpers and shortcuts


Google Dictionary

You shouldn't have to open a new tab just to define a word! With Google Dictionary, double click any word to define it -- or use the dictionary button in the address bar to look up any word (see above).

If you're the kind of person who prefers encyclopedic knowledge to boring dictionaries, check out Wikipedia Companion. It's just Wikipedia, but it opens in a pop-up dialog -- no need to open a new tab, and no need to navigate away from the current site.

Send from Gmail

Ever wanted to quickly send a page to a friend -- or yourself? Send from Gmail does just that. The subject of the mail is the same as the page's title, and the body contains a link to the page, and any text that you've selected on the page.

It also forces every mailto link to open in Gmail, which may or may not be desirable.

Google Chrome to Phone

For some unknown reason, Google is yet to provide a first-party solution for Chrome-Android synchronization. For the time being, if you need to send links, maps or snippets of text to your Android device, use Google Chrome to Phone. You need to install the associated Android app, too.

Once it's all set up, simply press the button in Chrome, and the link, map, or text will magically appear on your Android device!

ChromeAccess

If you're a power user, check out ChromeAccess. It gives you two-click access to all of Chrome's about: and chrome:// config and debug pages -- handy! (But by now, you may be accumulating a rather large number of buttons, eh?)

Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer

This extension simply redirects every Word Doc, PDF and PowerPoint presentation to Google's Web-based Docs Viewer. Hopefully it'll soon be updated to handle all of the new file types that Google recently enabled.

goo.gl URL Shortener

There are a lot of URL shorteners on the market, and plenty of extensions too, but you can't do much better than the goo.gl URL Shortener. Fundamentally it just auto-copies a shortened URL of your current page to your clipboard, but it does so much more as well!

By default, clicking the button only gives you a Details and QR Code link, but if you right click > Options, you can add just about any social sharing service, and even configure keyboard shortcuts to speed things up even more!

Google Voice

If you're fortunate enough to live in a country with complete Google Voice access (i.e. the U.S.) the Google Voice extension is fantastic. You can make calls, send SMSes and preview your Voice inbox, all without leaving your current Web page.

Web apps


TweetDeck

We're loathe to call TweetDeck a 'must-have' Chrome Web app, but with over 300,000 users it's at least worth checking out! The interface is truly beautiful -- it's testament to the power of HTML5! -- and it's very nearly as functional as the 'desktop' Adobe AIR version.


Quick Note

While Quick Note is certainly not the best note-taking app out there, it's a very fine example of what the Web apps of the future might look like. It supports sync with Diigo, so you can get at your notes from computers that don't have Chrome installed.

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If you have a must-have extension that isn't on this list (which is highly likely), leave a comment! Also, if you've found any must-have Web apps, please let us know.

Tags: adblock, add-on, add-ons, addon, addons, browsers, chrome, extension, extensions, features, flashblock, google, google chrome, google voice, GoogleChrome, GoogleVoice, lastpass, list, quick note, QuickNote, tweetdeck, web apps, WebApps, xmarks

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