Helpful Chrome Apps & Extensions

I’ve been impressed with Google Chrome ever since it came out primarily because of its speed and its ease of use. Unlike Firefox I can simply type in my search term in the address bar and chrome searches for what I’m looking for. That seems like it would not be a big deal, but for some reason it is.

Recently, I’ve tried to tap into some of the other features of Chrome – apps and extensions. Here’s Google’s explanation of the difference between the two:

Apps and extensions are simply different creatures. Let’s understand apps first. They are just how they sound: applications you can run inside your browser with a dedicated user interface and, typically, rich user interaction. We’ve already had the concept of “web apps” in the browser for a few years, as something more rich and interactive than a website, but less cumbersome and monolithic than a desktop application. Examples include games, photo editors, and video players; all of these categories are viable as tightly focused apps running inside the browser. Google Chrome is just formalizing the web app concept in a way that will be familiar to anyone who’s used apps on a smartphone.

How about extensions? Extensions also provide functionality, but unlike apps, there is little or no UI component. Instead, they extend the functionality of Google Chrome and the websites being viewed in it. For example, they can extend Google Chrome by adding a new button to the address bar, such as an ever-present currency converter. Buttons like this can also apply to the current website being viewed—for example, click the currency converter button to convert all prices on the website you’re viewing. Similarly, you can introduce new items to the context menu, change the behavior of the omnibox (the input field on the address bar), access the user’s browsing history (with consent), and much more. You can alter web pages too—for example, embed a “mail this” button next to every link in every page, or customize the layout of your favorite website.

Compared to apps, extensions cut across websites and web apps; they are usually in effect across all websites (though some are site-specific). Apps don’t combine with other apps in this way; they run standalone, like any regular website. You can get a better idea of what extensions can do by browsing the Extensions Gallery.

Here are my Top 3 Apps:

1) Anesidora – This is Pandora. In fact it was branded as Pandora until a week or so ago. The functionality did not change however as this extension will play your Pandora stations from Chrome without having to have a browser tab open.

2) Instapaper – If you use Instapaper, which I highly recommend, then this extension is a must have. Save any webpage you are on to your Instapaper account with one click.

3) Send To Kindle – Like the name implies, this will send articles to your Kindle. I’ve just begun to use my Kindle to read articles in addition to books, and it’s great!

Here are my Top 3 Extensions:

1) WriteKit – Free writing platform. It provides a distraction free white space that is ideal for writing. I use it mainly to take notes that don’t require formatting. You can save notes, and the app is set to sync with Dropbox as well. For $0 it’s a good deal. If you’re a serious writer looking for an app, you may want to drop some $ on an app that is more robust.

2) NY Times – Beautiful layout of the New York Times. I believe this is similar to the iPad app, but I’ve yet to see that in action. If you have a NY Times account, you can access all of their content. If you’re frugal like me, you can still access the top news articles for free.

3) Listhings – Perhaps my favorite of all, this is a simple notes app that puts sticky notes on a “canvas.” It’s free and perfect for little snippets of information that I don’t want to bother inputting into Evernote. Since I sit in front of a computer a lot, I keep 2 notes that are for Work To Dos and Personal To Dos. The other notes are things like phone numbers or addresses I need to jot down quickly. If you’re on the go a lot, you may prefer something that syncs with your phone, but if you’re in front of a computer a lot, I find this to be more than sufficient.

If you use Chrome, what are your favorite apps and extensions? Comment below and let me know. I am always looking for ways to enhance my web experience.

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