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25 extensions to super-charge your Chrome browser

Google’s Chrome is a fine browser on its own, but it only becomes truly unique – and powerful – when you add Chrome extensions and apps to your personal installation. There are tens of thousands to choose from on the Chrome Web Store, most of which (despite the name) are free. Here are the very best.

These extensions can be installed on Chrome for Windows, OS X, and Linux, and also Chrome OS-based devices like a Chromebook laptop. But they won’t work on mobile versions of the Chrome browser for Android or iOS.

Interface

Gestures for Google Chrome

Most of the more complex functions of Chrome need to be accessed via a button, or an entry in the primary or right-click menu. For a quicker alternative, this extension can bind complex actions to mouse gestures: simply hold down the right-click button on your mouse or touchpad and activate the gesture to perform the action. Customized gestures can be bound to almost any advanced function you can think of. I like to assign a simple, three-swipe gesture to close every tab except the one in the foreground.

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Hover Zoom+

This tool allows the user to hover over a linked thumbnail image and view it in a simple pop-up window. It’s quite convenient if you often browse sites such as Reddit, which feature very small thumbnails for large images. The tool will display an image in its native resolution — unless that’s larger than your computer screen — and it supports animated formats like GIF and GIFV. It even allows for scrolling through a list of images on Imgur without opening the site.

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Momentum

Momentum replaces Chrome’s somewhat stoic “New Tab” page with a more colorful alternative. While there are plenty of similar options on the Chrome Web Store, Momentum’s curated landscape images and focus on a big, easy-to-read clock are aesthetically pleasing. Those who use Chrome’s URL bar for quick access to frequent sites won’t miss the bookmark functions, but if you use the default Net Tab page links, you should probably skip this one.

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Panic Button

A little light Web browsing at work never hurt anyone, but your manager might not agree. This extension adds a simple button to Chrome’s toolbar that immediately hides all of your open tabs when clicked, saving them as temporary bookmarks for easy retrieval. The function can be bound to a keyboard shortcut for even faster (and more discrete) activation. Combine it with a hidden button, and you have an instant safety net for browsing at work.

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Readability

Readability combines the functions of a “read it later” bookmark tool with a reading-focused Web page reformat. It automatically pulls out the text and key images from a page (ideally news or blog posts) and shows them in big text that’s easy on the eyes. The extension can also send pages to your account, or even to a Kindle for comfy reading later. The tool is configurable for your ideal reading preferences, too, and it automatically syncs across computers and mobile devices.

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User-Agent Switcher

Some sites display their format differently for different browsers or operating systems. If you need to access an alternate view of a certain website —to save JPG or PNG images instead of WEBP images on the Google Play Store, for instance — this extension allows you to instantly switch between desktop and mobile versions of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and the default iOS and Android Web browsers. You can even set up rules that automatically load certain websites in a certain browser profile.

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Next Page: Productivity extensions

Productivity

Bing2Google

bing2google
Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Windows 10’s integrated Web is a handy way to do a quick search without manually opening a browser. Assigning Chrome as your default browser will cause queries to open in Chrome instead of Internet Explorer or Edge, but Microsoft still searches using the company’s own proprietary engine, Bing. If you would prefer to use Google, this extension will automatically open Google Search and send your query there.

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Feedly

Since the untimely demise of Google Reader, Feedly has taken over as the de facto standard for RSS readers on the Web. It’s quite possible to use the service in your browser without trouble, but for quick access and an isolated window, the official extension is very handy. It also adds a Feedly Mini icon to the bottom-right corner of sites with compatible RSS feeds. If this bothers you, it can be disabled across the Web, or only on specific sites.

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Evernote Web Clipper

Frequent users of Evernote, the popular notation and bookmarking tool, will definitely want to check out this first-party extension. It allows users to quickly highlight text, images, or both, and save them to Evernote for later consumption. Custom modules also allow for greater functionality on frequently-used websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon, and there’s a built-in screenshot tool. Notes and images can be tagged or assigned to specific Evernote notebooks.

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Lazarus

Lazarus was a figure from the New Testament who was raised from the dead. It’s an appropriate metaphor for a service designed to automatically save information you enter into various Web forms, so that they aren’t lost when your browser crashes or the site times out from an internal security measure. It’s particularly useful for long-form writing, like, say, entering several thousand words in a WordPress post, only to have it disappear when the server crashes. Not that I’d know anything about that…

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Session Buddy

Session Buddy is an essential tool for those who habitually open a specific set of tabs. It saves sessions, specifically which tabs have which websites open, for easy retrieval and activation at any time. This is also handy if Chrome — or your computer itself — is particularly crash-prone. The tool’s internal management system even allows users to customize, save, export, and import session lists with ease.

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StayFocused

StayFocused is perhaps the opposite of the aforementioned Panic Button extension. The aim of this extension is to limit the amount of time you spend on the Web and force you to get back to work. Once a user has spent an allotted amount of time on his or her specified websites — say, Reddit or YouTube — those sites are blocked for the rest of the day. Settings allow you to block specific sites, or operate in reverse, allowing access only to specifically approved sites.

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Zoho Writer

Google Docs is the standard word processor pick for Chrome, but I prefer Zoho Writer’s more complex, Word-like approach. Adding the app to Chrome will provide access to a free and fully-featured word processor, one that allows you to jot down simples note or perform complex tasks. The extension even works in offline mode, rendering it a true replacement for a standalone application.

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Next Page: Communication & Casual extensions

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