Best Internet Explorer Add-Ons

Though Firefox still holds the heart of computer enthusiasts everywhere, Microsoft has learned a thing or two from the competition lately, and borrowed many of its most popular features, including third-party plug-ins. But which are genuinely helpful, and which are useless clutter? We’ve assembled 10 of our personal favorites to help you get up to speed on a customized IE experience.

Google TranslateGoogle Translate

Some of the coolest tech products roll out in Japan months or even years before they reach the U.S., but to most of us, Kanji might as well be hieroglyphics. Problem solved with this quick add-on, which allows you to highlight text and have it translated using Google Translate engine in just a few seconds. Also useful for feigning knowledge of a foreign language, in a pinch.

Weather From Live SearchWeather from Live Search

This slice (Microsoft’s term for a sort of mini bookmark) allows you to drop down the weather for a location from your bookmark toolbar on the fly. Current temperature, wind and humidity are all there in an unobtrusive pop-out window, and if you need more data (like a ten-day forecast for planning next weekend) it’s just a click away.

Wikipedia Visual SearchWikipedia Visual Search

Visual search allows Internet Explorer to cue up thumbnails of search results on the fly as you type, and this particular implementation fishes them out of our favorite reference source: Wikipedia. Tap out a few letters of your search topic and – voila – a little picture confirms that you’re thinking of the right thing before you click on it and read more.

Watch eBay ItemsWatch eBay Items

No more need to open up a new tab and sign into eBay just to see if you’ve been outbid on that limited edition 1967 G.I. Joe lunchbox. Just add the slice, click it from your favorites, and you can check it at a moment’s glance whenever you want, without stopping what you’re already doing.

Google MapsGoogle Maps

Anything that can bring us closer to this staple of our online existence is a godsend, in our opinion. This particular accelerator allows you to highlight any address and map it in Google Maps with two clicks. Brilliant!

WOT (Web of Trust)WOT (Web of Trust)

Ever wish you had known that a link Google supplied was going to spring pictures of half-naked women all over your desktop before you opened it at work? Web of Trust scouts out the links that Google provides for you and puts color-coded icons next to each one to let you know what you’re walking into in terms of trustworthiness, privacy and child safety.

Google DefineGoogle Define

Even us high-falootin’ tech journalists get stumped on vocabulary once in while, which is why it’s nice to be able to look up a word as quickly as this accelerator does. Just highlight, get the definition, and jump back to your reading with minimal interruption.

Preview and Launch URLPreview and Launch URL

Before you leave the page you’re on to jump into the great unknown through a link, peek under the door with this accelerator, which lets you see a little thumbnail of the page you’re about to visit before you actually click on it. Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?

ReadOnWebReadOnWeb

Shield your eyes from the likes of flash banners, animated GIFs, and other eye-scorching Web debris with this little plug-in, which will trim any given page down to cleanly formatted text. Great for sites like MySpace that hit you with completely over-the-top formatting, which can make text nearly impossible to read.

Digg AcceleratorDigg Accelerator

All the news that’s fit to print, and plenty that’s not. Digg addicts can get their sensational news fixes in only one click with this slice, which shows a handful of the day’s top stories in a compressed card that drops down from the favorites bar.

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