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20 essential, time-saving Chrome extensions

For ZDNet's David Gewirtz, the key to successfully moving from Firefox to Chrome was identifying and installing Chrome extensions that duplicated or improved upon functionality. Here are 20 essential, time-saving Chrome extensions that made that move go smoothly.

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Topic: Google
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1 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

20 essential, time-saving Chrome extensions

Last week, in , I wrote about how I made the transition from Firefox to Chrome. It was a subtle transition, until I found myself solely using Chrome and barely, if ever, launching Firefox.

Key to that transition was identifying and installing Chrome extensions that duplicated or improved upon functionality I relied on in Firefox for both my daily work and daily browsing.

I should tell you now that this set of extensions is what works for me. They may not work for you. Most of my work involves writing, a ton of online reading, programming, and communicating. There were a few tools I used in Firefox (that I've now replicated in Chrome) that saved me a lot of time each day. Without those time-savers, Chrome would not have been practical for me.

So here we go. Let's run through the list. Just remember that your mileage may vary.

Also, please post your favorite extensions. I'm always in the market of something that will improve my productivity and help me get more done my very limited 24 hours each day.

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2 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Inspect element (built into Chrome)

As it turns out, the first extension I use quite a lot is the built-in function Inspect element, which you get to by right-clicking anywhere on a Web page. This replaces Firebug, which was an essential tool for developing and managing Web pages in Firefox.

Inspect element works just about as well, and it's always available.

How often used: I use this in spurts, when I'm doing Web development. Since that's not my full-time gig, it means I can go a month or more without using this.

Live without it factor: However, when I am doing Web development, this is absolutely critical and I couldn't live without it.

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3 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Chrome sync (built into Chrome)

I am constantly moving from machine to machine. I used to use Foxmarks (and then Xmarks), but like Firefox itself, Xmarks became quite cumbersome. Even so, syncing my bookmarks was necessary. Also, back on Firefox, I tried to keep my add-ons in sync, and so for a while I tried FEBE, but was never very happy with it.

Chrome sync, on the other hand, rocks the house. It syncs bookmarks and extensions seamlessly, without any hassle. It just works.

The only thing I don't like is how Chrome syncs bookmarks between desktop and mobile versions. The version of Chrome on my Nexus 7 and iPad seems to have some strange desire to provide both mobile and other bookmarks, and wants to display them in a grid. Just weird. Even so, it's nice having my bookmarks on the mobile device. Maybe someday, I'll get my extensions running on my Nexus 7 (hint-hint).

How often used: Constantly.

Live without it factor: It makes Chrome my must-have browser of choice.

 

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4 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Buffer

I find Buffer to be very helpful in letting me queue up posts for Twitter as I do my morning reading. It used to be that I'd do my daily morning reading, find something tweet-worthy, and post it then and there. That would often mean there were 5-10 tweets posted one after the other, at about 7-8am. Not the optimal tweet time.

Buffer allows me to "buffer" my tweets, grabbing them when I do my morning reading, but sending them out over the day. It's limited to 10 buffered items a day in the free version. A $10/mo "awesome" version will get you unlimited tweets. I haven't yet found a need to send that many daily tweets, so I'm sticking with the free version, for now at least.

How often used: Daily, almost every morning (except weekends, when I let myself off the tweeting hook).

Live without it factor: I could, because my daily "tweeting" activity isn't mission-critical. I'd just go back to spewing all my day's tweets at once. But I think this makes it nicer for everyone.

 

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5 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Chat for Google

Chat for Google is a very neat tool that allows me to stay in Google Chat, even when I don't have Gmail open. This is good, because I don't use Gmail as my primary mail environment -- I use Outlook and Exchange.

How often used: Daily, all through the work day.

Live without it factor: This one is absolutely mission-critical, because I use it to keep in touch with my CBSi producers and editors. I probably chat with them about one project or another 10 or more times a day.

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6 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Copy Link Name

Copy Link Name is a pretty simple extension, but it's one of the tools I use most in my daily blogging. It simply copies the text name of a link and places it on the Clipboard. Simple, but necessary.

How often used: Daily, all through the work day.

Live without it factor: I couldn't live without it. It's very helpful when writing blog posts and for my other writing projects.

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7 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Copy Link Text

It's very easy to get Copy Link Name and Copy Link Text confused, but they do very different things. Copy Link Text allows me to set up copy format rules, and when I copy a link, it generates different styles of HTML, depending on what I need. This is an enormous time-saver. I used to use CoLT in Firefox to do the same thing.

How often used: Daily, all through the work day.

Live without it factor: I couldn't live without it. This is the single extension that made moving to Chrome practical. Until I found this, I stayed in Firefox. But once I found this extension, I was able to work efficiently in Chrome for all my daily writing. It was, by far, the single most important extension I found, in terms of switching to the new browser.

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8 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Copy Title+URL to clipboard

This is another in my link copying series. Frankly, I use this considerably less than the others. I found it before I found Copy Link Text, and used it intermittently for a while hoping it would meet my needs. I keep it around, simply because it's relatively unobtrusive.

How often used: Almost never, now that I found Copy Link Text.

Live without it factor: I pretty much forgot I had it installed until writing this post. So, yeah, I could live without it.

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9 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

CSSViewer

CSSViewer is another very helpful tool for Web development. Once you tap the toolbar button, it gives you a floating window with the CSS properties of anything you hover over. Love it!

How often used: I use this in spurts, when I'm doing Web development. Since that's not my full-time gig, it means I can go a month or more without using this.

Live without it factor: However, when I am doing Web development, this is very helpful and I couldn't live without it.

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10 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Email this page (by Google)

Email this page is another of those must-have-it extensions. I am regularly sending Web page links to various members of the teams I'm involved with, and this is a surprisingly big time-saver over cutting and pasting the link. The real value, though, is I can select a chunk of text, tap the toolbar button, and have that text show up in the body of the message.

How often used: Daily, throughout the day.

Live without it factor: I could live without it, but since a similar function exists on Firefox, I'd probably have stayed with Firefox if this wasn't available in Chrome.

 

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11 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Evernote Web Clipper

Because I do so much research and writing, I like to keep clips of Web pages and articles I find. In the process of researching my most recent two books, I've clipped thousands of pages. I used to use a tool called Zotero, but found it cumbersome. When I moved to Chrome, I bought a premium license to Evernote and now I use the Evernote Web Clipper constantly.

How often used: Daily, during my morning reading, and then sporadically throughout my day.

Live without it factor: I rely heavily on searchable archives of Web pages, so for me, it's invaluable. I've had some problems with it (it likes to capture multiple copies of a page), and searching isn't as granular as Google, but even so, it's proven to be a must-have extension.

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12 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

FVD Video Downloader

To be honest, this extension is a bit of a disappointment. It will grab videos and files in many cases, but not all. In particular, it refuses to download YouTube videos. Now, why would I want my own copy of YouTube videos? Well, I often download conferences and meeting videos, as well as technical discussions, bring them into VLC Media Player, and play them back at 2x speed or more. It makes it possible to get through a lot of material quickly.

Since FVD Video Downloader won't download YouTube, I find myself going back to Firefox to use the Download Helper, one of the few add-ons I still use Firefox for.

How often used: Rarely.

Live without it factor: If it would download YouTube, it would be a regularly used tool. Without that functionality, I can live without it.

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13 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Google +1 Button

Sigh. I keep forgetting I have this extension. Worse, I keep forgetting I have Google Plus. I use Twitter all the time, but haven't yet come to terms with Google Plus. Oh, it's far less annoying than Facebook (except for G+'s insistence on telling me everyone's birthday during Google searches), but it doesn't seem to add much value to my daily work.

Even so, having a quick +1 button is a help, if only I'd remember to use it.

How often used: Rarely.

Live without it factor: I could, because I could live without Google Plus. Sorry!

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14 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Google Calendar (by Google)

I rely extensively on Google Calendar. I don't just use it to manage appointments, I use it to manage my time, so I know when I have time for projects and when my time has been allocated. Google Calendar has become one of my mission-critical tools.

The Google Calendar extension gives a quick look inside Google Calendar. For me, it's helpful to quickly see if I have something coming up, but not as helpful for managing projects.

How often used: A few times a week, when I don't want to open a whole calendar Web page.

Live without it factor: I could live without it, but I'd prefer not too.

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15 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

PageRank Status

PageRank Status is a helpful little tool. I don't usually click the toolbar button, but the toolbar button itself changes, providing a page rank status indicator for pages I visit. Since I'm often chasing down interesting articles, that little indicator gives me, at a glance, a superficial indication of whether or not the page I'm currently reading is one that's relatively influential or just a voice in the wilderness.

How often used: I glance at it relatively constantly, as part of my normal surfing habits.

Live without it factor: I could live without it, but I'd prefer not too.

 

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16 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Pendule

If you do any work at all with CSS, you'll love Pendule. If you're not a Web developer, Pendule will provide you only minimal value. Pendule is a developer tool that allows you to play with a lot of style sheet features, from turning them on and off, to removing certain attributes, to finding out information about what's on a page. I particularly like the color pointer tool, that lets me point at any spot on a Web page and find out its color specification.

How often used: When I'm in Web-developer mode, I use it a lot.

Live without it factor: I could live without it, but I'd prefer not too. It's very helpful, especially once you explore all the nooks and crannies.

 

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17 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

PHP Ninja Manual

PHP Ninja Manual is another one of those great Web development resources that you didn't know you couldn't live without until you used it for the first time. This extension pops up definitions, documentation, and examples for PHP developers. It's nice, because you don't need to open a new tab, or go to a new page to look something up quickly.

How often used: When I'm writing PHP code, I use it a lot.

Live without it factor: I could live without it, but I'd prefer not too.

 

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18 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Readability

Ah, Readability, you little trouble-maker. Readability excels in separating Web content from its surrounding wrapper -- you know the ads and promotional material that pays for all this enjoyment.

As someone who makes at least part of my living from all those ads and wrapper ephemera, I'm conflicted about Readability. Readability, as I use it, makes reading articles on my big screen from my couch much easier. As I've gotten a little older, I find that the smaller text in articles is harder to read from 10 feet away. I use Readability to provide light text on a dark background at a larger font size, making it easier to read through articles on most mornings.

I don't think that Readability removes the ability of a Web site to support itself, because you have to browse the page initially, you'll see ads initially. But it is a gray area, and something we as an industry will continue to wrestle with into the future.

My practice is to find an article, read it in Readability, jump back to the original format of the article, and share that format with my Twitter followers. That way, even though I'm not reading the whole thing in smaller print, I am able to share the original work with followers.

How often used: Almost every morning.

Live without it factor: I could live without it, but I'd prefer not too. You can also use Readability to aggregate articles for later reading, or send to Kindle devices. I don't do this very often.

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19 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Search the current site

Some Chrome extensions do little you couldn't otherwise do, but they save a little time. Search the current site is like that. All it does is present a little box where you can type in your search query, then send that search query to google with "site:thesiteyouron.com" prepended to the query (where, of course, thesiteyouron.com is actually the site you're on).

It's not like you couldn't do that yourself, but it's a quick timesaver, especially if you don't really want to extract the domain name from the omnibox prior to doing a search.

How often used: A few times a week.

Live without it factor: I could certainly live without it, but it's helpful to have around to save a few clicks, cuts, and pastes.

 

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20 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Sexy Undo Close Tab

Sexy Undo Close Tab is a great little extension. It keeps track of tabs you've closed, a lot of tabs you've closed. Right now, it's tracking the most recent 276 tabs I've closed on my browser.

The tool has a lot of options, including one you're probably going to want to turn off. Sexy Undo Close Tab is ad supported, which is fine. As I've mentioned, I make part of my living being supported by ads, so I certainly support the practice. The only problem is that Sexy Undo Close Tab sticks ads in the most unlikely of spots, like dialog boxes in the middle of QuickBooks, and in the corporate CMS.

As much as I like the tool, and would like to see the author supported, I'm going to have to recommend you go to the options and check "I don't want to support you or this extension".

To the author of the extension, I'm going to request you find a better way to present ads. Maybe check the size of the window before you show an ad, or not show ads on https pages. I'd like to support you, and your software works quite well -- except your ad system breaks other stuff I need to use. Not sexy. Not sexy at all.

How often used: A few times a week.

Live without it factor: I could live without it, and if I couldn't stop it from breaking some of the Web apps I used, I would have stopped using it. Kudos to the author for allowing that option to be turned off, even though he'd give my grandmother's guilting skills a run for the money.

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21 of 21 David Gewirtz/ZDNet

Universal Search & IE8 Accelerators

Universal Search & IE8 Accelerators is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades search extension. I only use it for a fraction of what it can do. When I first moved to Chrome, I bemoaned the lack of a dedicated search bar. Sure, I could use the omnibox to search Google, but anything else required adding extensions and typing codes prior to the search string. Doable, but a pain.

Enter Universal Search & IE8 Accelerators. With this tool, you get something like the Firefox search box, but you also get context-sensitive right-click menu search, which is what I use constantly. I find it even faster than the old Firefox search box, and it's configurable as well.

How often used: Most days.

Live without it factor: There are other search tools in Chrome, but I've found this one works the best for me.

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