Best extensions for Chrome and Firefox

You don’t have to be a developer to edit the web. With the right extensions, you can create the online experience you want in only a few clicks.

Want to ban profanity from YouTube comments? Done. Hate how Facebook and Gmail have been redesigned? You can change that. Want to see kittens instead of offensive content? That’s possible too.

Extensions – known in Firefox as add-ons – are small, usually free tools that perform simple tasks. They can add features to your browser, complement desktop applications, or enhance the workings of specific web services. Since anyone can write an extension, they can even modify the behaviour of websites in ways that their creators might not approve of.

That’s a strength, but it’s also a risk. As with any downloadable code, an extension could contain malware that steals data or otherwise interferes with the operation of your PC.

Both Google and Mozilla operate official stores, from which anything found to be malicious will be quickly ejected, but dodgy extensions can still cause trouble before they’re detected, so check reviews and use common sense before installation. Note, too, that updates to extensions can change how they function, so what runs okay today may not tomorrow. Don’t panic, however.

Malicious extensions are in the minority. On these pages, we’ve selected reputable add-ons that can make the web behave exactly as you want. Except where noted, all of the extensions mentioned are available for both Chrome and Firefox. And if you’re having trouble finding an extension to suit, you could make one yourself.

Cut it out

Annoyed by ads? Offended by swear words? Irritated by The Daily Mail? You can automatically delete all of these from your browser with extensions. One of the web’s most popular extensions is AdBlock, which stops ads in their tracks. Not only will this boost load times, but it will help you to avoid malicious adverts.

It also lets you temporarily allow ads, or whitelist an entire site – pcpro.co.uk for example – and has advanced blocking tools, too. To access them, click on Filter Lists in the management tool to add different languages, remove social media buttons or ban other annoyances. Even if you don’t run AdBlock all the time, it’s worth installing in the event that a site fails to load because it’s weighed down with ads, for example.

If simply turning off ads isn’t enough, you can specifically target Flash with extensions such as FlashBlock, or prevent JavaScript
from running automatically with ScriptBlock (Chrome only).

Tea and Kittens

There’s more to block online than irritating ads. Kitten Block shows pictures of tea and kittens whenever you inadvertently click on a link to The Daily Mail, while Simple Profanity Filter (Chrome only) replaces offensive words with carefully placed asterisks – although it doesn’t block obscene images, and in our tests we found it didn’t catch every bit of profanity. F-Stop actually replaces the obscene phrase with a less offensive one.

Profanity Filter

If it’s social networking spam that you want to rid, FB Purity and Social Fixer can edit out irritating game updates or sponsored posts, while AntiSocial wipes social platforms from web pages. The extension Rather lets you replace what you don’t want on social sites – TV show final results, photos of babies – with what you do want, such as pictures of cats.

If there’s something you’d rather not have on a website, there’s an extension to remove it.

Keep secure

Some extensions improve the security of your browser. The free LastPass password manager is a PC Pro favourite; a popular alternative is 1Password.

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