Best extensions for Chrome and Firefox
HTTPS Everywhere, created by privacy campaigner the Electronic Frontier Foundation, encrypts your connection to websites wherever possible. Web of Trust (WOT) issues security warnings as you browse, while Click&Clean tidies up the traces you leave behind in your browser, such as cookies, cached items, typed URLs and browsing history.
Ghostery blocks advertisers and others from tracking you online; install it, and it will tot up how many servers are following you – it’s an eye-opener – and will let you block trackers or whitelist specific sites.
Disconnect does the same, splitting tracking requests into advertising, analytics and social groups, so you can easily whitelist pages and block others. Disconnect also charts how much time and bandwidth you save by blocking social sharing tools, advertising networks and other items.
Syncing and sharing
In some cases it’s desirable to block social tools embedded in pages, but there are also plenty of add-ons to help you share web content with your friends.
All the major social networks are supported with extensions – both official and third-party – and with these you can, for example, tweet or Like a post directly from your browser, without clicking over to the official site, or add features and remove irritations.
Some extensions focus on one service – Silver Bird (Chrome only) is a full Twitter client embedded in your browser, for example – while others, such as Buffer (also Chrome only), let you share to multiple services.
If reading from your laptop doesn’t appeal, you can save down an article to read from a different device using extensions such as Pocket, Instapaper and Readability.
Pushbullet connects your desktop to your phone, so you can easily push links, messages, files and directions between the two, as well as to your friends’ handsets or computers. If you use Evernote, by installing its extension you’ll be able to save notes with a single click, while anyone carrying out online research should download Zotero, which not only saves articles but also makes them searchable later.
Hack your Gmail
There are a host of extensions for customising the behaviour of Google’s webmail service. Checker Plus (Chrome only) makes Gmail act more like an app, popping up notifications when you receive a new message, and letting you read and delete emails without switching away from your active browser tab. Google Mail Checker works similarly, with a live icon that informs you about how many unread messages you have in Chrome or Firefox.
Gmail Offline (Chrome only, although there are Firefox alternatives) enables you to access your inbox without internet access, while Boomerang for Gmail lets you write emails and schedule to send them when you eventually get online. It also lets you manage your inbox by postponing messages so you don’t see any work emails until you’re in the office, for example.
Gmelius lets you tweak the UI by picking and choosing which elements to include. It also lets you switch back to the old compose email window, and search emails from the omnibox. Minimalist for Everything is a dashboard that lets you choose how Gmail will work by toggling interface items on or off, such as the colour of links or starred items. Preferences can be synced across multiple PCs, and Minimalist works with other pages too; click the icon on any page to view the options.
Create a better browser
If there’s something about Chrome or Firefox that you find annoying – such as a missing feature or a task you have to perform repeatedly – it’s safe to assume that there’s an extension to save the day.
Managing tab overload is something of a challenge, and neither Chrome nor Firefox has done much to address the issue. OneTab for Chrome saves all of your open tabs into a list, freeing up their occupied memory until you restore them. TooManyTabs works similarly, but shows your tab collection graphically, letting you preview them more easily.