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Extensions are one of Google Chrome’s most powerful tools, but it can be hard to weed out the ones that are actually good and helpful versus those that might be resource hogs or woefully outdated. And while web apps are great, extensions work across basically the entirety of the Chrome browser, making them, in a way, the “native” apps of Chromebooks. We know a thing or two about doing work on the web (hi, welcome to our blog!), and we all tend to use Google Chrome for a lot of that work. We’ve picked up a few extensions along the way that we think you’re going to love, so here are 10 of our favorites for working smarter, not harder.
Text Blaze is a tool that can save you a ton of time when you need to type the same words over and over. It does so by replacing user-defined snippets with any text you could imagine, completely customizable. For example, you can create a “/sig” snippet to add your email signature, and “/letter” could be expanded to a template for a form letter. It even helps you quickly write ASCII emoji, such as “/shrug” for ¯_(ツ)_/¯. It’s also possible to automatically add values from your clipboard or the current date, time, and more. An expanded text can even contain custom input fields, so you know which placeholders to remove before publishing some text or sending an email.
The extension is free to use up to a certain amount of snippets and folders — to unlock more, you need to subscribe.
- Get the extension on the Chrome web store: Text Blaze
Clipboard History Pro
We’ve yet to find the perfect clipboard manager for Chrome OS, but Clipboard History Pro comes closest at the moment. It automatically saves every string you copy and makes it available for later pasting. To quickly access saved snippets without using your trackpad or mouse, type in chrome://extensions/shortcuts in your address bar and create a keyboard shortcut for the extension once you’ve installed it. That makes it pretty easy to use, but it’s still a little harder to find and paste older snippets compared to clipboard managers such as Alfred on macOS.
Basic functionality is free of charge, but if you want to automatically sync your clipboard across different devices, you need to subscribe.
The open-source extension lets you preview all kinds of files on the web before you download them. This is particularly useful if you need to research lots of PDFs, as you can quickly view these by hovering over the download link right in Google Search thanks to the add-on. It’s not limited to PDF, either. Peek also supports TXT, RTF, Word and Excel documents, PowerPoints, WebM, GIFV, MP4, and OGG/OGV videos, MP3s and WAVs, and most common web image files. It’s developed by our own Corbin Davenport and could’ve saved me a lot of time and headaches back when I was a student.
- Get the extension on the Chrome web store: Peek
Save to Pocket
Save to Pocket isn’t a productivity tool per se, but if you find interesting articles while
surfing mindlessly around the web researching, the extension allows you to save them for later consumption. Posts will be added to Pocket, a Mozilla-owned reading service available as a web app or on Android and iOS. That way, you can keep long and potentially distracting content out of your working hours and read it when you have time. Pocket is free to use, but some more advanced features like unlimited highlights and automatic tags are tucked away behind a subscription.
The Great Suspender
Since many entry-level Chromebooks come with only 4GB of RAM, you might fill up all that space quickly when working with many open tabs. If closing all of those websites to alleviate memory pressure isn’t an option, an extension like The Great Suspender could do the job. It automatically kicks tabs out of memory when you don’t touch them for an adjustable amount of time. The extension won’t shut down sites playing audio or video, and you can also whitelist specific domains like Slack. Similarly, websites that contain filled out text fields won’t be suspended, either.
WasteNoTime helps you manage how much time you spend on distracting websites and can be used to completely block social media, YouTube, and any other address you could think of. As a less draconic measure, you can also set up a maximum amount of time per day that you want to spend on specific websites and have them blocked once the limit is reached. A detailed report lets you see if you missed any other time sinks. It’s also possible to set up different limits during working hours and leisure time, which is perfect if you don’t manually want to turn off the blocker every time you want to scroll through Twitter at night.
News Feed Eradicator
While some people have no issues with blocking social media altogether while working from home, others rely on Facebook and similar platforms for their job. If you need some Facebook features but tend to get sucked in by the network’s newsfeed, the News Feed Eradicator extension might be for you. It allows you to access Facebook, but it replaces the newsfeed with random inspirational quotes — you can even add your own.
Toggl is a tracking tool you can use to keep tabs on how much time you spend on which projects. The Toggl Button extension adds a simple one-click solution to start tracking the time you work on a project, but you can also use it as a Pomodoro timer, which you can activate in the extension’s settings. Pomodoro is a technique that has you fully focused on a task for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. Thus, the extension lets you see how much time you spend on a project and provides you with predefined breaks, which could help you get some routine.
If you don’t want to dig into Toggl Button’s settings to make it work that way, you can also check out Focus To-Do as a similar alternative that functions as a Pomodoro timer right out of the box.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft introduced an update to Office 365, which is now simply called Microsoft 365. The company also took the chance to release a few new products like Microsoft Editor. It’s baked into Word and checks your grammar, spelling, and style, but it’s also available on the web as an extension. Like Grammarly, Microsoft’s solution is free to use when you just need basic grammar and spell checks. When you’re an Office 365 or Microsoft 365 subscriber, you’ll also get refinement recommendations and advanced grammar checks.
For people who already use Office 365 it’s certainly a better solution than Grammarly, which you need an additional subscription for.
The GDPR is a well-intended law meant to protect people’s privacy from overreaching companies, but let’s face it: The implementation of cookie notes that plague the web ever since are an annoyance most people just click away without changing the defaults anyway. That’s where I don’t care about cookies comes in. The extension tries to automatically remove cookie notes while choosing a privacy-minding option, which makes visiting new websites much more pleasant.
The system isn’t perfect, though. Sometimes notes still appear, sometimes websites break altogether. When you come across either issue, you should report it to the developer by clicking the extension icon and heading to “Report a cookie warning.” You can also deactivate the extension on specific, non-functional websites through that menu.
All of these extensions also work for Google Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers, like Microsoft Edge. Some are even available as standalone apps for Windows and macOS if you’d rather go that route on a device other than a Chromebook. If you think we missed any other great Chromebook productivity extensions, go ahead and share them in the comments.
The Chrome Twitter account has also shared an even more extensive collection of recommended work-from-home extensions, so check out that list as well:
As people all over the world adjust to spending more time at home, we put together a collection of helpful extensions that make it easy to be productive, stay connected, or unwind. https://t.co/HeufoDuOew pic.twitter.com/pV5C7AtACu
— Chrome (@googlechrome) March 25, 2020