This extremely popular browser might be fast and free, but it has a distinct lack of features. Here we list the 10 best you can add on to enhance the product
Every modern PC running Windows includes a copy of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser for visiting websites, but there are plenty of alternatives. Google’s Chrome browser only launched at the end of 2008, but its speed and ease of use quickly earned it our respect.
We are not alone in liking it – its popularity doubled during 2010, and by February 2011 it was being used by one in six internet users.
However, while the browser is great right from the start, it is not packed with features. Instead, like Firefox, Chrome can be expanded with extensions – small add-ons that add functions or behaviour to make it more useful.
A few well-chosen add-ons can help turn Chrome from a good browser to a great one, so here are our top 10 picks.
Facebook Photo Zoom
There is no doubting Facebook’s popularity, but while it’s often criticised for privacy problems, there are other more minor annoyances to contend with. This simple and popular extension sets out to solve one of them by automatically displaying a larger copy of any photo that you hold your mouse over.
While it doesn’t sound like a big deal, adding this automatic zoom means you don’t have to click on the photo thumbnails you want to see, meaning you can stay on the Facebook page you are viewing.
One of the best things about Facebook Photo Zoom is that it shows the full-sized version of a photo, rather than crudely scaling up small images. It works immediately and automatically once installed, but you can turn it on or off by clicking the icon it places at the bottom of any Facebook page.
If you are anything like us, you might get on so well with Chrome that you don’t want to use any other browser. Unfortunately, though, there are still a handful of websites that only work properly with Internet Explorer.
For example, online email accounts that run from Microsoft’s Exchange email system work far better in Internet Explorer than any other browser.
IE Tab gets around this frustration by simulating Internet Explorer from within Chrome. If you open a site that doesn’t load properly, simply click the Internet Explorer logo added to Chrome’s address bar to reload the page as though you were using Internet Explorer.
Although you won’t need it often, it’s a great way to ensure you never need to run Microsoft’s browser.
Adverts on web pages play a vital role in keeping much of the web free to access, but no-one likes being bombarded with sales messages, and pushy, animated adverts can occupy your computer’s processing power, making the whole thing sluggish.
As the name suggests, the Adblock extension is a simple tool that stops adverts from loading in a web page, without blocking any other content. It works so well that it’s the single most popular extension for Chrome, with more than two million users.
Adverts and other animated content are a particular annoyance if you are working on a laptop battery, because the extra work done by your processor consumes more power. Installing the (unrelated) Flashblock extension will stop most films and other animated content from loading and playing.
Once it’s installed you can simply click the icon to allow them on a single site, or create a list of sites such as Youtube where video is OK.
Ultimate Chrome Flag
This extension is perfect for anyone who wants to know a little more about the website they are visiting before deciding whether to take its advice or order a product.
Once installed, it displays a small flag in the address bar to indicate the country from which the website is being run. Clicking this opens a balloon that displays more detailed information, including page safety ratings from McAfee and the community-powered Web of Trust.
For the more curious, Ultimate Chrome Flag displays more useful information such as a Google Page Rank; essentially a measure of how important Google thinks a website is.
There is also Alexa’s traffic rank – which places websites in order of the volume of visits they receive – and a quick link to Google trends, which records whether visitor numbers have been going up or down, and where visits are coming from.
Windows’ Control Panel has some useful utilities to help people who find it hard to read text on screen, and you can quickly make a website’s text larger by holding down Ctrl and moving the scroll wheel on your mouse.
Even so, there may still be times when you need to get rid of the clutter around an article before you are able to concentrate. This extension places a button next to Chrome’s address bar that, when clicked, strips away the surrounding text and images, letting you focus on reading the article at hand.
You may find it necessary to tweak Readability Redux’s settings, but this is easily done by right-clicking its icon. Increasing the default font size and making the margins smaller produces perfect results, making this a very useful aid to reading on the internet.
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