Your browser is one of the most important pieces of software on your computer. The right browser makes it fast and easy to access your favorite websites. And the right browser can be customized, so it has all the tools and features you need. Google Chrome is many people’s favorite browser, not least because once you’ve downloaded Chrome, you can customize its capabilities. But there are several different kinds of software in the Chrome web store. So what’s a Chrome extension? How are Chrome extensions different from Chrome plug-ins? And how do they relate to Chrome apps? Here’s what you need to know.
Chrome plug-ins are third-party libraries that can be embedded inside a web page. Plug-ins affect only the specific page in which they’ve been placed. They don’t know about the other tabs or pages in your browser. A Chrome extension, on the other hand, can add to the browser’s user interface and process all the pages Chrome loads. Extensions extend the functionality of Chrome and the websites you view in it. And a Chrome extension typically has little or no user-interface components (unlike Chrome apps, which can run inside the browser, with their own user interface). Apps run on their own like a website, while extensions are in effect across websites and apps.
Maybe you’re less confused about the software available in the Chrome web store, or maybe you’re more baffled. Either way, now is a great time to find the right Chrome extension. There are numerous useful extensions in the Chrome web store, so we’ve pulled together our favorites.
Each Chrome extension that made the list is useful for a broad audience. And we added a few of our favorite Chrome apps to the list for users with ChromeOS. Perhaps you’ve just downloaded Chrome. Maybe you’re configuring it on a new computer. Or maybe you’ve had the browser for a while and are just getting around to customizing it. No matter the circumstances, these are the Chrome extensions, Chrome plug-ins, and Chrome apps that you don’t want to go without.
1. Adblock Plus
Adblock Plus might be one of the most buzzed-about Chrome extensions in the Chrome web store. And for good reason. This extension blocks annoying ads, malware, and trackers. That means you won’t see annoying ads on your favorite websites, video ads on YouTube, or Facebook ads. You also won’t have to deal with malware or third-party tracking. And if websites opt to implement unobtrusive ads, Adblock Plus won’t block them. Ad blockers might be a controversial Chrome extension. But there’s no denying they make the web-browsing experience a lot smoother. That means if you’re only going to install a handful of extensions, Chrome plug-ins, or Chrome apps, it’s a great idea to make an ad blocker one of them.
Any.do is a must-have Chrome extension if you’re looking for a way to stay on task while you’re online. The software consistently appears on lists of the best to-do apps. You can use Any.do on any device. And if you use the Chrome extension, you can sync your agenda across your devices, plus easily share lists and tasks. You can drag and drop tasks right in Chrome to plan your agenda. And you can search your lists, tasks, and notes to find exactly what you’re looking for. You can even set one-time or recurring reminders, so you don’t forget anything.
3. Black Menu
Black Menu is the perfect Chrome extension if you’re all in on Google services. (If you’re using Chrome and/or Chrome OS, chances are good that you are.) Black Menu gives quick access to your favorite Google services via a drop-down menu. You can access all the Google apps and platforms you use without leaving the page you’re on. Just hover over menu items to see a small preview. Or click the shortcuts to open them in a new tab.
Boomerang is the Chrome extension you’ll want to install before all other Chrome plug-ins and Chrome apps if you’re a Gmail power user. That’s because this extension enables you to schedule emails to be sent in the future, postpone incoming emails until you’re ready to deal with them, and get alerts if you don’t get a reply to a message. Boomerang helps you stay on top of your busy inbox, and it makes it a lot less likely that you’ll lose track of important emails.
5. Cite This For Me
Cite This For Me is a useful Chrome extension for writers, students, and anyone else who needs to create citations that are properly formatted. This extension will automatically create citations in the APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard styles, which means you won’t waste time creating (and checking) citations manually. You can then copy and paste the citation into whatever you’re writing, or save it to your online bibliography to use it later.
CloudMagic should definitely make your list of must-download Chrome apps if you need a better way to handle email on your Chromebook, Android phone, Android tablet, or Android Wear watch. The app can manage your emails from Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo, Outlook, iCloud, Google Apps, Office 365, and any other IMAP service. It also supports Calendar for Gmail, Google Apps, and Exchange. So you can manage your email and your schedule without switching between apps.
7. Data Saver
Data Saver is a Chrome extension Google offers. It reduces your data usage by using Google servers to compress the pages you visit before downloading them. The Chrome extension won’t optimize pages you access via private HTTPS connections or in incognito tabs, which means they won’t be seen by Google. And Data Saver isn’t just for desktop use. You can enable it on the mobile version of Chrome for Android by navigating to the Settings menu.
Disconnect is a great Chrome extension for anyone with misgivings about the trackers that are watching them online and making their devices run slower. You can compare the options — there’s a free basic plan, a pro plan, and a premium plan — but this Chrome extension can block trackers and enable you to search privately. It also can block malware and trackers across your entire device. That enables it to run faster, use less bandwidth, and conserve battery life. And if you opt for the premium plan, you can even mask your location with a virtual private network (VPN).
Ghostery is the perfect Chrome extension if you don’t just want to block tracking, but also are curious about who’s trying to follow you online. According to its description in the Chrome web store, the extension “gives you the control to make informed decisions about the personal data you share with the trackers on the sites you visit.” Ghostery enables you to block trackers and significantly speed up your web browsing, as well as preserve your privacy. The idea is this Chrome extension “gives you the tools needed to understand the different types of trackers and how they may impact your overall browsing experience.” That’s something not many Chrome extensions, Chrome apps, or Chrome plug-ins can claim to do.
Ginger is the perfect Chrome extension for people trying to clean up their act and write more coherently online. Whether you’re writing an email or penning a comment on your favorite website, Ginger will check your grammar and spelling. It can help native or non-native speakers of English. And it even integrates a dictionary, a thesaurus, and translation functionality. This Chrome extension offers the easiest way to make sure your sentence structure, grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. That means everyone who reads what you write will be better able to understand what you’re saying.
11. Google Translate
Google Translate is a Chrome extension you’ll definitely want to install if you routinely encounter web pages in languages you don’t read. This extension makes it easy to view translations as you navigate the web. You just need to highlight or right-click a section of text, and then click on the Translate icon next to it. Or, you can translate an entire page by clicking the translate icon on the browser toolbar. The Chrome web store obviously has a lot of great Chrome extensions, Chrome plug-ins, and Chrome apps. But this is one that we definitely recommend installing.
12. HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS Everywhere is a useful Chrome extension produced via a collaboration between the Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Once you download it from the Chrome web store, this extension will encrypt your communications with many major websites to make your web browsing more secure. Many sites default to unencrypted HTTP or fill their pages with links that go back to the unencrypted site. HTTPS Everywhere fixes the problem by rewriting requests to these sites to HTTPS.
LastPass stands out from the many other Chrome extensions, Chrome apps, and Chrome plug-ins in the Chrome web store. In fact, it might be the most important extension you add to your browser. It’s a password manager that helps you create and save secure passwords.
Once you save your logins and passwords to LastPass, you can access them not only on your computer, but on your tablet and your smartphone. You can log in with the same LastPass account everywhere, and everything you’ve saved will be available on all of your devices. Using a password manager is a critical step in staying secure online. So we’d definitely recommend that you put LastPass at the top of your list of Chrome extensions, Chrome apps, and Chrome plug-ins to download.
MightyText is a great Chrome extension for PC or Mac users who have an Android smartphone. You might not have thought Chrome extensions or Chrome plug-ins would make it possible for you to text your friends from your computer, but that’s exactly what MightyText does. Once you install MightyText from the Chrome web store, you’ll be able to send and receive text messages on your Mac or PC, using your Android phone number. You can even see notifications from your Android apps, and get alerts when your smartphone’s battery is low.
Noisli is another must-have Chrome extension if you’re trying to be productive online. According to its description in the Chrome web store, Noisli is “the best and most beautifully designed productivity companion.” What does that mean? This Chrome extension enables you to create and listen to background sounds that help you focus and concentrate on your tasks. You can find the perfect sounds whether your work space is too loud or quiet. And you can use the built-in timer to control “productivity sessions” and get more work done.
16. Office Online
Office Online is one of our favorite Chrome apps for Chromebook users. This Microsoft app enables you to view, edit, and create Office files right in your browser. You can use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Sway Online without having Office installed. The Chrome app offers the same formatting and layout options you’re already used to. And you can access your files anywhere with an integration with OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.
OneTab is the Chrome extension for you if you’re in the habit of opening tons of tabs. In fact, it might be the most useful of all the extensions, Chrome plug-ins, and Chrome apps you download if you want to save memory and reduce clutter (without closing your tabs). This Chrome extension can convert all of your open tabs into a list. When you need to access them, you can restore them individually or all at once. When your tabs are in a OneTab list, you’ll reduce your memory usage by up to 95%.
Papier is a Chrome extension that makes it easy to write down thoughts and ideas that pop into your head as you’re navigating the web and working on other tasks. Every time you open a new tab, you’ll be able to write a quick note. Your notes will be quickly and securely backed up directly to Chrome. According to its description on the Chrome web store, “Papier declutters your thoughts so you can focus on the content.”
Pocket is an incredibly useful Chrome extension for anyone who finds web pages they want to read later. (Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t want to revisit an article or a web page at least occasionally?) This Chrome extension enables you to easily save articles, videos, web pages, and pretty much everything else. Then, you can view it when you’re ready — on your computer, phone, tablet, or Kobo reader. It works even if you don’t have an internet connection. The Chrome extension enables you to save items with a single click. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier than that.
Polarr is a can’t-miss Chrome app for photographers who own Chromebooks. This photo editor is designed for both new and experienced photographers. It enables you to make basic or advanced edits easily. And it incorporates all of the photo editing tools you’re likely to need into one Chrome app. (It’s equipped with nine tool categories and more than 40 core functionalities.) You can also use Polarr’s Chrome plug-in to edit any photo on the internet, which is handy if you’re working on your editing skills.
Pushbullet is a great Chrome extension if you want an easier way to respond to messages on your phone when you’re on your computer. Once you download it from the Chrome web store and install it on your Android phone, you’ll be able to send and receive SMS messages from your computer. You’ll also be able to reply to messages from many popular apps, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Plus, you’ll be able to see all of your phone’s notifications on your computer. And if you dismiss a notification on your phone, it also will disappear on your phone.
22. Social Fixer
Social Fixer is the Chrome extension you absolutely have to download if you’re addicted to Facebook. (That means most of us these days.) Once you download it from the Chrome web store, Social Fixer will let you filter your News Feed by keyword or author. It also makes it possible to hide sponsored posts or posts that talk about politics or spoil movies. Or, you can hide parts of the page you don’t want to see. You also can opt to hide things you’ve already seen, or switch to a feed that shows the most recent items first.
23. Strict Workflow
Strict Workflow is the Chrome extension for you if you need more than a to-do list to keep you on track. Drawing on the Pomodoro method of time management, Strict Workflow enforces, well, a strict workflow. You’ll have 25 minutes to work without distractions, and then 5 minutes to take a break. Just repeat until you’ve finished your work for the day. The Chrome extension is configured to block popular distracting websites. And you can block the sites that are most distracting to you, so you won’t get sidetracked when you should be working.
Taco is a Chrome extension that can do more to increase your productivity than tons of other Chrome apps and Chrome plug-ins combined. According to its description on the Chrome Web Store, this Chrome extension enables you to see tasks from more than 40 other services on Chrome’s new tab page (think Asana, BaseCamp, GitHub, Gmail, Trello, and more).
It promises to load faster than Chrome’s new tab page. And the extension doesn’t undermine your privacy because it can only access Taco’s website, not your browsing history. You can drag and drop your tasks, tickets, and to-do items. And you can access your unified task list on Taco from any browser, even on your phone or tablet.
25. TunnelBear VPN
TunnelBear VPN is a Chrome extension that makes it a lot more secure to browse on public Wi-Fi or just on your own Wi-Fi network. Unlike many other privacy-oriented Chrome plug-ins and Chrome apps, TunnelBear connects you to a private network with connections to 20 countries. It can get around blocked websites, reduce companies’ ability to track you, and secure your browser on public Wi-Fi. As its Chrome web store description explains, “TunnelBear VPN for Chrome is a light-weight browser extension that continues the tradition of TunnelBear’s full featured VPN applications for OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android.”
Ultidash is a Chrome extension that claims to be “the ultimate productivity extension.” You can create a to-do list in whatever format works best for you. Or you can use a site blocker to manage your distractions. The timer will keep you focused. And Ultidash will create graphs to chart your productivity over time. It also enables you to track how you spend your time on the web. That makes it a lot more useful than other Chrome extensions and Chrome plug-ins if you need a little bit of accountability.
Unshorten.link is a Chrome extension you’ll definitely want to install if you’re concerned about your security online. Once you install the Unshorten Chrome extension, any shortened link (such as bit.ly or t.co) you click on will be automatically expanded and analyzed for malware. You’ll be automatically redirected to a link expansion page that will display where the shortened link is attempting to send you, giving you a clear view of the security of the destination. The Chrome extension also will automatically remove known tracking cookies from the URL.