Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Extensions vs Web Apps vs Add-ons

The Google ecosystem provides a wide range of powerful programs to help you do pretty much anything you need. This includes browsing the web, typing a document, creating a slideshow, sending email, collecting data, and so much more.

However, even with all the features in their tools, Google knows they can’t do everything. There is probably some task you wish you could do, but can’t.

To help address this, Google allows third parties to create tools to extend the functions and features of Chrome, Docs, Sheet, Forms, and more. These tools come in three forms:

  • Chrome Extensions
  • Chrome Web Apps
  • Add-ons for Docs, Sheets, and Forms

At the most basic level, all three of these do the same thing. The are tools that help you do something in the Google ecosystem that normally you would not be able to do. They provide extended features, tools, and programs that Google did not build into their products by default (at least not yet).

Even though all three types of tools have that in common, they are still quite different in many other ways. A common question I hear from folks is:
"What’s the difference between an extension, a web app, and an add-on?”
To help answer this, I have put together a chart that compares and contrasts these three different types of tools. See the rest of the post below for this information as an infographic and a bulleted list.


Extensions vs Web Apps vs Add-ons Infographic



Extensions vs Web Apps vs Add-ons List

What are they?
  • Extensions - Small helper tools to give you more features in Chrome
  • Web Apps - Larger stand-alone web programs
  • Add-ons - Extra tools for Docs, Sheets, and Forms

How do you install them for yourself?
  • Extensions - Installed from the Chrome Web Store at chrome.google.com/webstore
  • Web Apps - Installed from the Chrome Web Store at chrome.google.com/webstore
  • Add-ons - Installed from the Add-ons menu in Docs, Sheets, and Forms

How can you install them for your users?
  • Extensions - Can be pushed to users through “Chrome management” in the GAFE Admin Console
  • Web Apps - Can be pushed to users through “Chrome management” in the GAFE Admin Console
  • Add-ons - Can be pushed to users through “Marketplace Apps” in the GAFE Admin Console

Where do they go when installed?
  • Extensions - Show up as small icons in top right corner of the Chrome browser
  • Web Apps - Show up as large icons on the Apps page in Chrome
  • Add-ons - Show up in the Add-ons menu in Docs, Sheets, and Forms

What devices can they be installed on?
  • Extensions - PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks running the Chrome web browser
  • Web Apps - PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks running the Chrome web browser
  • Add-ons - PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks running any major browser

How do you run them?
  • Extensions - Click the icon for the extension in top right corner of the Chrome browser
  • Web Apps - Click the icon for the web app icon on the Apps page in Chrome
  • Add-ons - Click the add-on in the Add-ons menu in Docs, Sheets, and Forms

Where can they be used when run?
  • Extensions - Can typically run on any webpage in Chrome
  • Web Apps - Typically are standalone applications that run in their own Chrome tab
  • Add-ons - Only run inside of Docs, Sheets, and Forms

Can they be disabled?
  • Extensions - Can be temporarily disabled. Right click on extension icon, choose “Manage extensions” and uncheck “Enabled”
  • Web Apps - Can not be temporarily disabled. Only can be removed.
  • Add-ons - Can not be temporarily disabled. Only can be removed.

How can they be removed?
  • Extensions - Right click on extension icon and choose “Remove from Chrome”
  • Web Apps - Right click on the web app icon and choose “Remove from Chrome”
  • Add-ons - Click “Add-ons” then “Manage Add-ons” then “Manage” then “Remove”

Do they use device resources?
  • Extensions - Use memory and resources at all times Chrome is open
  • Web Apps - Only use memory and resources when web app is running
  • Add-ons - Only use memory and resources when add-on is running

Can you use them on multiple devices?
  • Extensions - Automatically installed wherever you log into the Chrome web browser on any computer
  • Web Apps - Automatically installed wherever you log into the Chrome web browser on any computer
  • Add-ons - Automatically installed wherever you log into Google Drive on any computer

What are some examples?
  • Extensions - SpeakIt!, Screencastify, Read&Write for Google
  • Web Apps - Geogebra, Lucidpress, WeVideo
  • Add-ons - g(math), autoCrat, formLimiter


More Resources

If you would like to learn more about Add-ons, see some of my resources below:

If you would like to learn more about Chrome Web Extensions, see this collection of posts:

If you would like to learn more about Chrome Web Apps, see this collection of posts:

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1

43 comments:

  1. As always, great work - clear explanations and excellent information. Thanks.

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    1. You are welcome! And thank you for the comment!

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