Thursday, December 22, 2022

Excellent Extensions for Google Chrome

This post is Day 12 of my "12 Days of Chrome-mas" where we are learning all about the Google Chrome browser including tips, tricks, lesser known features, and helpful ideas. You can access all of the posts in the series at:

Google Chrome is a powerful web browser filled with loads of useful features and tools. Hopefully all of the other videos and blog posts in my series on Google Chrome have demonstrated this well.

However, as awesome as Chrome is, it may not do everything you need.

Thankfully Google allows you to make Chrome even better by installing Chrome web extensions. Extensions are tools from the Chrome Web Store that give extra features and abilities to Chrome. When you have them installed, you will find them as little icons in the top right corner of your browser.

In this blog post and video we are going to take a look at how to get extensions, how to manage your extensions, and my resource with over 150 recommended extensions for you and your students.

See below for a short tutorial video and written directions.

▶️ Tutorial Video

๐Ÿ”Ž Finding Chrome Extensions

To find extensions you can go to the Chrome Web Store at:

From here you can find extensions in several ways.
  • First, you can simply scroll down the page to browse through the extensions that are currently being highlighted.
  • Second, you can use the "Categories" links on the left side to look at extensions for specific purposes.
  • Third, if your school or organization has a recommended collection of extensions, you can click on the link for your school or organization to view that subset of selected extensions.
  • And finally, you can use the search box in the top left to type in keywords to help find extensions.
Once you find an extension that looks interesting, it is always a good idea to take some time to learn more before installing it. You can do this on the extension's page by looking at:
  • The star rating to see how people are rating the extension.
  • The number of users to see how popular it is.
  • The "Overview" tab to read more about what the extension does.
  • The "Privacy practices" tab to see what the publisher does or does not do with your personal data.
  • The "Reviews" tab to read more detailed reviews from people who have used the extension.
  • And the "Support" tab to see if there have been any questions and answers about the extension.

๐Ÿ’พ Installing Chrome Extensions

So when you find an extension that you would like to install, do the following:
  • Click on the "Add to Chrome" button on the extension's page.

  • Then click "Add extension".
  • You will then get a pop-up window letting you know when the installation is done.

  • Sometimes the extension may pop open additional windows as part of the installation and setup process. 
  • This could include asking you to log in with your Google account, or give permissions to use your camera and microphone, or such.

๐Ÿ“Œ Pinning Chrome Extensions

When extensions are installed, the icon to access the extension will be located in the top right corner of your Chrome browser.
  • You can click on the "puzzle piece" icon to open and access your full list of installed extensions.
  • However, instead of having to click this icon every time you want to access an extension, you can "pin" your extensions so they show up in the extensions bar at the top.
  • Simply click the "pin" icon next to any extension, and now it will be immediately available for you to click on whenever you need it.

๐Ÿ–ฑ️ Using Chrome Extensions

To use an extension, it is typically nothing more than clicking on the extension icon to launch it. Some extensions may behave a little differently, but you will learn that for each one.

As an example, one extension I recommend is the "Postlight Reader" extension. This is a tool that cleans up a webpage by removing potentially distracting content such as advertisements, comments, and other non-essential content. This can make it easier for a student to focus on the core content of an online article they are trying to read.

Here's how I would use this extension:
  • First, we would go to the website with the content we want to read.
  • Then simply click on the "Postlight Reader" extension.
  • The web page will now reload in a cleaner, easier-to-read layout, with all of the distracting elements removed.
  • With this extension we can also adjust the font size and style and page color as needed.
  • When done we can simply click on the extension again to go back to the normal view of the web page.

⚙️ Managing Chrome Extensions

As awesome as extensions are, their biggest problem is that they are so awesome you may end up installing lots and lots and lots of them. On my main account I have over 100 extensions installed!

The problem with this is that extensions use up memory on your computer. Even if you are not actively clicking on an extension, if it is installed, it is active and using memory. If you have too many extensions installed and active, they can really slow down the performance of your browser.

So what is the solution to having too many extensions? Well, the solution is actually having one more extension!

The specific extension is "Extensity" and this is an extension that helps you manage your extensions.

  • When you click on the Extensity extension, it shows you a list of all the extensions you currently have installed.
  • From this list, you can simply click on any extension to activate it or deactivate it.
  • If there are extensions that you want to keep, but you are not using them right at this moment, you can use Extensity to deactivate them.
  • This will remove them from the extension bar, but they will still be installed.
  • They just won't be active, so they will not be using up any memory or resources.
  • When you need to use an extension again, simply click on it in the Extensity list and the extension will be reactivated and will show up again in your extensions bar.

This is an excellent way to manage your extensions, no matter how many you have.

๐Ÿ† 150+ Recommended Chrome Extensions

So speaking of lots and lots of extensions, I maintain a Google Spreadsheet where I have a list of over 150 recommended extensions for teaching and learning and general use in an education environment. You can access this list anytime at:

  • The spreadsheet contains an alphabetical list of extensions, including the name, a short description, and a link to that extension in the Chrome Web Store.
  • For many of these extensions I have a blog post or training video or other resource that I have created that goes into more detail on that tool. If so, I have added that resource in the final column.
  • All of the extensions in the list are either ones that I use personally or they are extensions that someone in the EdTech world has recommended to me and I have taken some time to investigate.
  • As always though, extensions can change over time, so be sure to investigate any extension yourself before installing it, and always follow the guidance or requirements of your school or organization.

And even though I have over 150 extensions on this list, I guarantee that there are many excellent extensions that I have missed. Please let me know what extensions you use and how they benefit you or your students. I would love to learn from you and add more great resources to this list.

๐Ÿ Conclusion

And that's it! Extensions are a great way to extend the power of Chrome with tools for assistive technology, content creation, review and practice, productivity, communication and feedback, and much, much more.

And be sure to check out the rest of the blog posts and videos in my series on Google Chrome to pick up more tips and helpful ideas here

(Click the image above or click this link: 12 Days of Chrome-Mas Google Drawing link)

Post by Eric Curts
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