Installing and Managing Web Browser Add-ons and Extensions

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Modern-day browsers are chock-full of features intended to make your experience on the Web more enjoyable, productive and secure. Fierce competition among browser vendors for a bigger share of the market continues to spawn innovative functionality that significantly improves our online lives.

New versions of our favorite browsers are released often, providing additions and enhancements as well as security updates.

While the browser is typically a robust application on its own, thousands of third-party developers also do their part to expand upon this functionality through the magic of extensions.

Also known as add-ons, these independent programs integrate themselves with your browser to add brand new features or improve upon existing areas. The scope of these extensions is seemingly limitless, ranging from add-ons that provide inclement weather warnings to those that alert you when a particular item goes on sale.

Once limited to a select couple of browsers, extensions are now widely available for multiple applications and platforms. Also, the majority of these handy little add-ons can be downloaded at no cost whatsoever.

The step-by-step tutorials below show you how to find, install and manage extensions in several popular browsers.

Google Chrome

Chrome OS, Linux, Mac OS X, macOS Sierra, and Windows

  1. Type the following text into your browser's address bar and hit the Enter or Return key: chrome://extensions.
  1. Chrome's Extensions management interface should now be displayed in the current tab. You can also access this page by taking the following path from the main menu, represented by three vertically-aligned dots and located in the upper right-hand corner of the main browser window: More Tools -> Extensions. Listed here are all extensions currently installed within your Chrome browser, each one accompanied by the following: icon, title, version number, and description.
  1. Also provided with each installed extension is a Details link, which opens a pop-up window containing in-depth information including what specific permissions the respective add-on has as well as links to its corresponding page in the Chrome Web Store.
  2. To install new extensions, scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Get more extensions link.
  3. The Chrome Web Store will now appear in a new tab, offering thousands of options across dozens of categories. Descriptions, screenshots, reviews, number of downloads, compatibility details, and more are provided here for each extension. To install a new extension, simply click on the blue and white ADD TO CHROME button and follow the subsequent instructions.
  4. Many extensions are configurable, allowing you to modify how they behave. Return to the Extensions management interface described above and click on the Options link, located to the right of Details, to access these settings. It should be noted that not all extensions offer this ability.
  5. Directly below the aforementioned links are options accompanied by checkboxes, the most common one labeled Allow in incognito. Disabled by default, this setting instructs Chrome to run the extension even when you are browsing in Incognito Mode. To activate this option, place a check mark in the box by clicking on it once.
  1. Positioned to the far right of each extension's title and version number is another checkbox, this one labeled Enabled. Add or remove the check mark in this box by clicking on it once to toggle an individual extension's functionality on and off. Most extensions will be enabled by default upon installation.
  2. To the right of the Enabled option is a trash can. To remove (and therefore uninstall) an extension, first click on this image. A Confirm Removal pop-up will now appear. Click on the Remove button to complete the deletion process.

 

Microsoft Edge

Windows only

  1. Click on the main menu button, located in the upper right-hand corner of your browser window and represented by three horizontally-aligned dots. When the drop-down menu appears, select the Extensions option.
  1. A pop-out window labeled Extensions should now appear. Click on the Get extensions from the Store link.
  2. A new window will now open, displaying the Microsoft Store and offering extensions for the Edge browser. Select a particular extension to open its details page. Here you can find descriptions, reviews, screenshots, system requirements, and other relevant information.
  3. To install an extension in Edge, first click on the blue and white Get button. This button will transform into a progress bar showing download and installation status.
  4. Once complete, a brief confirmation message will appear followed by the availability of a Launch button. Click on this button to return to your main browser window.
  5. A notification labeled You have a new extension should now be displayed in the upper right-hand corner, detailing the permissions that your new extension will be granted once it is activated. It is important that you read these carefully. If you are comfortable with these permissions, click on the Turn it on button to activate the extension. If not, select Keep it off instead.
  6. To manage your installed extensions, return to the main menu and select the Extensions option from the drop-down.
  7. A list of all installed extensions should be displayed, each one accompanied by its activation status (On or Off). Click on the name of the extension that you wish to modify, enable, disable, or remove from your PC.
  8. After selecting an extension the pop-out window will be replaced with details and options specific to that selection. To add your own rating and comments to the Microsoft Store, click on the Rate and review link and follow the directions accordingly.
  1. To enable or disable the extension, click on the blue and white On/Off button found directly below the extension's permission details.
  2. Towards the bottom of the window are two buttons, labeled Options and Uninstall. Click on Options to modify settings specific to this extension.
  3. To completely remove the extension from your computer, select Uninstall. A confirmation window will appear. Click on OK to continue with the deletion process or Cancel to return to the previous screen.

 

Mozila Firefox

Linux, Mac OS X, macOS Sierra, and Windows

  1. Type the following text into Firefox's address bar and hit the Enter or Return key: about:addons.
  2. Firefox's Add-ons Manager should now be visible in the current tab. As mentioned at the outset of this article, the terms add-on and extension are somewhat interchangeable. In Mozilla's case, the word add-on encompasses extensions, themes, plugins, and services. Click on the Get Add-ons option in the left menu pane if it is not already selected.
  3. An introduction to Firefox add-ons will appear, including a video describing the various ways you can personalize the browser through these third-party programs. Also found on this page are some recommended add-ons, each one accompanied by a description and a button. To install and activate one of them, simply click on said button once until it turns green.
  4. The sampling of add-ons shown on this page are just the tip of the iceberg, however. Scroll to the bottom and click on the button labeled See more add-ons.
  5. A new tab will now load Firefox's Add-ons website, a repository containing over 20,000 extensions, themes, and other additions. Broken down by category, rating, number of downloads and other factors, each add-on has its own page that displays everything you need to know before making the decision whether or not to download it. If you wish to install a particular add-on, select its accompanying Add to Firefox button.
  1. A new dialog will now appear in the upper left-hand corner of your browser window, detailing download progress. Once the download is complete, click on the Install button to continue.
  2. Some add-ons require Firefox to be shut down to complete the installation process. In these cases, a button labeled Restart Firefox will appear. Click on this button if you are ready to close your browser at this time. If not, the add-on will be installed the next time you restart the application. Once an add-on is installed and activated, its features become available immediately within Firefox.
  3. Return to the Add-ons Manager interface and click on Extensions, located in the left menu pane.
  4. A list of all installed extensions should now be displayed along with icons, titles and descriptions for each.
  5. Coupled with each extension in the list is a link titled More, which loads a detailed page about the add-on within the manager interface itself. Click on this link.
  6. Located on this page is a section labeled Automatic Updates, containing the following three options accompanied by radio buttons: Default, On, Off. This setting dictates whether or not Firefox checks for and installs available updates to the extension on a regular basis. The default behavior for all official extensions (those obtained from Mozilla's website) is that they be automatically updated, so it is recommended that you do not alter this setting unless you have a very specific reason to do so.
  7. Found a few sections below may be an option labeled Configure,  accompanied by a button. Not available for all add-ons, clicking on this button will allow you to modify settings specific to this particular extension's behavior and functionality.
  8. Also located on this page, in the bottom right-hand corner, are two buttons respectively labeled Enable or Disable and Remove. Click on Enable/Disable to toggle the extension on and off at any time.
  9. To uninstall the extension completely, click on the Remove button. The main Add-ons Manager screen will now appear, containing the following confirmation message: <Extension name> has been removed. Located to the right of this message is an Undo button, which allows you to quickly reinstall the extension if you so desire. The Enable/Disable and Remove buttons can also be found on the main Extensions page as well, positioned to the far right in each row.
  10. To manage browser appearance (themes), plugins or services in a similar fashion to extensions, click on their respective link in the left menu pane. Each of these add-on types will present different configurable options and settings based on their individual purpose.

 

Apple Safari

Mac OS X, macOS only

  1. Click on Safari in your browser menu, located at the top of the screen. When the drop-down menu appears, select Preferences. You can also use the following keyboard shortcut instead: COMMAND + COMMA(,).
  2. Safari's Preferences interface should now be visible, overlaying your main browser window. Click on the Extensions icon, located in the top row.
  3. A list of all installed extensions will be displayed in the left menu pane. Select an option from the list by clicking on it once.
  4. On the right-hand side of the window the respective extension's icon, title and description should be visible along with several options and links. To load the extension developer's home page in a new Safari tab, click on the by <author name> link located next to its title.
  5. To activate or disable the extension, add or remove the check mark next to the Enable extension name option; found directly under the description.
  6. To completely remove the extension from your Mac, click on the Uninstall button. A confirmation window will appear asking if you are sure that you want to do this. To continue, click on Uninstall again. Otherwise, select the Cancel button.
  7. At the bottom of the Extensions interface is an option labeled Automatically update extensions from the Safari Extensions Gallery, accompanied by a checkbox. Enabled by default, this setting ensures that all installed extensions will be updated to the latest version when one becomes available. It is recommended that you leave this option active for security purposes as well as for your overall browsing experience, as many extensions are updated often to add new functionality and patch potential vulnerabilities.
  8. In the bottom right-hand corner is a button labeled Get Extensions, which loads Safari's Extensions Gallery in a new tab. Click on this button.
  9. All available extensions are found on this website, organized by category and popularity as well as by release date. To download and install a particular extension, click on the Install now button found directly below its description. Your new extension should be installed and enabled within a matter of seconds.
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