How to Manage Extensions in Popular Web Browsers

Take care of browser add-ons in Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge

an image depicting a standard web browser

 pagadesign / E+ collection / Getty Images

Browsers are our gateway to the web, providing access to our favorite sites and facilitating the large majority of our online experiences. As technology has expanded, so has the breadth of functionality offered by these widely-used applications. 

While modern browsers provide impressive feature sets with the capability to do a lot more than just render a web page, they can be expanded even further through the magic of add-ons and extensions. Usually developed by a third-party and often available free of charge, these independent programs are integrated with your browser to improve its existing functionality or add brand new features. 

In web browser lexicon, the terms add-on and extension are somewhat interchangeable, both often referring to the same thing. You’ll notice throughout this article that some browsers tend to use extensions when referring to these programs, while others prefer calling them add-ons. In most cases there is no discernible difference between the two. 

Follow the steps below to discover, install and manage extensions in the browser of your choice.

While many extensions require permissions that may seem a bit intrusive, it’s important to keep in mind that this level of access is likely necessary for them to function as expected. While you should be wary of what an extension can do before opting to install, if it comes from a trusted source then it’s probably not using those permissions for nefarious purposes.

Manage Chrome Extensions

You can choose from thousands of different extensions in the Chrome Web Store, each sorted by category and user ratings.

  1. Open your Chrome browser.

  2. Type the following text into the address bar and press the Enter or Return key: chrome://extensions.

    The Chrome extensions command in a Chrome address bar.
  3. A list of already-installed extensions should now be displayed, each accompanied by its name and description along with an On/Off slider and two buttons labeled Details and Remove. The On/Off slider can be used to enable (blue) or disable (white) individual extensions at any time.

    The Extensions interface in Google Chrome with the On/Off slider highlighted.
  4. Select Details to view the extension’s version number, size on disk (in KB or MB) and permissions granted to it — such as the ability to access your browsing history. Also included on the Details page are configurable settings for the respective extension such as the ability to allow it to run in Incognito Mode along with the type of website access it should have while running.

    Details page for the ColorZilla extension for Google Chrome.

    By default, all Chrome extensions must come from the Chrome Web Store. If you’d like to install an extension not featured in the Web Store, you’ll need to enable Developer Mode by selecting its On/Off button found in the upper right-hand corner of the Extensions interface. Do so at your own risk, however, as this can expose you to potentially harmful malware.

  5. To uninstall an extension, select Remove and then click Remove a second time when the confirmation dialog appears.

    The Remove Extension dialog in Google Chrome.
  6. To install new extensions, first navigate to the Chrome Web Store in your browser.

  7. Descriptions, screenshots, reviews, compatibility details and much more are provided here for each available extension. To install one, click Add to Chrome, found in the upper right-hand corner of each extension’s overview page. 

  8. A pop-up will appear, listing what permissions the extension you’ve chosen to install will be granted by default. These can include the ability to read your browsing history and even modify data on websites that you visit, so read them carefully before clicking Add extension to complete the process or selecting Cancel if you’ve changed your mind.

    The Add Extension interface in the Chrome browser.
  9. Many extensions will be available immediately after installation is completed, while others require a reboot of Chrome to take effect.

Manage Firefox Extensions

One of the first browsers to really make use of extensions many years ago, there are now almost half a million add-ons available through Mozilla’s official website and even more downloadable through third-party outlets.

  1. Open the Firefox browser.

  2. Type the following text in the address bar and hit Enter or Return: about:addons.

  3. The Personalize Your Firefox interface should now be displayed, listing several recommended extensions and browser themes along with other configurable options. Select Add to Firefox to install any of the recommended extensions, located to the right of their respective name and description. 

    Browser themes change the look and feel of your Firefox browser. These are also included in this interface, and can be downloaded and applied by selecting Install Theme instead of Add to Firefox.

  4. To search through hundreds of thousands of other extensions, select Find more add-ons (located towards the top of the screen).

    The Find more add-ons option in the Firefox Browser.
  5. A new tab will open, loading the official Firefox Add-ons website. From here you can browse by category, search keywords or featured recommendations. Each extension’s details page contains a wealth of information including a description, screenshot, user ratings and reviews, version and update details, permissions and much more. To install an extension, select Add to Firefox.

  6. A pop-up dialog will appear, detailing the permissions that this specific extension requires in order to function correctly. Select Add if you wish to continue with the installation process, or Cancel to abort.

    Extension permissions in the Firefox browser.
  7. Some extensions will be available once installation is completed, while others require you to restart Firefox in order to use them.

Manage Edge Extensions

Edge has replaced the long-running Internet Explorer as the default option on all Windows installations, and its feature set can be enhanced significantly through the use of the many browser extensions found in the Microsoft Store.

  1. Open your Edge browser.

  2. Click the Menu button, located in the upper right-hand corner and represented by three horizontally-aligned dots.

  3. When the drop-down menu appears, select Extensions.

  4. A list of already-installed extensions will now be displayed, along with suggested extensions that you can choose to install. Existing extensions are each accompanied by an On/Off button, which can be used to enable or disable their functionality at any point.

    The Edge browser Extensions menu.
  5. To modify extension-specific configurations, view its permissions (such as storing browsing data and modifying cookies, in some cases), rate and review it, or allow it to run while using InPrivate Browsing mode, first click on it once to display the respective extensions’s Settings interface. You will be able to access this information and change these settings at this point.

  6. To completely delete an extension from Edge, select Uninstall from its Settings interface and follow the on-screen prompts.

  7. To download and install an extension from the Suggested list, click on Get.

    A suggested Edge browser extension being installed.
  8. To view more extensions aside from those in your Suggested list, scroll to the bottom of the pop-out menu and click on Explore more extensions.

    A screenshot of the Explore more extensions link in Edge.
  9. The Microsoft Store application will now launch, with the Edge Extensions section displayed. Extensions are listed by category type, ranking and cost.

  10. To learn more about a particular extension, click on its name to load the details page. If the extension is free, it can be instantly downloaded by clicking on Get. If there is a cost associated with it, you can click on either Buy or Add to cart and follow the on-screen prompt to purchase it for download.

    The location of the Get and Add to cart option on an Edge extension.

Manage Safari Extensions

The default browser for Mac users, Safari, has some pretty powerful extensions available from right within the App Store. 

  1. Open your Safari browser.

  2. Click Safari, located in the browser menu in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

  3. When the drop-down menu appears, select Safari Extensions.

    The Safari Menu.
  4. The App Store will now open, with the Safari Extensions introduction displayed. A listing of available extensions should be shown, along with the cost (if there is one) and tagline for each. To learn more about a particular extension, simply click on its name or accompanying button. 

    Depending on your Mac’s resolution, it may appear as if there are only eight extensions available to install. There are many more, in fact, so hover your mouse cursor over the right-hand side of the App Store interface so that the scroll bar appears in order to view the rest.

  5. To install a free extension, select the GET button accompanying its name and then click on INSTALL. To install a paid extension, select its price (i.e., $19.99) and then click on BUY APP

    The Ghostery Lite Safari extension details page.
  6. In either case, you’ll be prompted to authenticate your Apple ID by entering your password or by utilizing Touch ID. Once successful, the extension will be installed. 

After an extension is successfully installed, the aforementioned GET or BUY button will be replaced with one that reads OPEN. This button can be used to launch the extension at any time. Installed Safari extensions can also be opened through the Launchpad app, accessible via your macOS Dock.