Four Must Have Chrome Extensions

01
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Find Extensions at the Chrome Web Store

Chrome Web Store
Screen capture

The extendable Chrome Web browser is a lot more powerful than some people recognize. You can customize your browsing experience to make it more efficient, more productive, and more fun. The Chrome Web Store offers items that modify the Chrome browser for both casual Web surfers and Chromebook users. 

The Chrome Web Store divides their offerings into four basic categories. 

  • Apps
  • Games
  • Extensions
  • Themes

Keep an eye out for the type of download when you browse for items in the Chrome Web Store. Right now we're focusing on Extensions.

02
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AdBlock Extension

AdBlock
AdBlock. Screen Capture

AdBlock is the most popular Chrome extension for good reason. If I had to choose only one extension for my browser, I'd choose AdBlock. Well, Ok, maybe it would actually be Grammarly, but AdBlock would be right up there. 

AdBlock blocks a lot of annoying and spammy Web ads that can clutter your Web browsing experience. It does not work for all ads, so you'll still see a few (Ads are how most websites can afford to exist). Some websites detect AdBlocker and refuse to display content unless you disable it, but that is relatively rare. 

AdBlock is offered as an extension, an app, and a theme. Use the extension. It's the official product. The theme is there as an option for AdBlock fans, but it doesn't block ads.

03
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Google Cast

Google Cast
Google Cast. Screen Capture

 If you own a Chromecast, the Google Cast extension is a must-have. Yes, you can "cast" shows from your phone, but not all streaming media has been optimized for streaming to your TV. (Some services want to charge extra for the experience or actively discourage you from watching on any device that isn't a computer.)  

On top of that, you might want to share things that aren't streaming video. Maybe you've pulled up a presentation or a funny website you want to show off. You can cast those too. 

Enter the Chromecast extension.

  1. Hit the Google  Cast button in your browser. 
  2. Select a device to cast to (if you have more than one.) 
  3. If you're casting a streaming video, maximize the video display within that tab. (It may actually look smaller when you do this. This is normal. You're maximizing the display for your TV, not your computer.) 
  4. Continue surfing in other tabs if you wish. Just keep your actively casting tab open on your computer. 
04
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Grammarly

Grammarly
Grammarly. Screen Capture

If you write anything to anyone (Facebook, your blog, email, etc) you should consider the Grammarly extension. Grammarly is an automated proofreader. Meaning that it checks your writing for all sorts of potential errors from spelling issues, to mismatched verb tense, passive voice, or overused word choices. 

Grammarly comes as both a free version and a premium subscription service with additional proofreading features. I use the premium version since I write professionally, but the free version is just fine for most users.

One caveat is that Grammarly is incompatible with some websites. You can temporarily disable the extension when you run into problems. I've found that this is only an occasional annoyance.

05
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LastPass

LastPass
LastPass. Screen Capture

LastPass is a password management vault that you can use to remember your passwords or generate new, random passwords. Randomly generated passwords are far more secure, since they're more likely to be unique (words, even with common character substitutions are not very secure.) This means you'll also be less tempted to reuse the same password over and over again. (Reusing passwords means a hacker just has to guess ONE of your passwords, and then he or she has them all.) 

LastPass did have a security incident in 2015, so weigh your options before you decide to proceed. I'm convinced that the benefit outweighs the risk, but you may not see it the same way. I also recommend that you use two-factor authentication whenever possible.

06
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Extensions, Apps, Themes - What Is the Difference?

Chrome Web Store
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As mentioned earlier, the Chrome Web Store divides their offerings into four basic categories: 

  • Apps
  • Games
  • Extensions
  • Themes

Let's wrap this up by defining the terms. 

Chrome apps are downloaded programs that use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to deliver some sort of interactive experience. Chrome apps are packaged and downloaded. They can run on any platform that can run a Chrome browser, and they're the only way to write apps for the Chrome OS. The Chrome Web store also includes websites under this category. 

Games are, well, games. It's a popular enough subcategory of app that it warrants a separate browsing category. 

Extensions are smaller programs that modify to your Chrome browser rather than running a standalone app. They use the same tools as apps (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) but the focus is on making the browser work better. 

Themes modify the appearance of your browser, usually by adding background images and changing the color of the menu bar and other interface elements. Themes are a great way to show your personality.