While many users of Google Chrome use it because it is lightweight and clutter free, the browser experience is only the beginning for this browser. Google has created a powerful ecosystem of extensions for the browser that allow you to do everything from open your Gmail account with one click to integrating with other 3rd party applications like Evernote. The best way to think of Extensions in Google Chrome is that they are mini-applets. They bring a function or feature to the browser that in often cases you have to browse to a site to get. Likewise, they are integration points for 3rd party services to bring them closer to you without having to navigate your PC or the web.
When I started doing the research for this article, I asked many friends who use Google Chrome about extensions and the ones that they used. What I found was very interesting. Mind you, most of these people are “tech savvy”. They use PCs and/or other technologies on a daily basis and, to be fair, Extensions are a bit of a geeky subject. So when I got two common answers (“What are extensions?” or “I thought those were only for Chromebooks”) I decided to clear the air a bit. That’s really the point of this article so if you have ever questions what Google Chrome extensions were and how to enable them, this should point you in the right direction.
Let’s deal with the latter point first: I thought they were only for Chromebooks. 100% false but I can see why people would be confused on this and, frankly, I blame Google somewhat for it. The term “Chrome” in Googlespeak is a bit of a broad term. It refers to a wide range of technologies and solutions including Chromebooks and the Google Chrome browser. Indeed to get extensions you have to go to the Chrome Store. In that store there are apps (mostly for Chromebooks but not 100%), extensions and themes you can use on the browser. The first thing you see though are apps so it makes sense, logically, to assume that they are for Chromebooks too.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about extensions. If you go to the Chrome Store, you will see on the left menu the option to look at Apps, Extensions or Themes. Use the radio button to
select extensions and now you will see all of the extensions available for the Google Chrome browser. You can further filter those extensions by those made by Google, those that are available when you are not connected to the Internet (offline) and so forth. A lot of people get shy about installing extensions from 3rd parties and that is perfectly understandable (and I agree). So if you want to just filter down to those offered by Google themselves, that’s a good place to start.
Once you find an extension you are interesting in seeing, click on it in the store and it will bring up a pop-up window with details around that extension such as what it does, the information it provides, if it is available offline, etc. If you like what you see, click on the blue Add to Chrome button in the upper-right corner of the pop-up. You’ll get a confirmation window to ask if you really want to install it and once you do, it is installed and configured for you in your Google Chrome browser.
Depending on the type of extension you have added, you may see a new icon pop up on your taskbar in the browser. Take a look at the screenshot to the right (of when I was writing this article). Note up in the upper-right corner by my address bar, you see four icons: A bell (for Google+ notifications), a Gmail icon which tells me how many unread Gmail emails I have currently, my
Google Publisher icon which allows me to see how my Adsense revenue is for the day (thank you for clicking those ads!) and a Google Drive icon which with a click allows me to add a webpage to my Google Drive. All of these are extensions that I have added to Google Chrome.
If you download an extension into Google Chrome and decide it is not for you, no problem. Just go to the hamburger menu in Chrome and navigate to Settings>Extensions and you can disable or delete any extension you have installed.
One word of warning about extensions in Google Chrome. They do consume resources. If you look in your Windows Task Manager (Ctrl+Alt+Del then Task Manager), you will see multiple instances of what looks like the browser itself. That’s not the case. There is one for the browser then others for each of the extensions you are running. My point here is be careful. Google Chrome and extensions are actually really efficient about the resources they consume on your PC but they are consuming nevertheless.
As for me, I’ve highlighted for you my favorite extensions in Google Chrome and the ones I use every day. But there are hundreds more to try and if there is something specific you are seeking, chances are there is an extension for it.
Equally, hopefully this clears up any confusion you had around extensions and how you can use them.
I won’t get into Chrome apps because, yeah, that’s a whole other level of confusion! 🙂 (PS, you can run those on a PC too!)