Upgrade your Web Surfing Experience with Browser Extensions
When the ARPANET project, the first successful version of a widely connected network, was conceived in 1966, no one could have imagined how big the online world would become. For years, in fact, the internet wasn’t even available to the masses. When the internet opened up to the public in the 1990s, the first browser was born.
The earliest browsers, Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, and Internet Explorer, for example, offered exciting doors to the world wide web. They were, however, simple in comparison to the browsers we use today. Today, the most popular browsers include Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and the dominant Google Chrome. Chrome users account for the majority of internet users. While mobile and application-specific usage dominate (in terms of usage), users still depend on powerful browsers for a lot of core internet functionality.
Early browsers offered a simple, convenient way to hop onto the internet. Nowadays, browsers come with a lot of tools and features that are making them powerful beyond the greatest aspirations of those early iterations. One can only dream of what browsers may be capable of in the future. For now, browsers offer us a complete internet exploration experience. We can run dozens of tabs at once, review years’ worth of browsing history, bookmark and organize all of our favorite web pages, or automatically pull in passwords and payment information into online shopping experiences. But one innovation has granted internet users endless features and functionality to accomplish almost anything they desire: browser extensions.
What are browser extensions?
The first versions of browser extensions have existed for decades but only recently have we seen the level of functionality in the selection of browsers available today. A browser extension is an additional piece of software that attaches (which is why they are referred to as add-ons or plug-ins) to your browser to allow a customized browsing experience.
Because browser extensions are usually third-party apps created by specialized developers, their popularity has exploded. With the introduction of app stores, their variety and depth of features have only grown. Some extensions merely expand on the functionality of a browser while others incorporate external apps or services into a browser you’re using.
Why use browser extensions?
Because the internet is an experience that offers endless possibilities, it’s unlikely that an out-of-the-box browser will have everything that you need for the browsing experience you crave. For example, you may be interested in trading cryptocurrency. Instead of visiting your favorite cryptocurrency exchange a dozen times a day to monitor the fluctuating prices of your investments, you seek out a browser extension to help. You find a price-tracking browser extension that customizes your browser so that you see the prices of your favorite coins updating in real-time at the top of your screen.
There’s really no limit to what’s possible with a browser extension though. They enable a host of capabilities including spell-checking, saving passwords, blocking distractions from popular social media websites, capturing a screenshot, automatically finding discount codes on shopping websites, one-click integration to cloud storage, displaying news as a ticker, and many more options.
Browser extensions are a good addition for anyone looking to improve their browsing experience. They integrate seamlessly with your browser. They’re becoming increasingly powerful and capable and developers work hard to continually improve their end use case. What kind of browser extensions can you find? Chrome users can access tons of browser extensions on the Chrome Web Store.
What can you use a browser extension for?
Interested in customizing your browser experience but not sure where to start? Well, start with the problems or limitations you’re experiencing with your browsing experience. What kind of additional features would you like to see out of your browser? Start there because there’s probably an extension available for you. Looking for a way to see who has viewed your recent email sent through Gmail? Want to take a screenshot of an entire webpage, top to bottom? Want to block all images on a website so you can view a website as text only? Want to block time-wasting websites? Want to automatically adjust your browser’s color scheme for your own optimal viewing? There are browser extensions for all of these issues.
One only has to Google the problem they want to solve and include “browser extension” into their query to find the right solution in the form of an extension that they can download and use instantly.
What browser extensions are popular today?
Here are some of the most popular browser extensions available across a number of use cases:
- Grammarly: A spelling and grammar checking tool
- MetaMask: A browser-integrated cryptocurrency wallet
- BlockSite: A customizable website blocker to improve productivity
- Loom: A screen-recording software built into an extension
- Google Translate: Google’s powerful translation tool integrated into your browser
- Honey: A discount code finder
- Colorblind: An extension to make websites more accessible to colorblind people
- LastPass: An award-winning password manager
- Hunter: An extension to help you find email addresses associated with any website
- Speedtest by Ookla: An internet speed test service built into your browser
- OneTab: A way to reduce too many tabs and too little memory and space
- Start.me: An extension to convert every New Tab page into a customized dashboard
How do I download and use browser extensions?
Know what you want but are not sure what to do next? Here’s a little guide to help you start using browser extensions. Luckily, Google has made the process very simple. For these directions, we’ll focus on the Chrome Web Store for browser extensions. This is, after all, the best place to find browser extensions for Chrome users. Directions to download and use browser extensions from individual websites vary and depend on each website.
To download browser extensions from the Chrome Web Store, head to the store’s main page and select Extension from the menu on the left-hand side. Depending on how frequently you’ve used the Chrome Web Store for Extensions, you may see a selection of browser extensions recommended for you based on previous extensions downloaded and used. Otherwise, you’ll find the most popular browser extensions populated and you can explore which of those are optimal for you.
Alternatively, you can use the Search bar to find what you’re looking for. You can search for the specific browser extension name or the problem you are facing. Either way, you’ll find a ton of results.
How to install extensions:
- Once you select the browser extension you’re interested in, head to the extension’s dedicated page on the Chrome Web Store. There you’ll find an overview of the browser extension, its ratings, reviews, number of users, and more.
- In the top right corner, select the button that says “Add to Chrome”. This will both download and install the extension automatically to your Chrome browser.
- A confirmation pop-up window will display. When you see this, click Add Extension to confirm your download and installation.
- To enable or use the browser extension you just downloaded and installed, select the Extensions button (the one that looks like a puzzle piece) on Chrome’s toolbar. This will open up your entire library of extensions.
How to manage extensions:
- Click on whatever extension you want to enable or you can manage the extensions by clicking on the More Actions option (the three vertical dots).
- From the dropdown menu after selecting More Actions, you’ll find various options for your extension including an option to remove the extension. Removing an extension is a good choice if you’re no longer using it. It can free up space and minimize your overall browsing experience.
- If you’d simply like to enable or disable the extension, a better option is to click on the extension’s icon.
- An additional option featured in the Extensions dropdown menu is the ability to pin or unpin your preferred browser extensions to your browser’s toolbar. This is a great option for the customization of your preferred extension usage.
As you can see, getting started with browser extensions is easy, yet these simple tools offer a powerful way to optimize your browsing experience.
Disclaimer: Running browser extensions and enabling permissions to run on every website may cause security issues. Browser extensions may track every page you visit, download your passwords, your personal information, and may leave you vulnerable to viruses and malware.
*The opinions reflected in this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect any official positions or claims by Acer Inc.
About Alex Clark: Alex is a contributing writer for Acer. Alex is a Texas-based writer and B2B email marketing strategist specializing in helping technology brands connect to their customers. He has lived all over Asia and has consulted with business clients in numerous industries to grow their brands.