Want to know a great way to amp your productivity, keep your computer safe, and become a badass?
Stop using Internet Explorer.
Of course, for most of you, this statement doesn’t really apply. According to my analytics data, most CIG readers use Google Chrome – which is awesome. Chrome is my absolute favorite web browser, and for good reason – its combination of speed, clean interface, and awesome features make it hard to beat.
My favorite thing about Chrome, though, is the zillions of apps and extensions available for it. True, Firefox also has lots of extensions (maybe more) – however, Chrome doesn’t make you restart the browser every time you install one. For that reason, I put it ahead of Firefox in the add-ons department.
Anyone can make a Chrome extension (heck, I built one), so there are plenty of new ones showing up every day. This is a double edged sword: one one hand, this means that there are lots of great ones coming out, but it also means that there’s lots of crap to sift through.
I’d like to spare you the time it takes to sift through all that crap. Here are 16 superb Chrome extensions that I think every student can benefit from. Of course, these aren’t the only good ones, so if you use one that I haven’t listed here and think we should hear about it, leave a comment!
Alright, let’s get down to it.
AdBlock is the best Chrome extension ever. It blocks any and all ads, whether they be banner ads, pop-up ads, or even adds in YouTube videos.
It’s a somewhat sad fact of life that content doesn’t pay for itself. Because of this, sites have to advertise in order to make money. However, plastering a site with a zillion banner ads really isn’t a good way to do it. If you’re like me, you hardly ever click on banner ads, so they basically just clutter up websites for no reason.
Using AdBlock will not only get rid of all those ads cluttering up the page, but it will also significantly speed up your web browsing. Since the ads aren’t given the chance to load, the sites you visit will finish loading quicker.
If you only get one Chrome extension, make it AdBlock.
LastPass has absolutely revolutionized the way I manage my online accounts. Before I discovered it, I had maybe three or four passwords that I used around the internet. Now, that’s certainly better than having only one password for everything – but it’s still insecure.
Today, I have a different password for almost every site I use. On the more important sites, my passwords 20+ character strings of random letters, numbers, and symbols. I don’t even know some of them (including the password to College Info Geek itself).
That’s because LastPass makes it so easy to log in to my sites. If I have a site saved in my vault, the extension will automatically populate the username and password fields whenever I want to log in. If, for some reason, the fields aren’t automatically populated (or I have multiple accounts at that site), I can use the handy toolbar button to copy the password to my clipboard.
Thanks to LastPass, my online security is now a lot tighter, and I can log in to all the sites I visit much faster.
If you’re interested in switching to manager like LastPass, I do have a few tips you should heed:
- Regularly back up your Vault to your local computer using LastPass Pocket (find it at the bottom of this page), just in case the shit hits the fan someday
- Make sure you never forget your LastPass password – but make it very hard to guess. Throw in numbers and symbols, shift your hand to the right or left to scramble it, whatever.
- Make sure you never forget your main email password, as this is where you’ll do password resets if shit ever hits the fan. Consider leaving your email password out of your LastPass Vault as well.
If you want further info, Martin wrote a great article about using a password manager, as well as other tips for managing your online security.
In Studying and the Theory of Constraints, I wrote about a productivity technique called the 10-Minute Study Sprint. Also known as the Pomodoro Technique, it basically involves setting a timer for a specified amount of time and doing nothing but the task at hand for that time. It’s a great technique that can really help if you’re having trouble getting started on a big, ugly project.
But, see, sometimes Reddit is even stronger than your resolve to stick to the Pomodoro Technique. Damn Reddit…
(436 minutes go by)
Shit, where was I? Oh yeah, Pomodoro Technique.
Strict Pomodoro is an extension that keeps sites like Reddit from distracting you when you’re trying to do a Pomodoro session. When it’s enabled, there’s a 25-minute period where you have to focus, and then a 5-minute break period. After that, you can repeat the process.
The extension keeps you productive by blocking sites. You choose to blacklist the most distracting sites, such as Facebook and Reddit, or you can choose to whitelist certain sites and block everything else. The whitelist option is probably the best unless you’re working on a project that involves a lot of online research.
StayFocused is another extension that boosts your productivity by blocking distracting websites. However, it does things a little differently than Strict Pomodoro.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents would only let you play your Playstation for an hour a day? I sure do. That sucked…
This extension works on the same principle. It gives you a certain amount of time you can spend on distracting websites each day; once you’ve used that time up, they’re blocked for the rest of the day. This is really useful for sites like Reddit, which are great for getting your daily news for 15 minutes or so, but can easily suck you in for hours at a time.
Whereas Strict Pomodoro is great for when you’re actively working on a project, StayFocused keeps you from generally being a bum online.
There are plenty of times during the day that I want to take a screenshot and quickly share it with a friend or save it. Lightshot lets me do that easily. The extension ads a button to my toolbar, which lets me define an area in the browser and take a screenshot.
Once the screenshot is taken, I can choose to save it, copy it to the clipboard, or upload it and copy the link to share. I can also edit it online if I want to add annotations.
As an added benefit, Lightshot displays the dimension of the box you draw. I use this to measure elements online when I’m designing things. This feature may not be as useful to you if you’re not a designer, but it doesn’t hurt!
This is a simple extension that just generates a Bit.ly link for the page you’re currently on. It also grabs the title of the page as well.
I use this a lot for when I want to share links to friend in Facebook chat, as it’s kind of annoying to paste a huge, long link in the chat box. It’s can also be useful for Twitter, though not really necessary now that Twitter uses t.co to automatically shorten links.
Alright, so the idea behind this extension is just cool and I have to post it.
Memorize! is an extension that makes you study even when you’re wasting time on Reddit or Facebook. Yup, you heard that right.
Basically, you enter a list of questions and answers for whatever you need to study. Then, the extension will pop up at specified time intervals to ask you a question. Questions will be asked until you’re able to answer all of them, or you manually stop the extension. This is such an awesome concept.
So, I’ve mentioned Reddit a lot in this article. I spend way, way too much time on it, to be honest.
If you’re like me, then the least you can do is cruise Reddit in style. The Reddit Enhancement Suite adds a ton of great functionality to Reddit, including:
- A button to view images and videos right in Reddit, instead of having to go to the actual site. (this button also lets you read a text posting without actually going to its page, but not the comments)
- A box that lets you preview how your comment will look as you’re writing it
- An instant account switcher – really handy if you have multiple accounts
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Awesome comment navigation
- Never Ending Reddit – just scroll down to see the next page, instead of clicking on it
These are just a few of RES’s features – there are a ton more. You can also check out the dedicated RES subreddit to leave feedback or talk to other users.
This is a really useful extension that’s handy if you don’t want to open a bunch of programs just to view things.
All it does is automatically open PDF and Powerpoint links in Google Docs. If you don’t want to waste time downloading PowerPoint presentations that you just want to view, then this will be really useful to you. If you have a professor that posts lots of Powerpoint slides online, this can save you from having to download them all.
Of course, you can customize which types of documents this extension handles. I turned its PDF handling function, but left the PowerPoint function on.
Ever wish that you could customize the look of your favorite sites? Well, you actually can.
Stylebot lets you apply custom CSS to any website. Once you make your changes, you can save them and they’ll stick for as long as you leave them there.
Stylebot is also insanely useful if you’re a web designer. Just like with Firebug, you can use it to edit CSS on the fly when you’re trying to position web elements just right. It’s saved me untold hours of CSS tweaking.
If you’re not familiar with CSS (which you could be, using the resources at the end of my website building guide), then you can use the built-in tools to change basic things like borders and fonts. You can also apply custom scripts other people have written over at StyleBot Social.
Remember when I mentioned I built a Chrome extension of my own? Well, this is it!
Evil Ex Profile Warning spawned out of a joke picture College Candy posted to their Facebook page. Basically, the picture displayed a warning box that would pop up if you tried to view your ex’s profile on Facebook.
I left a joking comment to the effect of:
I could build this in an hour.
Well, they challenged me to do it, and I did it. Then they wrote about it.
Hey look, another extension that modifies Facebook for the better. Whereas my extension just keeps you off of your ex’s profile, this one keeps from being on Facebook itself for too long.
It doesn’t block the website, or make any annoying pop-ups come up. Nope. All it does is put the Courage Wolf in the background of your News Feed. Every time you go on Facebook, you’ll have that wolf staring right back at you, silently asking you:
Why aren’t you doing something useful right now?
This extension actually works for me. There are times that I’ll just ignore it, but usually I’ll notice the wolf and be reminded that I should be wasting time.
Facebook Courage Wolf is the official extension of the GetMotivated subreddit.
Vimium turns Chrome into a hacker’s browser. It basically lets you operate the entire browser using keyboard shortcuts, which saves you time and makes you look like an internet badass in the process. I’ve written about Vimium before. Check out this video I made about it:
This is an awesome extension if you’re looking to get a job at a certain company. WhoWorks.At leverages LinkedIn to find people in your network who work at the website you’re currently on.
Want to get a job at Facebook? Just go to Facebook and click the extension’s toolbar button. A dialogue will come up showing you the people in your network who work there. If you don’t have an 1st-level connections working at the site you’re on, the extension will display 2nd and 3rd-level connections.
You can use this to do some really laser-targeted networking and get your foot in the door at an awesome company.
For me, Google Dictionary is absolutely essential. I’m a writer, so I can’t afford to look stupid by using the wrong words. I mean, how dumb would I look if, say, I used the word “patronize” when I really meant to use “lambast”? Snooki-tier dumb. (also, this is an inside joke.)
Google Dictionary makes my life easier. If I want to know the definition of a word, all I have to do is double click it and a popup will show me the definition. Couldn’t be easier.
16. Hover Zoom
So, we’ve established that you probably shouldn’t be spending too much time on Facebook. You may even have a wolf in your background reminding you to get off of it.
However, for the small amounts of time that you are using it, why not make it better?
One thing I’ve always wanted to do is look at certain pictures, but not have to sift through a ton of others to get to them. Hover Zoom enables this. It’s a really simple extension; all it does is bring up a full-size version of the picture you’re hovering over. Now you can do your creeping even more lazily.
Nicely enough, Hover Zoom also works on tons of other sites including:
- lots of others
Props go to reader Sean Hofer for suggesting this as a better replacement for FB Photo Zoom, which I had listed here previously.
Do you know of any other awesome Chrome extensions we should be aware of? Tell us about them in the comments!
Did you find some useful new tools from this article? Want to give back a little? I’d love it if you used one of the buttons in the sidebar to share this post! It only takes a couple seconds (heck, the Facebook button probably takes less than one second), and it helps other students find College Info Geek. Thanks!!!
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