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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Top 10 Google Chrome Extensions

Top 10 Google Chrome Extensions

The Google Chrome Extensions Gallery was launched less than a week ago and it's starting to look like things are going smoothly. It had 300 extensions when it debuted and now has more than 600 extensions. What's more, the most popular extension, Google Mail Checker, is now closing in on 200,000 downloads and has more than 1,000 reviews, not too bad for just a few days. So, without further ado, here are the top ten most popular extensions so far.

10. AdBlock. Unsurprisingly, a couple of the most popular extensions are ad blockers, by far one of the most appreciated type of add-ons for Firefox. AdBlock, despite sharing the name with a great Firefox add-on, doesn't seem to have any connection to it. It does what it's supposed to do, blocks ads, and the developers say it handles Facebook ads, as well as Flash animations. It has a “blacklist” and a “whitelist” feature, both of which are still in beta and allow users to select the blocked items with a couple of keyboard shortcuts.

9. Cooliris. This is the Google Chrome version of the popular desktop application with the same name. It offers an interesting alternative to viewing photos by using a gorgeous 3D interface, which the developers claim is the fastest way to browse through photos on Facebook, Picasa or even on your desktop but also through image search results on Google, Flickr and others. Unfortunately, this extension is Windows-only for the moment though Cooliris states other OSes will be supported soon with a Mac extension apparently in the works.

8. Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer. Built by Google, this extension is a great tool that should save you a lot of hassle and the trouble of having to install, sometimes huge, applications just to view a PDF file. With it, any link to a PDF or PowerPoint file opens up in a new tab in the lightweight but very capable Google Docs Viewer. No more unwieldy plug-in or external programs, people who want to keep it nice and clean will love this one.

7. Xmarks Bookmark Sync. The popular bookmarks synchronization add-on for Firefox, formerly known as Foxmarks, makes it to Google Chrome. It is already available for Safari and Internet Explorer and for users who want to take their bookmarks anywhere they go and, more importantly, to any browser they want, there's no replacing it.

6. IE Tab. A rather self-explanatory extension, it allows users to open a new tab in Chrome using the Internet Explorer rendering engine. This comes in handy for older sites that don't support other browsers, not that there are that many of those around, or which may not render well in Chrome. It's also useful for web developers wanting to test their work in IE.

5. RSS Subscription Extension. This little tool, made by Google, does exactly what it's intended and nothing else. It ads a small icon in the Chrome omnibox every time a feed is detected on a page, very similar to how Firefox handles the same job. Clicking on it will display the feed and allow you to subscribe to it in any popular feed reader. It's not exactly perfect; it sometimes fails to fetch the feed even though it detects it. Also, if you use it with Google Reader, it doesn't automatically subscribe you to the feed, it just opens it in Reader requiring an extra step. This may be a limitation with Reader though rather than the extension.

4. Google Wave Notifier. A simple extension with a self-explanatory name. It adds a small icon to the Chrome toolbar, which shows the number of unread Waves, if any. There are a few customization options and clicking on the icon will pop up a small preview of the wave. Considering that Wave notifications were among the most requested features, it really doesn't have to do anything else to be very popular and useful.

3. Google Translate. This one is an absolute must-have. Built by the Translate team, it doesn't try to be flashy or flood the user with options. It just works; visit any site that isn't using the default language set in Chrome and the extension will detect the new language and offer to translate the page into your native language. Click the translate button and, in a few seconds, the speed at which the translated page loads is impressive, you're done. If it fails to automatically detect the language, you can click on the button in the toolbar and optionally select the language in which you want the translation.

2. AdThwart. The second most popular Chrome extension at the moment is another ad blocker. For the most part, it works pretty much like AdBlock and most ads will be gone if you enable it. You can add your own custom filters and, a nice touch, it has a notification icon that shows up in the omnibox every time a page has items blocked. Unfortunately, ad blockers, for now, aren't on par with the ones for Firefox though this seems to be a limitation in the way Chrome handles extensions. The biggest drawback is that all the ads are loaded and even displayed for a brief period before the page finishes loading and only then the ad blockers, both in the top 10, come in and remove them.

1. Google Mail Checker. Finally, the most popular extension at the moment, with a solid lead and very close to 200,000 users. Google Mail Checker, not to be confused with Gmail Checker, is built by Google and has been around for a while, before the extensions gallery opened its doors. It's simplicity at its finest; all it does is to add a button to the Chrome toolbar with a small number beside it showing the number of unread emails. Clicking on it opens up Gmail in a new tab and that's it. Maybe a preview or the name of the sender would have been a nice touch and maybe we'll get that in a future version but, for now, things are kept to a minimum, not that there's anything wrong with that.

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