Cool Browser Add-ons to Make Your Surfing Life Easier

Courtesy of Pixabay
By Hector Cisneros

As part of my function as COO and Social Media Director for Working the Web to Win, I get to write a lot of articles for our audience. It is our philosophy that to rank high in organic search; you have to provide your audience with the highest quality, relevant, timely and useful content. To achieve this goal, I am always on the lookout for tools that can help me improve our blog and my writing in general. What if I told you that there are lots of free and low-cost browser add-ons that could make an impact on the quality of your work? Well in this episode of Working the Web to Win, I’m going to cover just such browser plugin and extensions (aka add-ons). So, get ready to head to your online browser store to get your hands on these super helpful tools as we explore my latest top browser plugin picks for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.


Most users take their browsers for granted. If you’re an Apple user you probably use Safari, if you are an Android user, you probably use Chrome, and if your more privacy, conscience or anti-Google, you may use Firefox, Microsoft IE or Edge. You know, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of browsers on the market, just check out Google Play apps and you will see what I mean. In the past, we have written about the importance of which browser is the dominant player and which one you choose to use every day. We have also written about how your browser choice affects your privacy, utility, integration, and security. Browsers are the bread and butter of online life. They are necessities and directly affect our productivity.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I got the idea for writing this article when I had discovered a new plugin that allowed me to have my browser “read to me.” It allowed me to highlight part or all of the current web page and then it would read the text out loud. My initial thought was to write about my favorite plugins, but reality soon kicked in when I realized I had dozens of favorites and my article would turn into a book instead of a blog post. On top of that, there are a dozen main categories, (accessibility, Blogging, By Google, Developers Tools, Fun, News & Weather, Photos, productivity, Search, shopping, Social & Communications and Sports) and thousands of extensions. So, I decided to mention some of my favorites along with how to pick the right plugins for your needs.

How to Evaluate Plugins and Extensions
We have written about Apps for smart devices and how to select them in the past.  Even though Apps differ from plugins and Extensions substantially, their selection process isn’t all that different.  Read our articles called; How to Safely Whet Your Appetite for Smartphone Apps and Best Free and Safe Apps for Apple and Android. Here are a baker’s dozen rules to help you select the right browser add-ons for your needs.

  1. Start by considering your needs and then make sure it fulfills that need
  2. Who built the app? – Research the author and company.
  3. How long has it been out? – The longer, the better.
  4. How many downloads does it have? – Large numbers in the thousands are best.
    Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  5. What is the ratio of good to bad reviews? – You want at least a 70/30 split here.
  6. What is its overall rating? - I never download a plugin with less than a 4 rating
  7. Check the plugins management setting – If it can access your data it will.
  8. Only download plugins from either the Apple store or Google Play Store.
  9. Avoid downloading compress files from 3rd party website, these aren’t always scanned.
  10. Did you research the plugin by doing a Google search on it?
  11.  Is the plugin listed on forensic blog – Current android malware list.
  12. Make sure you have an antimalware application running to protect your device?
  13. Don’t be afraid to install, test, disable and remove add-ons as they do affect performance.

Apps vs. Plug-ins vs. Extensions
Courtesy of Flickr
The coolest thing about most browsers is they not only evolve; they can be upgraded and enhanced with browser add-ons (plugins and extensions). But in case you don’t know the difference between an app, a plugin or a browser extension, lets cover these items just to clarify their important differences.

What Constitutes an App?
First off, an app is usually classified as a standalone application that can run on a smartphone, tablet or computing device. It is not an add-on to any browser. It works independently of your browser.  An excellent article that delves into these tools in depth is linked here.

What is a plugin?
Courtesy of Flickr
A plugin is a third-party code that is “added” to your browser and interacts with embedded code on a web page using <embed> tags or <object> tags.  They can do many types of useful things like draw pictures, produce animation and the like.  Many use JavaScript, although that is not required. In brief, plugins affect only a specific web page where it can interact with its related <embed> or <object> Tags. Examples include:
  • Macromedia Flash
  • Microsoft Silverlight 
  • Apple Quicktime 
  • Adobe Reader
Some plugins use objects also called mimes. This is what an Adobe reader plugin does. It allows you to view a PDF file in your browser. A plugin must either work with mime type data on a web page, or it must interact with embed code on a web page. They don’t create toolbars, browser menus or add tabs. They only affect web pages with the specific data type that they were coded to interact with.

What are Extensions?
Courtesy of Flickr
Extensions, can “add many features to your browser.  A browser extension can add new features and usually you will see an added button, tab or dropdown added to the menu of your browser. These extensions can process pages that the browser loads. They do all sorts of things, including; download files, extract and capture data, translate one language to another, read the page to you, check the page for threats and so much more. An Extension affects the web browser itself, not the web page. 

To make things more confusing, extensions can have a plugin inside it. An easy way to figure out which type of add-ons you're using is - to look in the drop-down section of your browser (for example in Firefox) and select “Add-ons” from the upper right menu. There you will see the “Get Add-ons, Extensions, Themes, Plugins and Legacy Extensions.” Chrome no longer uses plugins, but the extensions can be found by clicking on the “More Tools” function in its menu. There you can view all the extensions that have been added to Chrome. All browsers give you access to the Add-ons that you install. For example; Safari gives you access by clicking on the menu (sprocket in the upper right-hand corner) followed by clicking on “Preferences.” Once in Preferences, you would select Extension and so on. The same is true for Microsoft Edge, where you would click on the menu and then select “Extensions.”

My Current Top Picks - Examples of My Favorite Add-ons:
In this section, I will mention and provide links to several add-ons that I like using. I don’t always leave these add-ons running.  In fact, most of them can be temporarily disabled to improve the performance or settle compatibility issues. Most of the following add-ons are all for Chrome, but many of their equivalent counterparts are available for other browsers.

Courtesy of Flickr
I will start by mentioning the ones I like in the “Security category.” If you have purchased an antivirus/malware program, you should also have a browser add-on for that product as well. Make sure you turn these products on and use them. Trend, Advanced System Care, and most antivirus/malware programs come with their own browser add-ons. I also use Web of Trust to prescreen websites. Use them; they can offer a needed layer of protection. Along these same lines, you might want to look at VPN an Onion router plugins as they can increase privacy.
If you hate Ads and popups, I recommend AdGuard AdBlocker and Fair AdBlocker as go-to products. If the autoplay sound from websites and ads irks you, check out Silent Site Sound Blocker, it lets you decide when and how sounds are played.

In the “data Capture” category I like Chrono Download Manager. It allows you to capture and download and manage text, pictures, video, audio files and more. If you use Firefox and want a great video Downloader, check out Video DownloadHelper, it gets the job done. Chrome has a build in PDF print function. However, Firefox uses add-ons to create PDF files. If you are trying to capture complete web pages as PDF files, check out Print Friendly & PDF, Save as PDF, PDF Creator, and PDF Mage. These four add-ons are proven and trustworthy. Speaking of page capture, Firefox now comes with Pocket installed, but you can add it to Chrome by searching in the Chrome Extension store for Save to Pocket here.

Courtesy of Chrome Web Store
In the category of Text to Speech, Readers and Voice Extensions, check out Google Voice, Text to Speech and Read Aloud. I use all three, but if you want a section of a web page read to, you pick  Read Aloud. Along these same lines is Translation software. Check out ImTranslator: Translator, Dictionary, TTS, along with TransOver and Mate Translate – translator, Dictionary. These are top rated and should suit your needs.

If you engage in lots of research for article writing or blogging, check out Wikipedia Search and Search Manager. The Wikipedia Search allows you to use the chrome search bar to look up articles in Wikipedia and Search Manager allows you to switch search engines on the fly to vary the results you get when researching a particular subject.

Courtesy of Chrome Web Store
If you do a lot of writing (as an author, blogger or article writer), then you will be interested in these add-ons. My top Grammar, spell checker, and writing assistant add-ons are Ginger and Grammarly. I use these two products every day. Grammarly is available for both Chrome and Firefox while Ginger only works with Chrome. These products also work with Windows, Microsoft Office and Apple IOS.   

If you want to be able to share web content on your social networks while you’re looking at that web page, take a look at Hootlet. Hootlet is a product from Hootsuite.com. If you manage your own social post or that of several companies, this add-on will be a godsend. It only works with Chrome as far as I know and requires you to have at least a free Hootsuite account to use it. Hootlet can be added to your Firefox Bookmarks and used like and extension as well. I use this add-on to post relevant content on the fly for our clients and our company when I am perusing the web.

If you’re not taking advantage of browser add-ons, you’re missing the boat of additional
Courtesy of Chrome Web Store
productivity, reduced frustration, and ease of use that your browser can provide. Make sure you heed the 12 rules mentioned earlier for selecting browser add-ons and that you have a real need. Adding lots of plugins and Extensions create additional overhead for your browser and computer resources. Having too many add-ons can cause conflicts and performance issues. If you don’t use a particular add-on all the time, disable it. Having said these things, don’t be afraid to download, install and test a few of these. Quality and compatibility are an evolving process and what works well today may not be so good tomorrow (and vice versa). Taking advantage of some of the tools mention in this article will increase your productivity. Ignoring their existence and use will just mean evolving at a slower pace.

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

This article provides details on differences between apps, plugins and browser extensions. It further provides 12 rules for selecting the right browser add-ons and provides several examples of my favorite useful browser add-ons as well. This blog post includes links to other articles and resources for the readers use and further research.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.

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