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Customize Chrome for Better Browsing

Google Chrome has only had extensions available for a few months, but it already has a great collection of add-ons that will boost your browsing experience. We look at a handful of extensions that let you manage tabs effectively, learn more about the sites you browse, and read feeds with panache.

After only a few months, Chrome is cruising towards the 3,000 extensions mark. Google Chrome literally has thousands of extensions to choose from, but deciding isn’t easy. If you’re getting started with Chrome extensions, we have a few suggestions to help you manage tabs, read feeds with speed, and put your favorite sites on Speed Dial.

TooManyTabs

If you’re like me, after a few hours you have way too many tabs open to keep track of easily. You find pages you’d like to save or refer to later, or have tabs open for Web applications you use throughout the day — but maybe not very frequently.

However it happens, when you find yourself with too many tabs to handle, use TooManyTabs. While there’s a joke somewhere about the TooManyTabs name lacking spaces (get it? Tabs and spaces?), the extension itself is not laughable at all. In fact, it’s very powerful and visually attractive.

TooManyTabs Showing Chrome Tabs
TooManyTabs Showing Chrome Tabs

TooManyTabs lets you see all of the tabs open in a Chrome window at a glance, and even allows you to make a tab inactive but store it for later use. If you restart Chrome, the tabs that are suspended will still be saved in TooManyTabs for you to open again. The TooManyTabs window lets you sort tabs by date created, alphabetical order, or by domain name. Note that TooManyTabs is slightly limited on Linux and Mac OS X in that it can only display tabs for the current window, whereas TooManyTabs on Windows can display tabs from all open Chrome windows.

Firefox users can also get some Tab love with a TooManyTabs add-on for Firefox. It doesn’t operate quite the same way, but is also very useful.

TabJump

You can never have too much fun with Tabs, which is why I’m also enjoying TabJump. It’s from the creators of TooManyTabs, and has a few features you don’t get from TMT. After installing TabJump, you’ll get a arrow icon in the Omnibar (the combo search box and location bar) that pulls up a three-column dialog. Here you’ll see tabs that you’ve closed recently, “related” tabs, and tabs you’ve used a lot.

The related tabs are tabs that TabJump thinks are associated with the page you’re viewing in the current tab. So, for instance, in the screenshot here it’s grouping the three Woot pages I have open in Chrome.

TabJump Showing the Goods
TabJump Showing the Goods

The reason I particularly like TabJump is that it adds the ability to “undo” closing a tab. So when I accidentally close the wrong tab, I can quickly recover it. It doesn’t get the entire tab history back, but at least it can recover the most recent page from any given tab. The frequently used collection of tabs can also be useful for quickly jumping between pages you use a lot.

Feedly

Google Reader is far and away my favorite feed reader, but that’s not to say that the interface couldn’t do with a bit of improvement. Google Reader is fast, it’s easy to use, but the interface could do with a sprucing up. And that’s exactly what the Feedly folks have done. Install the Feedly Chrome (or Firefox) extension, and you’ll see Reader in a whole new light. Feedly turns your subscriptions into a “magazine-like” page. It displays “featured” posts and allows you to skim through sources quickly and easily.

In addition to Google Reader, Feely also integrates with Twitter, Flickr, and other sources. You can easily share posts from your feeds via Twitter, Google Buzz, Delicious, Facebook, Tumbler, and others. It also integrates with Evernote, so you can clip posts for future reference.

Once Feedly is installed, it can be customized by browsing to http://www.feedly.com/home#preferences. This will let you tell Feedly which view method to start in, whether you’d like to use top or left navigation (or let Feedly decide based on your browser dimensions), and other goodies.

Feedly’s Explore feature can help you find new feeds to subscribe to. The Feedly interface blows Google Reader right out of the water. It’s much more user friendly and visually intuitive. It provides a better preview of sites and is all-around more enjoyable to use. You might think an add-on works with another Web service would be prone to lagginess, but Feely is as snappy and responsive as Google Reader in my experience.

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