12th Feb 2013
For most people, the most used software on their PCs is the browser. As life gets increasingly online, web applications are becoming common place too (think Google Drive). Since there is no perfect browser out there, and neither can there be a browser which is all things to all people (the result will be a very heavy and unstabe software), feature enhancements are done via add-ons (or extensions, plugins, as they are called). Such add-ons abound, but here's a list of five that I think most Internet users benefit from.
Xmarks: It is a cloud-based service to synchronize your browser experience across multiple computers and browsers. It can sync bookmarks, open tabs, passwords and browsing history; and store them on its servers in an encrypted form. It has been acquired by LastPass, and you need to sign into your account on all computers / browsers you use wish to synchronise.
Adblock Plus (ABP) : This is one of the most popular extensions out there, and it is not hard to see why. ABP can block ads (text/scripts/Flash), thus making webpages look cleaner and also save bandwidth for the user. Now, if one want to support a favourite website's ad-revenue by just letting the ads display, it is possible add websites to an exception list.
[This tool works by looking though a list of common ad URLs (which are most often outside the website you are visiting) and blocking content from such URLs. There is a large community that contributes to and uses filter lists]
Tab Menu: Tab Menu provides a vertical tabs menu accessible from the toolbar. You can then select, close, rearrange, and search your tabs from a toolbar menu. The problem it addresses is that of labels in the Tab bar shrinking to accomodate greater number of tabs, as you open them.
Video DownloadHelper: How often have you wanted to just save a YouTube video to watch later? This simple add-on allows you to do just that (and it works on many other video sharing sites). It also extracts audio and picture galleries from webpages. You can set it to auto-convert to a specified video format.
Facebook Toolbar: This one's for the social networking junkies to bring Facebook to their browser's toolbar and have speedier FB interactions. This extension lets you search Facebook anytime, directly receive notifications, communicate with friends, upload photos and share the webpage you're viewing - all from the toolbar (which means you can do all of this while seeing any website, not necessarily with the Facebook tab open).
As a thumb rule, you can assume that most popular extensions are available for both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome If you like any, and can afford to, you may want to contribute to the author's donation basket (these add-ons are free to download, so, the contribution is a token of gratitude, rather than a fee).
(Imaging by Arun Shankar, Trivone Digital Media Services)