6 extensions that help supercharge my Chromebook

Acer C7 Chromebook

Has it really been six months that I’ve been a full-time Chromebook user? Indeed it has, based on Amazon, which says I ordered the laptop on June 8. So why has my MacBook Air been collecting dust (GASP!) for half of 2012? Mainly because the Chrome OS is precisely no more and no less than what I need for all of my computing needs, save two. When I record videos or podcasts for work, I turn to a desktop computing platform and fire up the Mac.

What helps extend Chrome OS is support for web extensions. Here are a few of the more useful ones I turn to on a regular basis. The best part: All of these work with the Chrome browser too, so you don’t need a Chromebook to use use then. While many extensions are simply shortcuts to web sites or apps, these have become my go-to extensions:

ClearlyClearly by Evernote (install). I’ve long used Evernote’s cloud service to store ideas, images and general information. It’s no surprise to me that the company recently picked up $85 million in funding for enterprise workers to do the same. With the Clearly extension, it’s easy to clip items from the web and have them available on every other device I own. But that’s not what I use it for. Instead, with one button tap, the web extension clears all the clutter from any web page and presents it in an easy-to-read format, much like the Reader function does in Apple’s Safari browser. Evernote Premium subscribers can even use Clearly to read web content aloud in one of 21 languages.

Pocket (install). This web-clipping service certainly overlaps with Evernote, but I simply like the presentation of web pages better, especially on my mobile devices. The former Read It Later service became Pocket and with its cross-platform support, I generally use it on my Chromebook to send pages to the cloud for later reading on my iPad mini or Galaxy Note 2 smartphone. It’s simple to use too: Just tap the extension button when viewing any web page and you’re done. Once the page is sent to your Pocket account, you can add tags for aiding in content organization.

Save to Google Drive (install). This one is relatively new, having just been added by Google recently. But boy is it useful for a Chromebook user; especially someone who recently joined the Chromebook team and got 100 GB of Google Drive storage included with their laptop purchase. This extension that adds a button to save web page links, documents and even media files appears in a right-click context menu, making it easy to save local storage space on your Chromebook.

AnyDO extensionAny.DO (install). I previously reviewed the Any.DO task management app and since it’s effective and works on all of my devices, I still use it. The Any.DO web extension brings my tasks to the Chromebook, allowing me to see what I need to be working on next. The extension syncs tasks and reminders to my other devices so I don’t have to manage tasks differently depending on what phone or tablet I happen to be using when away from the Chromebook.

Send using Gmail (install). Google has its own official extension that I was using to send links over email, but I replaced it with this instead for one simple reason: I wanted to save space on the Chromebook. Instead of having yet another web extension button, this handy bit of code adds an option to “Email this page address” without a button. To access it, just use a two-finger tap on your Chromebook trackpad when viewing a web page and you’ll see the option in a pop-up menu. Choose it, add your recipients and hit send. Note that this extension places occasional ads on your web pages, but you can disable them in the settings.

Awesome Screenshot: Capture and Annotate (install). The Chrome OS has built-in screen capture and image editing features but I find this extension to better fit my workflow. It also provides more options: You can capture a selected area of the screen, for example. And it’s simple to mark up an image or annotate it prior to saving. The only issue I have with this extension is that you manually have to right-click to save your captured image. There is a native option to save an image locally, but it doesn’t seem to work on the Chrome OS.

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Of course, these extensions help me focus on what I use my Chromebook for: Mostly web browsing and blogging at work. (OK, I admit I have the Facebook extension installed too.) But the Chrome extension site likely has something for everyone these days. And although many people consider living in a browser too limiting an environment — for some it surely is — these extensions can help turn Chrome OS into more than just a browser.

Got any favorite extensions for Chromebooks or the Chrome browser? Drop them in the comments and I’ll take a look!

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