Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add-Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

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image64   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things BetterGoogle Chrome has been my browser of choice for a while now. I like it because it’s fast, and it feels lean (at least until I look at its memory footprint). Unlike most of my applications, Chrome doesn’t make me feel like I need to customize the heck out of it to make it usable.

Still, a recent stroll through the Chrome Web Store revealed an interesting trend. There are more than a few add-ons that don’t add new functionality to Chrome, but instead replace parts of the browser with substitutes that are supposed to be better. Are they really better than the default? Let’s examine three and find out.

Speed Dial 2

Chrome’s default New Tab page keeps getting better; it recently got a selector along the bottom, for switching between apps and most visited. The default looks like this (for me):

image65   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

Pretty fetching, I think. Still, Speed Dial 2 claims it can do much better. Let’s see what it looks like, once installed:

image66   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

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This is a close-up; the whole new tab page looks like this:

image67   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

The section you see on the right (bookmarks and recently closed tabs) only appears when you mouse over it. One thing that’s really striking about Speed Dial 2 is the sheer amount of options you get:

image68   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

This is just an example out of a single tab in the options page. There are dozens of different settings; it can even follow your habits and highlight the sites you’re most likely to visit according to time of day (i.e, open a New Tab page in the afternoon, and it highlights MakeUseOf because you usually go there in the afternoon). That’s a tad on the creepy side, perhaps, but it’s off by default.

Another cool thing  about Speed Dial 2 is that it lets you view the Chrome Apps you’ve got installed alongside your most frequently visited sites, and it’s quite slick about it, too:

image69   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

So, at the top you see my Apps, and at the bottom you see a bookmark. You can also change the sizes, if you prefer the App icons to be larger.

Last but not least, Speed Dial 2 exposes some very cool browsing statistics, as pie charts of the sites you visit the most, and those you visit the most via speed dial.

Final verdict: If you like to fiddle, Speed Dial 2 certainly offers a huge number of options, definitely far more than what Chrome offers by default. With a bit of patience, you can make it into a truly unique and inviting start page.

Better History

Chrome’s default history tab looks like this:

image70   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

And it also lets you do a full-text on pages you’ve visited:

image71   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

Quite nice, on its own. What can Better History offer that would actually be better?

chrome   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

Ooh, now that’s pretty slick. It does look better, and ironically, it meshes better with the style used for Chrome’s settings page:

chrome4   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

That’s Chrome’s built-in settings, just for comparison. I love how the developer took the UI and made it his own – Better History feels more integrated with Chrome than Chrome’s own history view, quite an achievement.

Now, in terms of options, it doesn’t offer quite so many tweaks:

chrome6   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

So you get to clear the history, control how visits are grouped, or leave feedback. Not very exciting. but I’m not sure what else you would need. Visit grouping is handy, and looks like this:

chrome8   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

So if you know you visited some website around 8pm yesterday, you can quickly zoom in on the time and look just at that slice. Also, note the handy Expand button. If you visited more than one page on a given website, all pages are grouped together, so you get the larger view of where you visited, and can drill down to specific pages as you need.

Search is the only part where Better History actually seems worse than Chrome’s own built-in history viewer. You can only search page titles, URLs, and dates. So searching for “Chrome” brought up completely different results than the search I’ve shown above:

chrome10   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

Final verdict: Better History is not entirely better (search is actually a bit worse), but for most things, it is actually better. Nicer visual integration, and great grouping functionality. Definitely something the Chrome developers could learn from.

Sexy Undo Close Tab

Seriously now?” – that was my first thought when I glimpsed the name Sexy Undo Close Tab. By default, re-opening a tab you just closed takes only a quick tap of Ctrl+Shift+T. I do it almost reflexively, I don’t even have to think about it. What could possibly be made better here?

chrome12   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

Sexy Undo Close Tab comes as a button, along with a live search feature. As could be expected, it also has an options page bursting with settings:

chrome14   Better Than The Default: 3 Chrome Add Ons That Claim They Do Things Better

While not all options are eloquently named (“amount of closed tabs number thing“?), they are quite plentiful. The most useful ones are the new keyboard shortcut (off by default): Ctrl+Z. That’s a traditional Undo keystroke, and it actually makes a lot of sense in the context of re-opening a closed tab. It handles text editing areas intelligently – when you hit Ctrl+Z while editing a Gmail message, it still undoes your typing (rather than reopen a closed tab).

Another thing I like about Sexy Undo Close Tab is that it remembers closed tabs between sessions, and thus serves as a sort of a history viewer. Handy.

Final Verdict: Not necessarily better than the default, but certainly different! I wish it had a keyboard shortcut for popping open the list of recently closed tabs – that would definitely make it better than the default.

Your Turn

So what add-ons did I miss? Remember, I am looking for ones that replace default Chrome functionality with something that is better (or at least, is supposed to be better). Let me know in the comments!

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28 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Crash Raindog

Session Buddy for Chrome is a superb session addon, it lets you select only the windows you wish to save in a particular session and stores previous sessions, which is very useful in the case of crashes or losing those all important recently closed tab options.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/edacconmaakjimmfgnblocblbcdcpbko

Erez Zukerman

Interesting! Does Chrome crash often for you? And do you know how much memory Session Buddy consumes? Does it save the contents of the tabs as well (cached copies of the pages), or just the URLs?

Reply

Keshav Mohta

Superb Post.

really Mind blowing information.

I m gonna love chrome more.

Erez Zukerman

Thanks Keshav!

Reply

coolare

I have a question more than a comment. I’ve been a firefox user until last week actually. So the question I have , Is there an add on that can combine all my other add ons into 1 button or remove them from the address/searchbar? I like to run an uncluttered browser.

LukeZ

Not sure if this is what you are looking for but you might look into ” disable All Extentions Plus”

Erez Zukerman

If you right-click the button for an extension, you can hide it. Closest native functionality I know of. Does that help?

coolare

thank you. just what i needed!!

Erez Zukerman

Nice! :) Glad I could help!

Reply

Bad Manners

I like – Google Mail Checker 
– Send Link From Gmail
– Share with Facebook
– Facebook for Chrome
– Youtube Downloader

Erez Zukerman

Send Link from Gmail seems really handy! I’ll remember that one next time I find myself emailing pages often.

Reply

Vitalik

-fauxbar
-lastpass
-Send link from gmail
-too many tabs

Erez Zukerman

Wow, Fauxbar looks interesting! How long have you been using it for? Is it really so much better than Chrome’s own addressbar?

Reply

Luis Deliz

New Tab Redirect —> http://www.myfav.es
clea.nr
Auto HD for Youtube

Reply

Valentin Uzunov

Is there a way to make Chrome less memory consuming? It seems so memory hungry? What the deal….if you have a crappy computer what is a good lightweight browser instead of chrome, but will all the security? Anyone know?

Erez Zukerman

Oh man, I wish! : Even with my not-so-crappy computer, Chrome is a huge memory hog. But TBH, Firefox is no better. I think these things just need the memory.

One thing that helps is actually disabling any and all addons, run Chrome totally vanilla. It may not be “better than the default” in that case (it _is_ the default) but it would at least run. ;)

Duy Bui

Chrome, without extensions :D

Yoshi

swiron

Reply

Guest

Email this page (by Google)Hover Zoom 
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There’s a web app for that 
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Guest

that should read:..
Email this page (by Google)
Hover Zoom
Insert Text Print There’s a web app for that Cloud Save 

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Roy Kolak

Hey there, I’m the developer of Better History. Thanks so much for the awesome review! I’m hard at work on improving it and will be releasing 1.2.0 very soon.

A word about search: I was frustrated with Chrome searching full page text when I queried my history. I found that it led to very polluted results. I put a lot of energy into weeding out the results (you can read about that here: http://automagical.posterous.com/making-chromes-history-searching-better ).

Some people like it better, others not. But one thing is clear from user feedback: People want to be able to search in full page text mode occasionally. So this will be a feature in the release after 1.2.0.

Over all, I’ve gotten incredible support from all of Better History’s 36,000 users. They are giving me so many killer ideas. Best user base ever!

Aibek

thanks for the input Roy
Looking forward for the next release

Erez Zukerman

Hi Roy! I’m so happy to hear from you — I love hearing from developers in the comments. I see what you’re saying about the full-text search, and I agree — what I want is usually somewhere in the URL or the title. Still, it’s nice that you’re adding it as a feature :)

Roy Kolak

My pleasure! Thanks again for the write up, I’m so happy that people are enjoying Better History. Tons of users want to help translate BH to their language, which is awesome. This translation process will be starting next week when 1.2.0 is released. 

Reply

Anonymous

Thanks for a great review Erez! 

We introduced other brand new features in Speed Dial 2 this week, f.e. ability to display your favorite pages on mobile phones and tablets and synchronization of settings. http://speeddial2.com/images/promo.png

Reply

M Aghlmand

Thanks

Reply

Wade

There is a extension called Layout Manager that allows you to save your window layout as is and load it again later. It can be extremely useful if you have a set of windows you like to have open in a certain position frequently or are doing research and want to be able to save all the windows you have open and load them again when you pick back up on your work.

This feature exists in Chrome when you close out of a lot of windows at once. It will prompt to save the tabs, etc. This extension allows you to do it at any time though and load it up not just the next time you re-open Chrome, but whenever is convenient for you.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/nldhhcppalplgopagbhfehfmpmpefkim

Tina

Thanks for sharing, Wade!

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