Even if you love Chrome, there’s one thing you can’t deny: it ain’t perfect. Chrome would be a boring mess without extensions — indeed, the extension landscape alone is usually what gives Chrome the winning edge in browser comparisons.
Simply put, the Chrome experience with and without the following extensions is like night and day. You know how some people say that they feel trapped into using Chrome? Extensions like these are one big reason why. Prepare to have the scales peeled from your eyes.
If there’s one common complaint shared by all Chrome users, it’s that Chrome uses way too much RAM.There’s a reason for this: RAM is what allows it to be so fast, stable, and secure. But the downside? Every additional tab requires more RAM, and if you run out of RAM, your system slows down dramatically.
There’s a reason for this: RAM is what allows it to be so fast, stable, and secure. But the downside? Every additional tab requires more RAM, and if you run out of RAM, your system slows down dramatically.
That’s why you need OneTab. With the click of a button, OneTab stows away all of your current tabs into a list for safe keeping. You can then restore those tabs later, either as you need them or all at once. It allows you to juggle dozens of tabs without wasting valuable RAM — the best of both worlds.
Download — OneTab (Free)
2. The Great Suspender
Another common complaint involves Chrome’s high CPU usage.
On the one hand, Chrome needs a lot of CPU cycles in order to provide a smooth and snappy experience. On the other hand, this can kill battery life, which is why you shouldn’t use Chrome on laptops like MacBooks.
Download — The Great Suspender (Free)
As far as session managers go, FreshStart is one of the best. You probably have different “sets” of tabs, right? For example, you might have a few tabs related to photography, another few related to work, some for gaming, others for news, etc. Managing all of them can be hectic.
This extension lets you create separate groups of tabs, called sessions, that you can freely switch between. Moreover, FreshStart can autosave sessions every few minutes and act as a crash recovery tool. It’s surprisingly useful if you’re like me and tend to keep dozens of tabs open all the time.
Download — FreshStart (Free)
Tip: Don’t forget about Chrome user profiles, a built-in feature that lets you create separate profiles that have their own browsing histories, tabs, cookies, passwords, and more. Read more on why you should start using Chrome profiles.
4. Magic Actions for YouTube
Of all the YouTube-enhancing extensions for Chrome, you won’t find one better than Magic Actions for YouTube. Don’t just take my word for it: this extension has a near-perfect rating based on more than 110,000 reviews. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
Key features include scroll wheel volume control, themable Cinema Mode, one-click screenshots, ratings previews, enhanced commenter details, auto repeat, auto hide controls, and more.
Download — Magic Actions for YouTube (Free) [No Longer Available]
5. Data Saver
If monthly data caps are an issue for you — a problem that’s growing more common every day — then you’ll want to install Data Saver right away.This extension uses Google’s servers to compress web data before it reaches you, minimizing unnecessary bandwidth waste. Encrypted pages aren’t compressed.
This extension uses Google’s servers to compress web data before it reaches you, minimizing unnecessary bandwidth waste. Encrypted pages aren’t compressed.
It’s pretty much the exact same thing as Opera’s Turbo Mode feature, but the key difference is that your traffic is routed through Google. How much trust do you have? While there’s no evidence that your privacy will be breached with this extension, cautious users may want to avoid it anyway. But the savings are real.
Download — Data Saver (Free)
6. Mercury Reader
How often do you come across an interesting article that’s bogged down by ads, pop-ups, excessive links, and other distracting elements? Mercury Reader is the one-click solution that strips away the unnecessary, improves readability, and overall makes the web more comfortable to browse.
This can also be a small but effective way to reduce Chrome’s RAM usage, at least on websites overloaded with ads, images, and videos.
Download — Mercury Reader (Free)
Worried about privacy? The truth is, you’re being tracked all the time as you browse the web, and Disconnect fights against said trackers.
By blocking the invisible trackers that exist on most web pages, Disconnect not only gives you peace of mind but also speeds up page loading times. It’s so good that The New York Times called it the best privacy tool in 2016. Note, however, that Disconnect may be incompatible with certain kinds of ad-blockers.
Download — Disconnect (Free)
These days, password managers are essential. Who has the time or mental energy to memorize a million different strong passwords? Nobody, that’s who.Yet on the other hand, you shouldn’t use the same password for all of your accounts,
Yet on the other hand, you shouldn’t use the same password for all of your accounts, otherwise one leak could compromise everything.
Let LastPass handle all of that for you. It generates unbreakable passwords for all of your web accounts and remembers them so you don’t have to. All you need is a single master password. It’s guaranteed to save you time while keeping you more secure than ever before.
Download — LastPass (Free)
9. SmartUp Gestures
Browser keyboard shortcuts can be nifty, but the web is usually browsed with a mouse — and switching from mouse to keyboard to mouse is inefficient. So why not create shortcuts for your mouse instead?
SmartUp Gestures provides mouse gesture functionality and lets you customize them however you want. Different gesture shapes trigger different actions. Convert your most frequent actions into gestures and you’ll see a big boost in your web-browsing productivity.
Download — SmartUp Gestures (Free)
10. Google When
Wouldn’t it be nice if Google’s list of search results told you which links you’ve clicked on before? And not only that but also when you last clicked on them?
That could prove useful in two ways: not wasting time on old links and finding that one link you visited the other day.
Google When does this for you. Just install it and you’re good to go. Of course, it only works on Google, so you’re out of luck if you use DuckDuckGo or Bing.
Download — Google When (Free)
11. Search Preview
Here’s another way to enhance search results. Search Preview adds site thumbnails beside each one, plus popularity ratings and related links that you might find interesting.
And unlike Google When, this one works on three other engines too: DuckDuckGo, Bing, and Yahoo.
Download — Search Preview (Free)
12. IE Tab
Some sites on the web are stuck in the past. They won’t work unless you’re using Internet Explorer (IE), which is a huge pain because IE isn’t exactly the most secure or usable browser. I’d rather skip using a site entirely than launch IE.
Fortunately, the IE Tab extension provides a compromise. It launches a new tab that uses the IE rendering engine, allowing you to browse the web with IE within Chrome. This is particularly useful as a testing method for web developers who still need to support IE users.
Download — IE Tab (Free)
13. User-Agent Switcher
Some sites may outright restrict access if they detect that you’re using a certain type of browser. For example, Apple has done Safari-only sites in the past and Microsoft has a few IE-only and Edge-only sites. At one time, Skype for Web even disabled certain features on non-Firefox browsers.
By changing your browser’s “user agent,” you can trick these websites into thinking that you’re using a different browser. User-Agent Switcher makes it easy to create custom user agents and switch between them with a click. Learn more about why user agent switching is useful.
Download — User Agent Switcher (Free) [No Longer Available]
What Are Your Must-Have Chrome Extensions?
One warning before you dive in and grab every extension in this post: installing too many extensions can negatively impact browser performance. This is true whether you’re on Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or any other browser.
So don’t feel obligated to incorporate all of the above. Just pick the ones that seem most useful to you and ignore the rest. However, I highly recommend The Great Suspender, Magic Actions for YouTube, and LastPass for everyone.
Are there any other extensions that optimize the Chrome browsing experience? Which extensions do you consider essential? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credit: IB Photography via Shutterstock.com