Five Really Cool Chrome (and Firefox) Extensions

In my opinion, one of the best things about Google’s Chrome browser is the excellent selection of browser extensions. In the past, Firefox has taken the title for largest selection of extensions, but recently I’m seeing more and more really good Chrome extensions. Since two of these extensions are available for Firefox as well, I’ll give you links for those versions too.

Here are five of my favorite extensions.
1: AutoPager (Chrome and Firefox)
Have a favorite site that likes to split articles over five different pages, requiring you to click the Next link every time you get to the bottom of the (usually about two paragraphs long) page? AutoPager automatically loads the next page once you begin to reach the bottom of the page you’re currently on, then tacks it onto the end of the page you have.

It does require a “rule” for each page, but most popular sites have rules uploaded by users, and if you really want it to work with a site that doesn’t have a rule, you can always write one yourself.

Download:
2: Better Omnibox (Chrome only)
The “omnibox” is the improved address bar in Chrome that can be used to load websites by typing just the first couple of letters, search the web, and search websites (type the first couple of letters of the site you want to search, then press Tab). Better Omnibox extends this to allow you to search your history and bookmarks as well by simply pressing #, then entering your search terms. Searching history and/or bookmarks always used to be a painful process, requiring opening up the history page or bookmarks manager, and it never seemed to work quite right for me. With this extension, finding a page I visited yesterday is as easy as it could possibly be.

Download:
3: Chrome Remote Desktop (Beta) (Chrome only, obviously)
This extension is just what it sounds like–you can access another computer remotely. You need a person sitting at the computer you want to access, who clicks the Share button and receives a code and sends it to you; you simply type the code in and are on your way.
As a makeshift tech support representative for quite a few people, this extension comes in handy occasionally. Trying to write a script for somebody over the phone (or worse, Facebook chat with a slow typist, as it was last time this happened) is more frustrating than you can possibly believe until you’ve tried it. After I finally thought about this extension, the problem was fixed in under five minutes.
Also nice is the fact that this extension is completely cross-platform: you can access a Mac from a Windows PC, a Linux PC from a Mac, or even a Windows PC from a Chromebook. It’s supposedly still in beta, but I’ve never had a problem with it.
Download:
4: Visual Hashing (Chrome and Firefox)
This handy extension changes the white background of password fields to four colored bars which change as you type your password. Each set of colors is the result of a mathematical calculation based on the password you type, but there is no way to derive the password from the bars, so this won’t help anyone watching you figure out your password. On the other hand, once you‘ve typed your password and watched the pretty colors a few times, you’ll notice that the colors don’t look right and realize you’ve mistyped it before you hit Enter and wait fifteen seconds for the site to reload and make you type everything in again.

 

Download:

 

5: Chrome Daltonize (Chrome and sort of Firefox)
This extension is a bit more obscure, but it’s still interesting. Its purpose is to filter the colors in images that appear in web pages. It can either simulate colorblindness or perform the Daltonization technique, which creates more contrast and makes it easier for people who are colorblind to differentiate the colors in the image. This extension is probably a bit more useful for me, since I actually am colorblind and occasionally have difficulty with fancy graphs and maps on the Internet, but most of the people with normal color vision to whom I’ve showed the simulation have thought it was pretty cool too, so it might be fun to play with anyway.

 

Chrome configuration
Once you’ve installed the extension, right-click on the little color wheel that appears on the toolbar and choose Options. Chances are fairly good the default settings aren’t what you want. You can either choose to Daltonize or Simulate any of the three main types of colorblindness; if you actually are colorblind, you probably want to choose the one that corresponds to the type you have. (If you’re not sure, check out the handy test at http://www.colour-blindness.com/colour-blindness-tests/colour-arrangement-test/.) If you’re just playing around, you might want to try each of the settings in turn.

 

Once you’re done with the settings, close the tab, browse to the page you want to try the extension on, and click the color wheel button.

 

Firefox configuration
There is no native Firefox extension, but there are bookmarklets available at the download link. To use a bookmarklet, just drag the link to your bookmarks toolbar or menu, browse to the site you want to use it on, and click it. (It might take a second to work; be patient.) With the bookmarklets, you need to drag a different link depending on which settings you want; see the Chrome configuration section if you’re confused about what they are.

 

Download:
Firefox bookmarklets: http://daltonize.appspot.com/

Three Fun Google Tricks

Google is well-known for putting cool logo modifications on their homepage. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to see that they love throwing random and quirky tricks into their search engine. Here are a couple of things to try searching for.

I’m not going to tell you what these do, or it wouldn’t be fun anymore–try them and see for yourself.
  • do a barrel roll
  • askew
  • recursion
Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

 

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

 

Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

Changing Your Browser’s Homepage

One of the most frequent questions I get when setting up a computer for somebody is how to change the home page. Usually it starts on something silly like MSN or the website of the manufacturer, and so you want to change it. Here’s how.

 

This tip was tested on Firefox and Chrome; it is probably mostly applicable to Internet Explorer as well, but the exact steps will be different.

 

The Quick Method
This works on both Firefox and Chrome.
  1. Browse to the website you want to make your home page.
  2. Look to the left of the web address. Depending on whether the site is secure or not, there will be either a little icon or a company name of some sort.
  3. Drag this icon or name onto the home button (it looks like a home, and is on the toolbar, often next to the back and forward buttons). Firefox will ask you for confirmation, while Chrome will just go ahead and make the change. Here’s a screenshot if you’re confused.
For some strange reason, Chrome doesn’t display the home button by default, but adding it is no problem: click the wrench in the upper-right-hand corner, then Preferences, then check “Show Home Button.”

 

The More Involved Method
If you want some more options, like having multiple tabs as your home page, you need to head over to your browser’s options dialog box. This will usually be in Tools -> Options or Edit -> Preferences, though many recent browsers have one or two big buttons instead of multiple menus, so click the button and then Options or Preferences.

 

To set multiple tabs in Firefox, browse to all the pages you want, then open the options and select Use Current Pages. In Chrome, under the “On Startup” section in Preferences, select “Open the Following Pages,” then type or paste the addresses you want.

 

SorenscorchgeekBjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

 

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

 

Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

 

Making The Most of Limited Screen Space

When you’re working on a computer with a small screen, it’s amazing how much space the toolbars can take up. But web browsers and word processors have a little-known feature called “full-screen mode” that gets rid of them. Here’s how to use it.

The shortcut that you usually need is the F11 key. Occasionally, there might be a different shortcut, so if it doesn’t work, it’s probably worth exploring the menus. It’s probably near the zoom options, likely on a View menu if there is one.

 

To get out, you either need to press Escape or F11 again. If you’re in a browser, sometimes the key won’t work because your focus is in a Flash or Java applet (like a YouTube video or a game). In this case you should just be able to click on some blank space on the page and then try the keystroke again.

 

Most programs will temporarily display the toolbar if you bounce the mouse against the top of the screen. If you forget the keystroke to exit full-screen mode or it just isn’t working, there’s often an “exit full screen” or restore button as well.

 

Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

 

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

 

Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.