Thanks to the emergence of Web-based tools and services, most of us work primarily in the browser these days, and that means it’s our main productivity center.
Google Chrome is far and away the most popular browser around and it supports a huge number of extensions, which are essentially plugins that add functionality to your browser. There are a ton of them that can help you get more work done in short order, while consuming less system resources than standalone apps and integrating more tightly into your workflow.
We’ve rounded up 28 of the best extensions to help you take notes, plan your day, tame your email inbox, research like a pro and stay on top of your workload, all without leaving your browser.
Tip: Although these are designed for use with Chrome, you can actually use them with Opera too.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Writing and note-taking
Whether you’re preparing a report, drafting an article or following a lecture, it’s a good idea to keep a note-taking app within easy reach.
Google Keep for taking notes and to-do lists
As a journalist, I’ve tried loads of tools for note-taking, but over the past year, I’ve stuck with Google Keep. It’s fast, lightweight and does exactly what I need it to — add notes quickly with just a click of a button in the browser.
I prefer Keep over alternatives like Evernote and Microsoft OneNote because it’s less cluttered and lets me focus on jotting down ideas in a jiffy, rather than offering a bevy of features for formatting text and extensive note organization.
That doesn’t mean Keep is a one-trick pony: The extension lets you save pages, images and text from the context menu on any page, and also lets you add notes to them. If you’re ready to write up a storm, you can always fire up the full-fledged app, which lets you jot down text, lists and reminders.
I’ve also grown fond of the Panel view for Keep extension, which opens up the app in a small window that you can work on, even with a separate browser tab open.
➤ Google Keep
Papier for brainstorming
Papier is a dead-simple note-taking tool that wins points for being more readily accessible than any desktop app.
Simply install the extension and open a new tab, and voilà, instant notepad. It automatically saves your work, allows you some basic formatting and supports keyboard shortcuts. Plus, there’s no clutter to distract you: All you see is a blank page ready to accept your notes and grand ideas, in bright white or a more pleasing night mode.
It’s a single page notepad that does away with a file storage system, so it feels more like a place to freely scribble thoughts than save and retrieve separate documents. Papier also offers basic rich text formatting that you can enable with keyboard shortcuts and carry over to Web-based text editors.
While it may seem rather light on features, Papier is great at getting out of the way to let you put your ideas on a page, thanks to its nearly invisible interface. That’s useful for when you need to brainstorm, quickly jot down a fleeting thought and everything in between – all without having to look around for a notepad beyond your browser.
Got a lot of tasks to accomplish? List them in your browser and you’ll find it easier to track them through the day.
Jot for preparing short to-do lists
Jot is at once a simple and beautiful replacement for your new tab page. It displays a lovely new background image every time you open a tab, and lets you list your most important to-dos or short notes for the day in a large, legible font. To retrieve them, all you need to do is launch a fresh tab.
If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of advanced task management extensions, Jot is a great choice that looks better than the rest.
Momentum for plotting your day
Momentum adds a bunch of useful widgets to your new tab that should help you plan your day easily and reach your immediate goals.
You’ll find a clock, the local weather, a to-do list and a customizable shortcut menu of links floating above a beautiful background image that changes every so often.
All the elements in the interface can be tweaked to your liking. What’s especially neat is the ‘focus’ widget, which sits front and center, and displays your main goal for the day.
$2 a month nets you even more customization options, the ability to sync items from apps like Todoist and Wunderlist, and a rotating ‘focus’ widget that pulls in tasks from your to-do list.
Todoist for scheduling tasks
If you haven’t yet settled on a default to-do list manager and use Chrome often, Todoist is worth a look. Its extension puts a powerful task list in your browser toolbar and offers a ton of features in a small space.
For starters, you can simply type to add a task or turn the active tab into an item on your list. It also lets you set a priority and enter a due date or recurring date for each to-do. Plus, it displays your schedule spanning the next seven days in a beautiful interface.
The ability to add and scan your to-dos in one place makes it a better choice than Wunderlist, which offers separate extensions for each function. In addition, Todoist pairs with a ton of apps through Zapier to do things like adding your tasks to Google Calendar and creating to-do items from starred messages in Slack.
The only downside to picking Todoist is that certain essential features like tasks reminders and comments require a subscription, which will set you back by $29 a year. Still, it’s not a bad deal for an app that syncs across devices and offers plenty more features for its asking price.
Taco for staying on top of projects
If you already use several apps to manage your tasks and projects, Taco’s new tab replacement can help you stay on top of them all.
Taco connects to a range of services like Wunderlist, Evernote, Asana, Basecamp and Trello to pull all your projects into your new tab. You can then prioritize them by dragging and dropping items in the ‘Up Next’ list, and act on them without having to open each app.
It’s powerful enough to filter your tasks by project, yet simple enough to use just like a normal to-do list. I love using Taco because it helps me make progress on both my work projects as well as my daily errands.
Reading and research
The web is a vast universe of informative and useful content, and it’s easy to get lost in it. Use these tools to make the most of the time you allocate for reading and research.
Reading Time for gauging article length at a glance
Reading Time displays a pop-up on every new tab showing how long it’d take to read its contents (visible above in the top left hand corner). It’s great for deciding whether to pore through a page right away or to save it for later.
The extension is perfect for when you’re doing some research online and want to figure out which of several articles you should start with, so you can get quickly get the gist of the topic I’m looking up.
Reading Time defaults to the average human reading speed of 228 words per minute, but for accurate results, you’ll want to take this 1-minute test by Staples and then enter your speed in the extension’s options.
➤ Reading Time
Pocket for saving stories to read later
If you’ve stumbled upon an interesting article, but just don’t have the time to read it right away, you can save it for later with Pocket.
Simply click the button on your toolbar or hit Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+S and the page you’re browsing will be added to your reading queue, which you can access from Pocket’s web app or mobile apps.
When you’ve got some free time, you can open your list and enjoy all your saved stories in a distraction-free reading interface.
Once you begin filling Pocket with reading material, you’ll want to install TimeToRead as well: It adds a tag that describes how many minutes each article will take to read.
That helps you pick stuff to read depending on how much free time you have; it also lets you sort stories by how long they’ll take you to read. As someone who tends to let their Pocket queue grow to an unmanageable size pretty often, it’s a handy tool for working through the list a little at a time.
Reedy for speed reading
Speed reading is great when you’re short on time and need to familiarize yourself with an article. Reedy lets you choose any text on a page, whether it’s an entire article or just a paragraph, to speed read in its distraction-free interface.
Information overload is an all-too-real problem these days, and Reedy certainly helps tame it somewhat. When I’m bombarded with lengthy emails and press releases, Reedy helps me skim through the facts to determine whether they’re worth my time. If you’ve to pore through a lot of content frequently, this is a great tool to have in your arsenal.
Highly for summarizing articles
This extension makes it easy to summarize an article by highlighting the best bits. After you’ve selected the salient portions on a page and shared it with your contacts, they’ll see only the highlights, along with an indicator of how much reading time you’ve saved them.
It’s not just for sharing, though: I find Highly useful for researching stories that I need to refer to later for my articles and podcast. All my highlights are saved in a searchable list, and there’s even an option to link your Pocket and Instapaper accounts and highlight content from your saved posts in those apps.
Bookmarking and search
Refind for rediscovering your essential online resources
There are tons of tools for bookmarking pages, but it isn’t always easy to find them afterwards. That’s where Refind comes in.
In addition to saving your bookmarks to the cloud, it also highlights these pages when they appear in your Google search results, making it a lot easier to discover articles and resources you’ve come across in the past.
Page Monitor for tracking changes on pages
RSS readers are useful for keeping tabs on blogs you follow, but if you need real-time alerts for when a page is updated, Page Monitor is worth a look.
This extension lets you add any page to a list that it’ll constantly monitor for changes, and will notify you with a ding to let you know when it spots something.
As a reporter, I use Page Monitor to track tech blogs so I can be quick to pick up news – but you can also track things like stocks and exchange rates, and product launches and sales. What’s especially handy is the extension’s export feature, which lets me share all the URLs of sites I follow with my colleagues.
➤ Page Monitor