Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Day 21: Organize Your Browser Extensions

Let's face it. On a typical desktop or laptop computer, we spend most of our time using one particular application: our web browser of choice. For probably two-thirds of us, that's Google Chrome, with the remainder of us split between Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, or Apple Safari. We may access our email through our browser, and we certainly spend a lot of time in online genealogy websites. 

When browsers were first developed, they could do the basic stuff well enough, but eventually the users demanded more features, and sometimes they asked for things that the browser developers themselves weren't ready to add. This is where browser extensions come in. By adding these mini-apps to our browsers, we give our browsers superpowers. 

It's very easy to add extensions (and there are thousands to choose from, just for Chrome), and that's part of the problem. We may have added so many that we don't even know anymore which ones we have. And there's even a small risk that an extension might do something with our data or computer security that we don't like. 

Do you know exactly which extensions you've added to your browser? (The ones you've enabled are probably displaying small icons at the top right of your browser.) Are you still using that extension's features, or is it just taking up a little bit of storage and memory, perhaps slowing your browser experience and frustrating you without your knowing the cause? At the very least, you should do a review of what you've added, and start thinking about whether or not it still seems as useful today as it did when you added it, and whether it's time to remove it if it's not really needed. 

Go to your browser's Preferences or Settings, and look for the Extensions menu choice. At the moment, I have 11, of which 3 are Chrome apps (Docs, Sheets, and Slides) for working with Google Drive files. Of the remaining 8, I have 2 disabled, as I'm not sure yet if I want to use those (I'll decide later). The remaining 6 are some of my favorites, and I will certainly recommend several of them to you:
  • Evernote Web Clipper, so that I can quickly copy just the web content I want to my Evernote system
  • Grammarly for Chrome, so that I can quickly catch typos and other awkward writing errors
  • 1Password, so that I can safely store my website passwords and have them automatically filled in as needed
  • Password Checkup, so that I can know if the ID and password I'm currently using for a particular site has ever been exposed in a data breach.
Once you've reviewed and cleaned out your extensions, you might want to visit the appropriate extension store (such as the Chrome Web Store) to see what else might be helpful. I recommend adding only 1 extension at a time, seeing if you actually use it, and waiting a while before adding more. There are even a few out there specifically for genealogy, although I have not used them myself. In this way, you can personalize your browser to have just the features you want.

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