Since I’ve been cycling continuously between the three browsers that annoy me the least lately (Opera, Firefox 3.6, and Chromium), I’ve been utilizing each browser’s extensibility to make it a bit more usable.
In a previous post, I discussed the various things I do to recent releases of Firefox to make it behave itself. In this post, I’ll be discussing the process I go through with the Chromium browser, namely with respect to extensions (since there really isn’t much one can configure in Chromium natively).
The extensions list
I install a lot of extensions in Chromium, currently 14 in total.
Here they are:
- Adblock Plus for Google Chrome (Beta)
- Better Facebook
- Google SSL Web Search
- HTTPS Enforcer
- Last Tab Standing
- MAFIAAFire Redirector
- New Tabs Always Last
- Search Box
- Sexy Undo Close Tab
- Smooth Gestures
- Speed Dial 2
- Webmail Ad Blocker
- YouTube Options for Google Chrome
This may seem like a lot of extensions, but believe me, this still doesn’t even address some of what I still view as the bigger issues in Chromium (which I detailed in another previous post), such as tabs on top, the lack of a sane status bar and lack of menus, and overall inflexible nature of Chromium’s entire interface, not to mention the rather obnoxious URL autocompletion that there is no way to disable.
But, after repeated extension hunts, I have been able to find the above list, which addresses a fair number of other issues, annoyances, and gaps in basic functionality.
Here I will touch briefly on each one of them.
Adblock Plus for Google Chrome (Beta)
I’ve tried a number of other ad blockers in Chromium, and this one is by far the best and the least buggy.
In my opinion, all browsers in this day and age should have the basic functionality of being able to subscribe to block lists built into them natively, but that hasn’t happened yet. Until then, Adblock Plus exists as an extension, and nobody should be without it.
AutoScroll addresses the bizarre decision to not include this basic piece of functionality in the browser natively. In my opinion, a browser without autoscroll is like a car without reverse.
Not a lot to say about this extension other than it does the job well, and fills this gap the developers decided for some puzzling reason to leave open.
Soon to be known as “Social Fixer“, according to Better Facebook’s lone developer (due to Facebook being antagonistic about the “Better Facebook” name), this extension is an absolute must for anyone who uses Facebook even a little. With Facebook being a continually moving target of seemingly random, unplanned interface changes with sporadic content shuffling with all the apparent order and reason of a 2-year-old’s toybox, Better Facebook applies order to the site and actually makes it usable and pleasant by comparison to browsing the site unaided. Check it out if you haven’t already.
Google SSL Web Search
Since SSL is available more and more on the web, I figure I’ll use it. Google still labels this as “beta”, but I’ve had zero problems with it, and it seems to consistently return the same results as the regular Google search.
This goes along with my decision to try to use HTTPS whenever it’s available. HTTPS Enforcer looks for HTTPS versions of any website you visit, and attempts to redirect you to them instead of the normal site. It constantly updates its list with new ones as they are found.
Last Tab Standing
Ever accidentally closed the last tab you have open, only to realize that it was the only one left, and your browser closed as a result? This takes care of that behavior. I do this all the time, and I find it annoying to have to re-launch my browser when I accidentally do this, so this extension is a nice, quiet little way to prevent that.
This extension fixes the damage caused to DNS by certain governments and corporate interests.
New Tabs Always Last
Another one of those things that should be included natively in any tabbed browser is the ability to define default tab opening behavior. Chromium lacks this simple functionality, so we must rely on an extension to force it to put tabs where I prefer them when opening links in new tabs (at the end). I know some people prefer that new tabs open next to their current one, but that’s really kind of a 50-50 thing according to every poll I’ve seen on the subject. This extension is for the 50% of us that want it the way Chromium doesn’t do it.
I’ve never liked searching from the address bar; it’s inefficient when compared to just clicking your focus on a search box and typing your search terms.
This extension makes a little magnifying glass icon on the right-hand side of the Chromium toolbar, and when you click on it the cursor focus is set to a text box that pops up, unobtrusively in the upper right. It’s nice because then you can type or paste your search term without opening a new tab first (or navigating away from the tab you’re currently on). The Search Box extension always opens search results in a new tab.
Sexy Undo Close Tab
You know, I started using Chromium about a year and a half ago, and it was only recently — after being TOLD in a comment on a different post about this — that I discovered that Chromium could natively re-open the last closed tab. I didn’t know it could do this.
So while I withdraw my complaint that it didn’t natively have this functionality, I still would rather just see a list of closed tabs (because sometimes I want to re-open one that is 14 or 15 closed tabs ago), so the Sexy Undo Close Tab (unsure what makes it “sexy”) does the trick, and does it very well. It lets you define just how many tabs it keeps in its list, and it so far has never even once lost track. Impressive, considering how often Chromium still crashes for me or hangs/stops responding.
The Smooth Gestures extension is a good way to get mouse gestures functionality similar to what the Opera browser has done natively for years. I admittedly don’t use much more than forward, back, refresh, and new tab for gestures (you can define pretty much whatever you want), but I definitely notice when I don’t have this behavior available, so I like this one a lot.
Speed Dial 2
I have a lot of issues with Speed Dial 2, but this is the best one I’ve found so far. I greatly prefer the behavior and features of the Speed Dial extension for Firefox, but they don’t have a version of it for Chromium, so Speed Dial 2 for Chromium is what I get.
Still, it lets the user manually determine the positions of speed dial items, and it does let one define multiple groups, which is nice (and it works pretty well). My big complaints are how buggy/flaky Speed Dial 2 is, how it handles the width/size of the speed dial items themselves, and how slow it is to load on my older machines.
It’s very feature rich though, so I’m keeping an eye on this one and I have high hopes for it.
Webmail Ad Blocker
Removes ads from GMail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! mail accounts. It also lets the user block other elements, though I mostly got it for the ad-blocking capabilities. Works really well, at least so far.
YouTube Options for Google Chrome
You know, the primary reason I was using FlashBlock was because of YouTube. I hate how there’s no way to NOT auto-play videos there.
This extension makes the buggy and problematic FlashBlock totally unnecessary (for that) because it has an option that prevents YouTube videos from automatically playing.
One of the other nice features of this extension is its ability to resize videos to match the quality.
It’s always bugged me when watching a 720p or 1080p video on YouTube and my only options were “too small” and “full screen” (which is often too big, and/or blocking other stuff). This extension automatically resizes the displayed video to match its quality, so it makes 720p videos quite a bit bigger, and much more enjoyable to watch.
Like I mentioned above, this is a lot of extensions. Easily as many as I use in Firefox, and if more were available to address my other issues and observed shortcomings with Chromium, I’d be using even more of them.
Admittedly, many of these are not things I consider must-haves in terms of native browser functionality (Better Facebook, Webmail Ad Blocker, YouTube Options, and the SSL related ones for example), but I’ve found them very useful, and I’m probably going to find myself referring back here to my own list in the future when setting up a fresh installation of Chromium, when I inevitably scratch my head and think, “What was that other extension I usually install?”.
Hopefully some of you find something useful in this as well!