How to turn Chrome into gold

Though Google is pitching it as an operating system for netbooks and lightweight notebooks, Chrome OS is essentially the Chrome Web browser bolted on top of a bare minimum version of Linux. The following extensions can improve the user experience of Chrome (OS or browser) to give you some of the functionality found in a traditional operating system.

Watch a slideshow version.

1. Quickrr Calendar

Chrome OS lists the time on the upper-right corner of the screen, but clicking it only shows you the present date (and the option to open the time zone setting). What's missing here, and found in most OSs, is a basic calendar. Quirkrr Calendar rectifies this. When you click its icon, a big calendar of the current month opens. You can flip through the following and previous months, type in reminders in the date boxes to remind yourself of things you need to do that day, and sort through these days and activities by week or day (which further breaks down your to-do's by hour).

2. Elegant Calculator

There are several calculator extensions for Chrome, but we like Elegant Calculator because it looks, well, elegant, as a virtual representation of a real number cruncher. Enter numbers and functions either by clicking this calculator's buttons or typing with the keyboard. You can switch between "Basic" and "Advanced" versions -- the latter includes 20 more functions for common trigonometric and scientific calculations.

3. Panelize

The Panelize extension will turn any tab into its own panel, which you can then drag around and reposition wherever you want on the screen. A panel is simply a browser window minus tool bars or the other usual user elements of a Web browser. This extension is handy if you want to turn a Web app, such as a Web-based painting app, into an ersatz, self-standing application separate from the browser portion of Chrome.

4. Split screen

The Frame Two Pages extension works this way: when you click its icon, it takes the contents of the tab you are currently looking at and the one you viewed before, and re-loads both inside a third tab, setting each within its own frame in a vertical split-screen. You can adjust the width of the two frames by clicking on and dragging side-to-side the vertical line separating the two.

We really like this extension, especially when used on ultra-wide screens. As an example, within one frame you can use a Web app (like writing on Google docs) while continuing to browse the Web in the other frame to look up information without switching to and from another tab.

5. Tab organizer

Too Many Tabs neatly shows you thumbs of all your actively running tabs, and lists recently closed tabs. You can jump to any tab by clicking on it. As its name implies, Too Many Tabs was designed to help you navigate through your tabs when you have so many of them opened that the width of their name tags has shrunk to where you cannot read them.

6. AppJump App Launcher and Organizer

By default, the icons for apps installed on Chrome are laid out in a blank tab. So you have to open a new tab whenever you want to access an app. There are a couple of extensions that make getting to your apps more convenient in different ways, and having more than one of them installed doesn't usually conflict with the other.

The first one we like is AppJump App Launcher and Organizer which sets an icon to the right of the address bar. When you click it, a drop-down menu pops open listing the icons of your apps, and there's a search box you can use to quickly find one of your apps if you have several installed...

7. App Lists From Context Menu

The second one that we like is the wordy-named App Lists From Context Menu.Once it's installed, you can right-click a blank area within a Chrome page to call up the context menu, which will have "Apps" listed among its choices. Click this, and a menu listing your apps will branch open.

8. Virtual Keyboard (by Google)

This sets a virtual keyboard as its own panel that you can drag and reposition on the screen. Click on any of its keys and the character appears in the text box of a Web page. (We're surmising this extension was developed with touchscreens also in mind.) When used on a computer with a standard keyboard, Virtual Keyboard can make it more convenient to enter non-English characters.

9. Trash Can

The Too Many Tabs extension fulfills a similar function -- listing your most recently closed tabs and letting you re-open them with a click. But we think it may be worthwhile to also install Trash Can since its saved listing of closed tabs appears to be more extensive.

10. le solitaire

Because no operating system is complete without this time waster.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GooglesoftwareGoogle Chrome OS

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Howard Wen

Network World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?