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.

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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.

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Howard Wen

Network World
Topics: Google, software, Google Chrome OS
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